Fresh crisis for Bore as Birmingham Labour group secretary Valerie Seabright resigns
Sir Albert Bore has suffered the second resignation from his top team in the space of a week after Councillor Valerie Seabright decided to stand down as secretary of the city council Labour group, reports Paul Dale.
Her decision places even more pressure on the council leader following the resignation of cabinet member Cllr James McKay who said Sir Albert had failed to produce a “simple, convincing political vision that can inspire citizens” and was no longer fit to be in charge.
Councillor Seabright is understood to have resigned in protest at Sir Albert’s decision to replace Cllr McKay in the cabinet with Bordesley Green councillor Shafique Shah.
It’s claimed the decision, announced late last Friday, did not follow Labour group rules which state that the council executive must be consulted in advance on any cabinet appointment.
Councillor Seabright’s move prompted an open letter to all Labour councillors from backbencher John Clancy, who has challenged Sir Albert for the council leadership three times.
Cllr Clancy urged Sir Albert and deputy council leader Ian Ward “to consider their positions” and warned of the possibility of Government commissioners being sent in to run Birmingham because the council was failing to implement quickly enough governance reforms demanded by the Kerslake Review.
The next two weeks are likely to be crucial for the future of Sir Albert’s administration.
The council leader will be looking with some trepidation to a pending report to Local Government Secretary Greg Clark by the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel.
If the panel repeats previous criticism about the failure of Sir Albert and his team to deliver the Kerslake reforms, Mr Clark may be forced to intervene directly, possibly even sending commissioners to run Birmingham.
Cabinet members have been under intense pressure to speak out publicly in support of Sir Albert.
But only two – Brigid Jones and Tahir Ali – have done so.
Chamberlain Files understands attempts by West Midlands Labour officials to persuade the cabinet to sign a declaration of support for Sir Albert had to be abandoned when it became clear that not all members were willing to do so.
All eyes will be on deputy council leader Ian Ward, who returns from holiday abroad today, to see whether he will speak out publicly in support of Sir Albert.
In a hard-hitting statement, Cllr Clancy said:
Over the last four years I have challenged the leadership of the Labour Group to change direction and offer a fresh and renewed vision for the future of the city under Labour. I have attempted to keep policy and vision, rather than personality, at the heart of the changes needed.
The continual failure of the leadership to respond, however, means there is now a clear and present danger that elected representatives may soon be removed from the running of this city.
The leadership was put on notice of the likelihood of statutory intervention last December, and again last July. It was warned, quite rightly, that a clear vision for the council, understandable by all, had to be developed. It was told that a fundamental culture change in how the council works for, and with, its citizens had to start happening.
Sadly, this clearly has not happened under the current leadership. There is no vision at all currently on offer, never mind an alternative or new vision. Engagement with backbench councillors and other parties, and with businesses and partners across the city has been a pretence.
Consequently commissioners may soon come to run this city. With immediate action and change this can be avoided.
Cllr Clancy criticised Sir Albert over an interview the council leader gave to the Birmingham Post:
The statement made by the Leader to the media last Thursday to the effect that he would require to be dragged out of the city’s leadership was shocking. The appointment of a new cabinet member outside the rules of the party was inexplicable.
We must quickly move to reassure the city that under Labour there is still time for fresh vision, a fresh and inclusive leadership and real culture change in how this council works for its citizens. It is time for the leader and the deputy leader to consider their positions immediately, this week, before it is too late. We cannot carry on as we are.
In addition, those who have positions in the present administration and Labour group who accept that immediate change is required should also act to ensure that they make it clear to the Labour group, the rest of the council and the citizens of Birmingham where they stand in relation to serving the current leadership.
Then the party can proceed to a swift and long-overdue renewal of its leadership with the new vision, new policies, and a new culture of service to this great city’s citizens.
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