It's crucial to Birmingham's development as a leading city that we understand Birmingham and allow others to do so. The proper collection, organisation, and analysis of information can improve the running of the city and the lives of Brummies. We must communicate well, listen intently, and reach people inside and outside the city.
Data analysis must be at the heart of planning and communication. The city’s information is like its parks—public, open spaces with facilities tended for common good. Important learnings need to be curated and shared. There are huge amounts of data collected by the largest council in Europe, but currently it's not stored well, cross referenced or used properly in planning for the future.
The mayor will have the powers and authority to improve and lead better communication and transparent governance. It's a crucial part of our plan that the accountability of open data and process is provided to the people of the city. As mayor I would:
Appoint an accountable Chief Technical Officer for the city
This would be a knowledgeable and experienced individual who would have direct control and oversight of data and electronic communications systems. They would be tasked with getting the best results and value for the city rather than other interests. They would make sure there would be no more scandals like the three million pounds wasted on a poorly performing and derided council website.
Publicly and quickly publish all data created by Council
Once privacy safeguards have been put in place, data will be released under appropriate open licences. This will make sure that companies, other government agencies and any private citizen can use and re-use the data collected— this will allow true transparency and accountability and also a huge opportunity for to build services based on this information business. The CTO will be responsible for making sure the data is good and useful, that the city uses it well, and keeps it open. There are huge opportunities to save time, money and generate real improvements in the connectivity of services.
Be free and open with all communications
Freedom of Information requests are costly and antagonistic, we would aim to reduce number of FOI requests by publishing information before it’s asked for and make it easy to find. Once information is requested it will be published and updated from thereon in.
We will learn more about Brummies and work at getting information to them in a faster and more specific way. We will allow them get information how they want and to opt out of paper communication if they desire—saving money and waste.
Open Council processes to all
Agendas for all public-facing meetings will be online one week before they happen, comments will be solicited from all and shown in public. Council officers will be trained to bring relevant information and opinion into the meeting. All meetings will be streamed online and available as recorded online. All voting, statements, and attendance records by councillors and the mayor will available in simple open style.
Ensure transparent and open contact with the council
We will open up contact with the people of Birmingham: allowing all to see what the council does. Brummies will be able to see all actions of council, and the data can be used to better target resources. Phone, online, office based, letters — all public/council contact will be available displayed online once privacy issues have been taken care of. You'll be able to see if your council responds to you and your communities.
Make Birmingham a ‘Crystal Mark’ Council
All council communications will conform to Plain English Campaign guidelines within six months and continuing accreditation from the Plain English Campaign with be an ongoing commitment. All council departments will be clear and open whenever and however they communicate. We will revolutionise Council communications allowing officers to work more openly with the public, and encourage them to talk to the people on whose behalf they work.
Deliver the tools and will for real consultations
Instead of top-down and monolithic consultations we will create a system of rules, processes, access points, and guidance to let citizens and groups conduct engagement and consultation and feed it directly into council process. There wouldn’t have to be an ‘official consultation’ open for the public to gather and submit opinions. We will formulate a “better petitioning” system that isn’t about ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but contains nuance, and has a real role in council decisions.
Create a Public Advocate’s office
Birmingham needs a highly visible team with responsibility to help residents through maze of council process.