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Dale’s Diary: Friends fall out after a week and Tories wake up to PCC election

Dale’s Diary: Friends fall out after a week and Tories wake up to PCC election

🕔10.Dec 2015

The blokeish chumminess between the new Labour leader of Birmingham city council and his Tory counterpart Robert ‘Bobby’ Alden didn’t last very long.

Exactly a week after Alden and fellow Conservative councillors were pictured larking about with Clancy and his mates at birthday celebrations for the city’s art gallery and museum, Bobby has gone on the attack, which just goes to show what a vipers’ nest the Council House is.

The Tory leader has taken exception to Clancy’s 2016-17 council budget, which identified £90 million of savings and axed 1,200 jobs.

The gist of a press release by Alden is that Birmingham wouldn’t be in a sorry financial state if only Labour had listened to and acted upon wise Tory advice over the years.

He also dismisses Clancy’s pledge that suburban parts of Birmingham will be better treated under his leadership as “rhetoric” that is not being delivered.

Oddly, he doesn’t mention the £560 million of savings the council has had to make since 2010 as a direct result of George Osborne’s austerity drive.

Unsurprisingly, he highlights issues that are always at the forefront of voters’ minds: leisure centres, libraries, parks, school crossing patrols, and of course, toilets.

Warming to his theme, Alden declared:

The Labour council have nailed their colours to the mast with this budget that is closing seven leisure centres in the next four years, placing libraries at risk of closure.

They plan to build on eight acres of parkland a year, equal to six football pitches. Land which, often, was given to the city in trust and was set up to protect residents health.

To be building on parkland is just disgraceful, it doesn’t even generate very much money.

While the decision to stop funding school crossing patrols is a betrayal of all the hard working crossing men and women in the city and the Birmingham Mail campaign which were told the jobs would be saved in March, just two months before the last election.

Sadly despite all the rhetoric that the council would be different and suburban areas would be treated better, so far that is not the case, the announcement that all the ‘superloo’ street toilets will be axed will not help suburban high streets.

There is a brief nod to his new chum Clancy. Alden acknowledges that the meat of the budget was inherited from former council leader Sir Albert Bore who resigned just over a week ago.

A week ago, Alden stood in the council chamber and paid tribute to Sir Albert’s great achievements over the years.

Seven days later, Alden had this to say:

This budget highlights the legacy that Sir Albert Bore has left the city, a failure to modernise means that significant savings from partnership working and eliminating efficiencies which should be saving us around £80 million a year by now are only just being started and so we are still four years away from being able to have that money, meaning Labour are axing front line services.”

Politics, eh? What a grubby business.

West Midlands Conservatives have finally caught up with the fact that there will be an election in 2016 to choose a new police and crime commissioner.

Having confidently announced last month that the PCC election would be scrapped and the term in office of the current postholder David Jamieson extended until 2017, the Conservative Police Area Organising Committee (CPAOC) has rather embarrassingly admitted a mistake has been made and the election is definitely on.

CPAOC chairman Jo Barker has written to activists:

Due to the legislation governing the election to office of the Police and Crime Commissioner the election due in May 2016 must now take place. I apologise for the incorrect information sent to you that caused the cancellation of the selection meeting scheduled for November.

Confusion in the Tory ranks seems to have arisen following confirmation of the West Midlands devolution deal with the Government which will lead to the election of a metro mayor in 2017. It was assumed, incorrectly, that the sensible thing to do would have been to abandon the PCC election, allow Mr Jamieson to continue for another year, and then roll the PCC responsibilities into the mayoral or deputy mayoral portfolio.

Meanwhile, the Tories meet on January 15 in Solihull to select a PCC candidate. One name in the frame is that of former Birmingham city councillor Peter Smallbone, who in 2011 led a campaign to save Quinton police station.

With a PCC salary of £100,000 beckoning, Smallbone may well be up against some bigger Tory names, although the chances of a Conservative victory given the usual Labour majority of the seven West Midlands councils appears to be slim.

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