Sir Albert Bore is coming under renewed pressure to give up his £60,000-a-year job as chairman of the QE Hospital if he becomes the Labour leader of Birmingham City Council.
Amid signs of unease among councillors, he may have to concede that leading Britain’s biggest local authority is a full time commitment and that the post-holder cannot have a second job.
Officials decided to withdraw a nomination form that has to be be filled in by candidates wishing to stand for election as Labour group leader following a dispute over the wording, which was unclear over whether the job ought to be a full time role.
The form simply said the leader should “devote such time on the work of the council and in activities that enhance the reputation and standing of the city of Birmingham, as is sufficient to effectively and efficiently perform his/her duties and responsibilities, recognising that this may require periods of full time work.”
A revolt led by Quinton councillor John Clancy saw the form replaced with a new re-written version reflecting the council constitution, stating that the leader should “devote his/her full time on the work of the city council and in activities that enhance the reputation and standing of the city of Birmingham.”
In an email to deputy Labour group leader Ian Ward, Coun Clancy stated: “You will recall you assured the group that the description of the time commitment in the roles and responsibilities section of the AGM self-nomination form for Leader would directly reflect the wording of the council’s constitution.
“I am afraid that the AGM Leader self-nomination form must now be amended to state “devote his/her full time on the work of the city council and in activities that enhance the reputation and standing of the city of Birmingham.
“Where on earth the ‘may require periods of full time work’ comes from, I have no idea. This can’t be fudged.”
Sir Albert is odds-on favourite to regain the council leadership at the local elections on May 3, eight years after he was booted out of office by a Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition. Labour councillors meet nine days later for their annual meeting, where Sir Albert is likely to be re-elected leader.
His period in charge could be short-lived if Birmingham votes in favour of having a directly elected mayor from November.
Even if he is forced to give up the chairmanship of the Birmingham University NHS Hospitals Trust, Sir Albert would still receive an allowance amounting to £66,000 as leader of the council. But the figure is slightly less than might have been expected, after the council voted for a 10 per cent cut in special responsibility allowances as part of an austerity package of savings.
The row has raised questions about the difficulties he might face after the local elections in maintaining discipline in a Labour group which is expected to number at least 70 councillors. Sir Albert’s period in charge from 1999 to 2004 was notable for long-running rows over policy and he was challenged for the group leadership on six occasions.
Coun Clancy failed in a bid to take the Labour leadership a year ago, and is expected to mount a fresh challenge to Sir Albert if Birmingham decides to continue with a leader-cabinet system of governance rather than opting for an elected mayor.
Last month Sir Albert hinted that he could combine the council leadership with his hospital role, stating that he had a lot of experience at juggling important jobs. Asked about the latest turn of events, Sir Albert said: “It is a question of what is a full time job. I did 80 hours last week, and I think that’s the equivalent of two full time jobs.”
- Council leaders take 10 per cent pay cut in ‘we feel your pain’ gesture to austerity Birmingham (thechamberlainfiles.wordpress.com)