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Battle of the Birmingham intelligensia: David Bailey versus Sir Albert Bore

Battle of the Birmingham intelligensia: David Bailey versus Sir Albert Bore

🕔29.Aug 2013

One interesting aspect of the End of Local Government as We Know It is that the record-breaking financial squeeze imposed on Birmingham City Council is yet to make much of an impact on the public psyche.

Labour council leader Sir Albert Bore has spent the best part of a year forecasting the wholesale dismantling of public services as the city faces the worst that Chancellor George Osborne can hand out in austerity cuts, but there has been remarkably little in the way of protest on the streets.

Are the ravages of austerity the talk of pubs and clubs? Not yet. This may of course change in time as the council hands responsibility for adult social services to the voluntary and private sectors, but then again service users may notice little in the way of change.

Indeed, the signs from opinion polls are that a majority of people back Mr Osborne’s approach to debt-laden Britain rather than the mixed message coming from Labour nationally.

Here in Birmingham, a debate about how to deal with huge reductions in Government grant is raging away, but appears to be confined solely to the elevated  ranks of Labour intelligentsia.

They key figure leading opposition to Sir Albert’s approach to austerity is Professor David Bailey, from Coventry University Business School.

Bailey is a Harborne resident and close friend of Birmingham Labour councillor John Clancy, who unsuccessfully challenged Sir Albert for the council leadership in May this year.

In his latest salvo, published in the Birmingham Post, Bailey lampoons Bore, portraying him as a Stephen Spielberg-type of fantasist intent on creating a Jaws-type climate of fear.

Not content with Spielberg, Bailey goes on to compare Bore to the spineless Blackadder, portrayed by Rowan Atkinson in the television programme, whose cunning plans generally turned out to be totally useless.

Bailey’s contention is that Bore’s “doom-fest” claims about the end of local government are a ludicrous exaggeration succeeding only in losing credibility for the council.

Bailey writes: “The problem with the ever-increasing doom-fest is that it is starting to lose credibility; as much through the embellished and more lugubrious retelling of the tale.

“We really did not need to be told how bad the revenue situation is for the city council. We got that, already. But Sir Albert seems to think we didn’t believe him the first few times round.

“So, in a bizarre, reverse gilding of the lily we have to be told that it’s even worse than we first thought. It’s now even worse than the end of Local Government as we know it. A fate worse than a fate worse than death,  as Blackadder once said.”

Bailey goes on to criticise Sir Albert’s summer offensive, which saw the Jaws of Doom graph depicting the council’s financial crisis widen from £625 million to £825 million.

Bailey notes: “Sir Albert had already told us that a bale of straw had already broken the camel’s back – and now another straw was being added. In an outbreak of mixed metaphors he went on to say that ‘insult was being added to injury’ by adding a straw which was now really going to break the camel’s back, this time.”

The professor’s key claim is that Sir Albert is pursuing “a mug’s game” by trying to predict now the council’s financial plight in five or six years’ time. Far better, he argues, to “concentrate on the immediate, not the long-term, future”.

He goes on to rehearse a number of Cllr Clancy’s policies that involve saving cash by changing or ending the council’s contracts with private companies, rather than saving money by scrapping public services.

First in the Bailey/Clancy firing line is Service Birmingham, the Capita-led company with a £1 billion contract to supply and run city council ICT, as well as some other services.

Dubbing the council’s private sector partnerships as “the claws of doom”, Bailey says: “It is the Claws of Doom that Sir Albert really has to worry about. Deal with them and shut them down now, and the future can look after itself.

“And those claws of doom are clear: the wasteful, pre-crash era, private sector billion pound contracts which the previous Tory-Lib Dem administration signed on behalf of the citizens of Birmingham which have no place in austerity Birmingham today.

“Had Sir Albert dealt with these upon taking office then the City would already be making massive savings now, which, when cumulated themselves, into the future would shut the Jaws of Doom, and with a resounding snap.

“Had the council’s ICT, billing and ‘business transformation’ services been run for a much more credible £30 million a year from last year instead of £120 million, then the £90 million saved last year would also be saved this year and every year for the next 4 years.

“Instead, a plethora of service reviews of core services were instigated and are still going on and unreported 18months later. What should have happened was that the private sector contracts should have been the first port of call. Reports on them should have been expedited and the contract price severed to a bare minimum or shut down.”

Bailey also urges the council to sell “the massive dead weight of assets it owns”, which include the NEC, Birmingham airport and various city centre shopping arcades. These policies featured in Clancy’s leadership manifesto, and are now under serious consideration by the council leadership.

 

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