Labour is back in control of Birmingham City Council after eight years in the political wilderness.
The party swept to power at the local elections in a night of high drama which saw the city’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition thrown out of office.
Several high-profile coalition councillors lost their seats including cabinet members Martin Mullaney in Moseley and Les Lawrence in Northfield. Coun Mullaney, a Lib Dem, was in charge of the leisure portfolio. He lost to Labour’s Lisa Trickett by almost 1,300 votes.
Coun Lawrence, a Conservative, had been schools cabinet member since 2004.
Alistair Dow, the Lib Dem chairman of the main scrutiny committee, lost to Labour in Selly Oak.
Labour won in Harborne for the second year running, as Tory councillor John Alden was defeated by more than 800 votes.
And in one of the biggest shocks of the night, veteran Labour campaigner Rob Pocock won in the former Tory stronghold of Sutton Vesey with an extraordinary 805-vote majority. It was Labour’s first win in Sutton since local government reorganisation in 1974.
Other casualties included former Tory Lord Mayor Len Gregory, who lost in Billesley.
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The trouncing could have been even worse for the coalition. Tory Deirdre Alden held on in Edgbaston and long-standing Lib Dem councillor Ray Hassall saw off a strong challenge in Perry Barr.
The result means that Sir Albert Bore, the Labour leader of Birmingham City Council from 1999 to 2004, will be back in his old office after the annual council meeting later this month.
Sir Albert promised to “step on the gas” and said he would be making a number of important policy announcements over the next week.
These include a proposal for a public-private partnership to create 7,000 jobs on the Washwood Heath LDV site, and to give a pay rise to 3,000 of the lowest paid city council staff.
Sir Albert warned however that the council’s perilous financial problems, and the need to deliver more than £300 million in Government cuts, would inevitably tie Labour’s hands.
He intends to have the council’s finances examined by independent experts in an attempt to get to the bottom of what he claims may be a “black hole” in the accounts.
Describing Labour’s victory as a “handsome win”, Sir Albert added: “I want to create a momentum from the start to take this city forward. But the first thing I need to do is understand the budget that we will be inheriting from the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition and to see if there are any problems there.”
Labour will not seek to appease the trade unions by dismantling the Birmingham Contract – a change in pay and conditions introduced by the coalition which scrapped overtime payments and shift allowances for thousands of workers. Sir Albert said it would be “unaffordable” to bring back the payments.
A question mark now hangs over the political future of Mike Whitby, the Conservative city council leader since 2004.
Coun Whitby is seeking his party’s nomination to run for mayor of Birmingham, but the result of a referendum to decide whether the city will have the position is yet to be declared.
The current deputy council leader, Paul Tilsley, a Liberal Democrat, is also believed to be interested in mounting a challenge for the mayoral role.
- Vote Labour for a £686 pay rise, Sir Albert Bore tells Birmingham City Council workers (thechamberlainfiles.com)