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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Birmingham City Council wants to take over policing and health

11th November 2008

Birmingham City Council wants to take over policing and city health services, giving it control of an extra £1.7 billion a year.

Council leader Mike Whitby set out the plan to a House of Commons inquiry into the future of local government.

He said the entire country would benefit if Britain’s great cities were given the type of freedom they enjoyed in the days of Joseph Chamberlain, the reforming mayor of Birmingham in the Victorian era.

The ambitious proposals were presented to the Commons Local Government Committee, which had asked Birmingham to give evidence to its inquiry into the relationship between central and local government.

In a report presented to the committee, Coun Whitby called for councils to take back control of local services to ensure they serve the need of residents.

This would include making primary care trusts, which provide GP services and commission hospital treatment, into departments of local councils, he said.

Birmingham has three primary care trusts with a combined budget of £1.7 billion.

Coun Whitby said the case for bringing hospitals directly under the control of local councils was “less clear cut”.

And he called for councillors to be given a majority of the seats on police authorities, effectively bringing them under the control of their local council too.

He said: “A really radical idea would be for all public spend in a large local authority area to go via the local authority.

“Primary care trusts, the police and other public agencies would then have to ask for money from the local authority would hold them to account for performance.

“The result would be that only the local authority would be accountable to Government, so negating the need for government offices, regional development agencies etc.”

If this proposal was adopted, the council would gain control of the lion’s share of West Midlands Police’s £550 million budget, and potentially a share of the £400 million spent by Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency.

Speaking to the Committee, council chief executive Stephen Hughes said: “The priority for Birmingham would be getting clearer control over public spending resources that are occurring the local area.

“We think that if we do that, we can deliver things much more efficiently than are currently being done.”

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