John Clancy wins Birmingham council leadership election
JOHN CLANCY will be the new leader of Birmingham city council and will take office on 1st December.
It was a case of fifth time lucky for the Quinton councillor, who has been elected leader of the authority’s ruling Labour group, replacing Sir Albert Bore who is standing down after 16 years.
But victory for Clancy was far from easy.
On a night of high drama Clancy’s vote collapsed and the best he could do was attract support from 31 of the 78 councillors in the first round, with Ian Ward on 22, Holbrook on 23 and Barry Henley with just one vote.
Barry Henley and deputy leader Ian Ward dropped out in the subsequent rounds of voting leaving a run off between Clancy and Holbrook, which ended with a one-vote win for Clancy.
Clancy, who has challenged Sir Albert for the job four times since 2011, aims to carry forward a radical policy agenda which includes scrapping the £90 million Capita-Service Birmingham ICT contract, renegotiating the Amey highways PFI contract and giving free school meals to all children at council-run infant and junior schools.
But before he can move forward with any of these proposals he has to convince the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel he is the right person to progress the Kerslake governance reforms and deliver wide-ranging culture change at the council.
If he can’t do that, there is a real chance that the Government will send in commissioners to run Birmingham city council, sacking the cabinet and Cllr Clancy.
The first appointment has already been pencilled into his diary as council leader-elect – a meeting with the panel’s vice-chair Frances Done where he will stress his commitment to Kerslake and determination to push forward with a medium term financial strategy for the council.
He is seeking an urgent face to face session with Communities Secretary Greg Clark where he will ask for the council’s new leadership to be given breathing space to get to grips with the Kerslake agenda and address the panel’s concerns that reforms are not being delivered quickly enough.
He is also expected to announce proposals for the greater involvement of Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors in decision making and policy development, particularly at grassroots level with an “every ward matters” assault on litter and flytipping.
It’s been a long, hard road for Clancy who first attempted to topple Sir Albert Bore’s empire in 2005 when as a very junior and inexperienced councillor he teamed up with colleague Mike Olley. The pair burst into Sir Albert’s office, claimed the Labour group had no confidence in him, and demanded he resign. Sir Albert firmly showed them the door.
There followed five years off the council for Clancy – not an unusual occurrence for those on the wrong side of Sir Albert.
When he returned to the council in 2011 he immediately challenged for the leadership again, describing Sir Albert as “a part time leader who has produced part time results”. Although Labour had done well in the elections that year, the party did not win enough seats to topple Birmingham’s Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition.
Once again, Clancy was soundly beaten by Sir Albert Bore.
But the challenger did not give up. Clancy rested in 2012, when Labour regained control of the council, but went on to challenge Sir Albert for the leadership in 2013, 2014 and 2015, winning an increased level of support each time but always failing to cross the winning line.
Sir Albert Bore’s decision to announce his resignation in October this year signalled the start of a very different style of Labour leadership election. For the first time since 2000 Sir Albert would not be defending his position as leader and would be in no position to offer jobs to his supporters – the floodgates had well and truly opened.
It was also the first Labour council leadership election in Birmingham to be fought very publicly through social media, with the candidates taking to Twitter and Facebook to promote their ideas.
During the campaign, it seemed Clancy would seal his victory by recruiting every councillor of Pakistani heritage to his cause, roughly a third of the Labour group.
His tactics will certainly spark claims of a dangerous group within a group and attention will be focused on the carve-up of jobs for Clancy’s backers. It seems certain, for example, that wholesale sackings are around the corner for most of the cabinet.
Key policies outlined by Cllr Clancy in his “Every Child, Every Citizen, Every Place Matters” manifesto include:
- A zero-based budget review to address severe cuts to revenue in particular over next two years “where nothing is ruled out and everything is on the table”. All contracts, all books will be given over to the public’s immediate scrutiny.
- Setting up a City Region Sovereign Wealth Fund – this would use the council’s £5-6 billion physical asset base to generate capital spend in building housing, and investing in business, jobs and infrastructure across all wards of the city, to generate economic growth city-wide and to build thousands of new homes.
- Make Birmingham a Free School Meals City. “After our zero-based budget review we will look to reset our budget to invest first in children, not IT. We will make Free Hot School Meals available to both infant and junior pupils at all of our LEA primary schools”.
- Scrap the Capita-Service Birmingham contract. “In its current form there is effectively a protected £80-100 million a year department and this is simply no longer the kind of spend we can contemplate when we will have to take tough decisions elsewhere. We should look to our own West Midlands firms to do our IT”.
- Challenge the £45 million extra top-up payments each year to the Local Government Pension Fund when it has now revealed it pays £90 million a year to investment managers. “We will challenge and decline to pay those unnecessary top-up payments to the fund of £45Million each year for the next few years and ask for a refund”.
Cllr Clancy has said he will appoint four assistant council leaders with responsibility “for overseeing and enabling real devolution”
He wants to devolve control of rubbish collection, recycling, roads and pavements, trees, parks, lighting and community safety to “the most local appropriate areas”.
The assistant council leaders would devise ways of bringing “real devolution of the most local influence over services and provision, and of its governance, challenge and scrutiny”.
He is stressing that community areas would be based as much on character, identity and need as geography and would not necessarily reflect the current ten parliamentary constituencies and 40 council wards.
He is also promising to renegotiate the £2.8 billion contract to manage Birmingham’s roads and pavements the council has with Amey. This follows on from a previous pledge to scrap the Capita-Service Birmingham contract and transfer responsibility for the council’s IT services to local firms.
Commenting on the Amey contract, Cllr Clancy said:
We must look to renegotiate the entire contract, working with the Highways Agency and the Department of Transport so that, instead of being seen as a city-wide contract, it actually becomes part of the devolution process.
He is also promising to lead a debate about whether the cabinet and leader system should be replaced by the former committee system.
He also wants to appoint deputy cabinet members to develop leadership and talent in the Labour group for the future, addressing a key Kerslake criticism that the council has failed to nurture talent and bring on the leaders of tomorrow.