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Dale’s Diary: Usual suspects NOT behind latest plot to oust Sir Albert

Dale’s Diary: Usual suspects NOT behind latest plot to oust Sir Albert

🕔24.Aug 2015

A very tricky few weeks coming up for Sir Albert Bore, who is as usual at the centre of fevered speculation about how much longer he can continue as Birmingham city council leader.

September 11 is a key date, when the independent Birmingham improvement panel will quiz Sir Albert, deputy council leader Ian Ward and chief executive Mark Rogers at a public meeting ahead of submitting a progress report to Communities Secretary Greg Clark.

The session at the Council House starting at 12 noon is open to all, and anyone attending has the chance to ask Sir Albert, Cllr Ward, Mr Rogers, or the panel members, a question. This is, potentially, a minefield and any hostile questioning will have to be handled very carefully by the council representatives.

Sir Albert can’t afford another ‘could do better’ analysis following on from the panel’s previous report, which raised the possibility that the council leader and his allies simply don’t understand the scale of change required to deliver the Kerslake Review reforms.

The panel, under chair John Crabtree, will be looking for signs of a far faster rate of progress, and in particular will want to see a clear timetable for establishing an independent leadership group to oversee the council’s change programme.

Three days before the panel meeting, Sir Albert is to appear before the corporate resources scrutiny committee where he will no doubt face probing questions about the council’s response to Kerslake. Cllr Waseem Zaffar, the new chair, is keen to make his mark and the meeting will be broadcast live to the world on the city’s webstream service.

Three days after the panel meeting, Sir Albert must appear before the first Labour group meeting since the beginning of the summer ahead of a full council meeting on September 15. Depending on what Mr Crabtree and his colleagues have had to say, he may not get an easy ride.

All of this comes at the end of eight weeks of extraordinary rumour and counter claim in Birmingham Labour circles about Sir Albert’s future prospects.

Efforts to get together a gang of men (and women) in dark suits from the party hierarchy along with prominent business people to tell Sir Albert head-on that the game is up and that he should go quietly appear to have fizzled out. Ian Ward is reportedly resisting all attempts to lend his name to any attempt to persuade the leader to call it a day even though he has warned of further Government intervention in the council’s affairs if the pace of culture change is not stepped up.

The latest suggestion doing the rounds is that a motion of no confidence in Sir Albert will be tabled at a Labour group meeting if the improvement panel report to the Government is critical.

It might be assumed that such a move comes from the backers of Cllr John Clancy whose annual attempt to overthrow Sir Albert and become Labour group leader and council leader are so ingrained that they have become part of the Birmingham civic calendar. But Chamberlain Files understands, this time, that Clancy is innocent.

The Clancy camp has let it be known that a no confidence motion would be a serious tactical error at this stage of the game. It would probably prompt sympathy for Sir Albert and be defeated, and even in the unlikely event of being carried there would be no compulsion on Sir Albert to step down.

There are only three ways in which Sir Albert can be removed against his will: following a leadership vote at the annual Labour group meeting; following a motion of no confidence at a full city council meeting; or through direct intervention by the Labour party at national level.

Who, then, is behind the ‘no confidence’ plot? I’m told ‘external Labour sources’ are touting the idea around Birmingham. This could be taken to mean the city’s MPs, or other senior party figures. First of all, though, they’d have to find two councillors willing to submit a no confidence motion, and even then the whole thing could be ruled unconstitutional by the regional office.

Sir Albert is safe for now although the hot summer madness may be followed by a winter of discontent in Labour circles. Watch this space.

You can never really have too much of a good thing, so it is with sadness I have to report the downsizing of Birmingham city council cabinet meetings.

The Monday afternoon sessions, cult viewing for many, will in future be held only once a month.

It was not unusual to have two or even three meetings a month when the cabinet began life in 2001, but as time has passed it’s become clear there simply isn’t enough business to transact. And with a West Midlands combined authority likely to be up and running next year, the cabinets of all seven metropolitan authorities will be of less importance.

For those determined to attend the gatherings of Birmingham’s political leaders or watch on the live webstream, dates for cabinet meetings are: 22 September 2015, 20 October 2015, 17 November 2015, 8 December 2015, 26 January 2016, 16 February 2016, 22 March 2016, 19 April 2016, 17 May 2016.

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