Time for Be Birmingham to step out of the shadows and answer some questions
The ongoing row over Be Birmingham's use of the city's ÃÂ£115 million Working Neighbourhoods Fund puts the spotlight on a very shadowy organisation.
It is doubtful whether many people outside of the rarefied world of local government have ever heard of the City Strategic Partnership, as Be Birmingham used to be known before undergoing a trendy name change.
But this unelected body, which meets behind closed doors in private, is entrusted by the city council and the government to play an increasingly important role in deciding how large sums of public money should be spent - or not spent in this case.
To recap, this newspaper recently exposed Be Birmingham's plodding attempts to use its WNF allocation. Eighteen months into a three-year scheme, just ÃÂ£30 million had actually been spent and only ÃÂ£2.5 million of that went directly on projects to combat worklessness.
Attempts to discover what the ÃÂ£27.5 million not spent on worklessness has actually been spent on have, so far, proved fruitless.
I have also asked this organisation to set out how it intends to spend the remaining ÃÂ£85 million it is sitting on, what targets it has agreed with the government for reducing unemployment in Birmingham, and the progress being made toward meeting those targets.
What we do know is that less than half of the ÃÂ£115 million - some ÃÂ£46 million - is being directed at reducing worklessness, in a city where unemployment in inner city wards reeling from the worst recession since the 1930s is 30 per cent.
On the other hand, funding from WNF has been agreed for projects to fight obesity, get rid of graffiti and promote cultural festivals.
It has also been confirmed that ÃÂ£14 million originally earmarked for worklessness schemes has been "reallocated" to bail out the city council's overspending adults social services - a decision described as a smash and grab raid on unemployed people in Birmingham by Sparkbrook Lib Dem councillor Jerry Evans.
Be Birmingham's 15-strong board consists of city council directors and representatives from health trusts, the police, fire authority, chamber of commerce, regional development agency and the voluntary sector. Its chairman is Paul Tilsley, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader of Birmingham City Council.
When Be Birmingham was the City Strategic Partnership, and chaired by Tilsley's predecessor John Hemming, its board meetings were open to the public.
Hemming, to his credit, fought a long battle to convince board members that this was the right and proper thing to do.
But when Hemming went and Tilsley arrived, the shutters went down and newspapers were barred from attending Be Birmingham meetings.
Quite clearly, a serious problem of non-accountability exists.
Requests for an interview with Coun Tilsley have been turned down. This would be an excellent opportunity to explain the thinking behind the way WNF money is being allocated, to put the case for a wider focus than worklessness, but he does not wish to engage with the public through the media.
A better and more transparent option for the city council would be to subject Be Birmingham to a through investigation by a scrutiny committee.
Again, this seems most unlikely to happen. I believe I am right in saying that Be Birmingham's activities have never been the subject of a scrutiny probe.
This is the latest example of a worrying undemocratic trend seeping through local government.
Scrutiny committees have similarly been unwilling or unable to inquire into the activities of Service Birmingham, the arms-length company controlled by Capita set up to transform the council's IT services and deliver the business transformation project. Service Birmingham has contracts worth ÃÂ£617 million with the council and is the subject almost weekly of claims by councillors that it is failing to deliver, but has never been asked publicly to account for its performance.
I have absolutely no doubt that Coun Tilsley and his chums will argue that they are entirely accountable to the public through some torturous process whereby Tilsley is elected as a councillor and can be called upon to answer questions in the council chamber about the performance of Be Birmingham, Service Birmingham and other quangos.
The problem is, there never are any questions - or answers.