A council leader’s life is full of meetings of one kind or another, but some are a lot more important than others. I suspect that one I had last week will prove over time to be just that.
It was a joint session between Sandwell’s Cabinet – in other words, the council’s political leadership – and the new management board of top directors, the council’s most senior officials. One thing was obvious to me from the meeting, we now have a management team which is working in total partnership with the political leadership. And that’s all to the good because I believe the council’s future success will depend on the two groups working hand in glove through what are going to be very difficult times.
We all know the scale of the financial problems Sandwell faces – starting with a like-for-like cut of something over £30 million in the cash support we get from the Government for the 2011/12 financial year which starts on 1 April. That’s a massive, not to say unprecedented, cut, but the meeting re-affirmed that in the face of it we have to put the residents of Sandwell first and foremost in all we do.
That means doing everything we can to protect the frontline services and jobs that residents depend upon.
I’m convinced that even given our budget difficulties we can still realise our ambition for Sandwell and become an excellent council in two years.
It’s going to be hard – but it’s achievable.