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Ian Ward breaks his silence, but fails to back Bore over Labour leadership crisis

Ian Ward breaks his silence, but fails to back Bore over Labour leadership crisis

🕔12.Oct 2015

Ian Ward, the deputy leader of Birmingham council, has broken his silence over the growing crisis which threatens to engulf the local authority’s ruling Labour group, but significantly failed to offer his continued support for beleaguered city leader Sir Albert Bore.

Chamberlain Files tracked down Ward to Heraklion airport in Crete and invited him to say whether he still has confidence in Sir Albert Bore, his boss and the leader of the council.

Speaking shortly before boarding a flight to Birmingham, Cllr Ward said he was extremely concerned about the resignations of cabinet member James McKay and Labour group secretary Valerie Seabright.

Both McKay and Seabright have urged Sir Albert to stand down and make way for a new leader who can command the full confidence of Labour councillors.

Cllr Ward said he had been “watching events unfold” while on holiday in Crete.

He declined, though, to say whether he still had confidence in Sir Albert’s leadership.

Cllr Ward said:

I have been following events with great concern. When I get back to Birmingham I shall be issuing a statement. I have some comments to make.

Asked by Chamberlain Files “to simply answer one question, do you continue to support Sir Albert Bore as leader of Birmingham city council”, Cllr Ward simply replied that he would be making his views known later.

His comments came shortly after Cllr Seabright told Adrian Goldberg on BBC WM’s Breakfast Show she thought Sir Albert should stand down as leader of the Labour group and of the council.

Cllr Seabright stunned colleagues by quitting as group secretary over the appointment by Sir Albert of Cllr Shafique Shah to the cabinet, replacing Cllr James McKay who quit a week ago.

Cllr Seabright said Sir Albert had made it impossible for her to carry out her duties by riding roughshod over Labour rules when appointing Cllr Shah. He failed to consult the Labour group executive committee beforehand, which he is duty bound to do, even though he had three days to consider who McKay’s replacement should be.

A sense of uncertainty and even crisis hanging over the Birmingham Labour group is now palpable.

The Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel is due to report to Local Government Secretary Greg Clark on the city council’s progress in delivering the governance reforms and culture change demanded by the Kerslake Review.

A panel report in July made it clear that the council was not moving quickly enough and that the city’s leadership did not understand the scale of change required, particularly a need to embrace partnership working and to involve all councillors and partner organisations in the running of Birmingham.

It is possible that a second critical report from the panel could force Mr Clark to intervene directly in the running of the council, perhaps by sending in Whitehall commissioners to take control.

Fast-moving events of the past week include:

  • James McKay resigns from the cabinet claiming that the council still does not have a “simple, convincing political vision” that can “inspire citizens, get partners around the table. He tells Sir Albert it is time for him to stand down.
  • West Midlands Labour party officials fail to convince the remaining cabinet members to sign a declaration of support for Sir Albert – only two say they back the leader, Brigid Jones and Tahir Ali.
  • Scrutiny committee chair suggests Bore may be recalled over unclear answers.
  • Sir Albert gives an interview in which he declares “I’m going nowhere” and he won’t resign.
  • A senior Labour councillor begins canvasing colleagues for support “should a leadership vacancy arise”.
  • Three days after McKay’s resignation, Sir Albert appoints Bordesley Green councillor Shafique Shah to the cabinet.
  • Valerie Seabright resigns as Labour group secretary, declaring that Sir Albert has made it impossible for her to do her job.
  • Backbench Labour councillor John Clancy, who has three times challenged Sir Albert for the Labour and council leadership, says Sir Albert and Cllr Ward should “consider their positions”. He is to publish a “fresh policy programme for the city based on Labour principles where every child, every citizen and every place matters and where every business matters too, not just some”.
  • Councillor Ward is invited to express his confidence in Sir Albert, and fails to do so.

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