New leader Clancy hits the ground running with Clark-Heseltine summit
Birmingham‘s new leader John Clancy met Communities Secretary Greg Clark and Tory devolution guru Lord Heseltine yesterday to underline his commitment to city council governance reforms set out in the Kerslake Review.
On only his second day since replacing Sir Albert Bore as leader of Birmingham’s Labour councillors, Cllr Clancy spoke with Mr Clark and Lord Heseltine together and assured them he fully supports Kerslake’s key demand that the council must become far more outward looking and improve its partnership working.
The Government is believed to be seeking assurances that Birmingham city council is serious about embracing a change agenda and will be able to play a major role working with neighbouring councils to deliver the devolution package recently negotiated by the West Midlands Combined Authority.
The meeting in London came 24 hours after Cllr Clancy moved quickly to reassure Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel chair John Crabtree and vice chair Frances Done that he would redouble the council’s efforts to deliver the changes set out in the Kerslake Review.
The panel has twice this year warned the council under the leadership of Sir Albert Bore is not moving quickly enough on the Kerslake agenda, and expressed doubts that the political leadership team really understood or even accepted the scale of change required.
Sources close to Cllr Clancy say yesterday’s meeting was “very open and productive” and the new leader assured Mr Clark and Lord Heseltine he was fully committed to quickening the pace on delivering Kerslake’s recommendations.
The new council leader will explain his plans in more detail when he addresses a public meeting of the improvement panel in the Council House on December 14.
During the campaign to elect a new Labour group leader Cllr Clancy faced claims from opponents that his radical manifesto, which includes taking a fresh look at council spending through a zero-budgeting exercise for 2017-18 as well as scrapping the £85 million Capita-Service Birmingham contract and renegotiating the Amey highways PFI contract, would push the Government into sending in commissioners to run the council.
Cabinet member Penny Holbrook, who lost by one vote to Cllr Clancy in the leadership election, was particularly blunt in a text message to supporters, when she said: “Risking Clancy winning will bring in the commissioners.”
Deputy council leader Ian Ward, who also challenged for the leadership but came third, warned several times about the risk of “reckless” behaviour, which is believed to be a coded reference to Clancy’s extensive policy agenda.
The comments are believed to have saddened Cllr Clancy, who privately has described the allegations as unfair. He has pointed out that the key Kerslake criticisms of the council – poor leadership, bad partnership working and a ‘we know best’ attitude – are areas of concern he has been campaigning openly on for 10 years.
Cllr Clancy will formally take over from Sir Albert on December 1 when he will be appointed leader at a meeting of Birmingham city council. He is expected to name his cabinet and deputy leader at the meeting.
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