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Clancy and Henley appeal to Labour’s heart and soul in battle to win Birmingham city council leadership

Clancy and Henley appeal to Labour’s heart and soul in battle to win Birmingham city council leadership

🕔26.May 2014

John Clancy and Barry Henley have launched their campaign to take the leadership of Birmingham City Council with a back to basics manifesto that promises “fresh ideas that connect with ordinary people and their real lives”.

Clancy will attempt to oust Sir Albert Bore as head of the Labour group and council leader, while Henley is putting himself forward as deputy leader in place of Ian Ward.

The pair published ten specific policy pledges that included a promise to build 16,000 new houses by 2018 and to give a free daily hot meal to all infant and primary school children.

They would also rip up the council’s current spending plans and draw up a new budget from scratch “paying only for what is really needed and eliminating wasteful spending”.

Under the slogan ‘Yes, We Will’, Clancy and Henley say they want to emphasise the positive choices Labour can make for Birmingham and avoid “doom and gloom politics”.

This is believed to be a reference to Sir Albert Bore’s jaws of doom graph depicting the impact of £800 million of savings he says the council has to make, and his persistent warnings that some public services will have to be decommissioned in 2015.

The manifesto hints that the council’s Labour cabinet has turned its back on traditional working class supporters, and is now paying the price through a groundswell of support for the United Kingdom Independence Party. The document urges the council to reconnect with “ordinary people’s lives” and makes specific proposals to deal with the election threat from Ukip.

There is also a promise to “prioritise less” city centre regeneration projects and “take action to combat poverty across every ward in the city”.

Labour councillors meet on May 31 to elect a leader and deputy leader.

Cllr Clancy challenged Sir Albert Bore last year, and lost by 23 votes to 51.

This year’s contest follows the local elections on May 22 which saw Labour make a net gain of only one seat and suffer the embarrassment of cabinet member Steve Bedser being beaten in Kings Norton and group secretary Des Hughes losing in Kingstanding – in both cases Conservatives took the seats.

Labour gained 43.4 per cent of votes cast across the city, down sharply from 51 per cent in 2012.

Cllr Clancy said: “I’m immensely proud of our Labour city council’s achievements over the past two years, especially the introduction of the Living Wage for all our employees, and extending it to those working in care homes we have contracts with.

“Our work on new apprentices, the Charter for Social Responsibility, and our commitment to our children’s centres have been brilliant.”

“But we need to go much further than we are currently planning.  A completely fresh approach is needed with fresh leaders to shape how Labour takes the city forward for the next 10-15 years. It’s time for the baton to be handed on.”

Cllr Henley said: “We will fundamentally change the way we spend taxpayers’ money in the city by using a zero-based budgeting approach. That means starting with a blank sheet of paper and being clear first about what we should and should not do, paying only for what is really needed and eliminating wasteful spending.

“Council budgets are too often dominated by deeply engrained traditions of spending, vanity projects and setting budgets on an incremental change from the year before. We have to start from scratch. I’ve improved services while cutting £millions of cost from the NHS. It’s time to do the same at the council.”

Tackling the housing crisis by building more homes is at the centre of the manifesto.

Cllr Clancy said: “According to government figures released only this month, about 300 affordable houses were built in the city last year and only 1080 in total. Just 200 were built by the council and housing associations. There is an acute shortage of affordable housing in Birmingham so we must increase the number of new homes built each year into  the thousands, not the hundreds.

“We need action now. Long-term promises for the 2030s are just not good enough. It must be the council’s first and overriding priority. Much else of our problems can be dealt with by immediate action on housing.

“We can’t wait for the private developers. We will use Government Funding, Housing Investment Brummie Bonds, Pension Funds investment and other innovative Council and Housing Association funding methods that are already going on up and down the country.

“Developers must be challenged to build more. We will use existing powers and extra ones from an incoming Labour government to compulsorily purchase undeveloped housing land that has lain empty for years, whoever owns it.

“It’s time to build across the city, not just in our city centre. This will create thousands of new jobs for Brummies, young and old.”

Other pledges include:

  • Make Birmingham a Free School Meals City by investing to make Free Hot School Meals available to both infant and junior pupils at all LEA primary schools.
  • Slash or scrap the £100 million a year Capita contract for Service Birmingham.
  • Make transport more affordable and available by looking at a Brummie Oyster card and a return of night buses to help people working shifts at night and in the night-time economy.
  • Continue to support children’s centres and invest in them.
  • Recreate the Birmingham Municipal Bank to invest in Brummie, jobs and businesses.
  • Make Birmingham City Council a Co-operative Council and an Open Data Council.
  • Push for a big rebate from the West Midlands Pension Fund to put into Birmingham services instead.
  • Use the council’s new responsibility for public health to reduce the gap in life expectancy between the wealthiest and the most deprived areas of Birmingham.

 

 

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