Muhammad Afzal to be the next Lord Mayor of Birmingham
Veteran city councillor Muhammad Afzal will be the next Lord Mayor of Birmingham.
Afzal, whose period on the council as a member for Aston spans 33 years, was nominated at a meeting of the Labour group last night and will replace the current Lord Mayor Ray Hassall in May.
The decision represents the pinnacle of a lengthy political career for Cllr Afzal.
Ten years ago he was involved in the so-called ‘banana republic’ vote-rigging trial in which an election court judge heard evidence of “massive, systematic and organised fraud” in Aston and Bordesley Green.
Petitions challenging the results in the two wards were brought to court by Birmingham Liberal Democrats, with former Yardley MP John Hemming playing a leading role in collecting the evidence.
Cllr Afzal and two other Labour members in Aston and three in Bordesley Green had their 2004 election victory in Aston quashed and were barred from standing in the subsequent by-election.
However, Cllr Afzal cleared his name at the Court of Appeal and the ruling of the election court was changed to delete any reference to him being personally guilty of corrupt and illegal practices involving postal voting.
But the appeal court also ruled that Afzal could not stand as a candidate in the 2005 Aston by-election “because of general corruption surrounding the poll which did not involve him”.
He was free to contest subsequent elections and was re-elected in Aston in May 2007.
In December 2005, Afzal was refused an honour for lengthy public service.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors voted against making him an Honorary Alderman, a title usually automatically bestowed on former councillors who have served for at least 15 years. It was the first time the council had rejected a proposal to create an Honorary Alderman, prompting fury on the Labour benches.
Cllr Afzal was appointed chair of the employment and human resources committee when Labour regained control of the council in 2012. The committee was abolished last year after its performance was severely criticised in the Kerslake Review.
Lord Kerslake found: “There is no workforce strategy. Our view is the committee has failed in its primary responsibility.”
An accountant by profession, Cllr Afzal is chair of the Birmingham Central Mosque and was heavily involved over Christmas in helping to run a soup kitchen for homeless people.
His nomination as Lord Mayor drew praise from fellow Labour councillors who gave their congratulations on Facebook. Cllr Majid Mahmood (Lab Hodge Hill) wrote:
Congratulations to our Lord Mayor-elect. A formidable individual who will make a great first citizen for the city of Birmingham.
Cllr Waseem Zaffar (Lab Lozells & East Handsworth) wrote:
Very happy. Cllr Muhammad Afzal has been an elected councillor since 1982 when I was only one year of age and will serve as Lord Mayor of our great city during the municipal year 2016-17.
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