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Scrutiny ‘grilling’ was a bit of a Bore

Scrutiny ‘grilling’ was a bit of a Bore

🕔25.Feb 2013

Anyone curious to know how Sir Albert Bore has managed to remain leader of Birmingham Labour councillors for 14 years, even though he has been in power for less than half of that time, could have learnt a lot by attending the main scrutiny committee.

Albert, nine months into his second period as council leader, was up for a ‘grilling’, and goodness knows there were plenty of pertinent questions that could have been asked.

His claim that a combination of Government cuts and the relentless demand for social care will leave the council £600 million worse off by 2017, causing ‘the end of local government as we know it’ and result in the decommissioning of services might have been worth probing.

His refusal to find a measly £8 million to enable the city’s poorest families to continue to receive full council tax benefit would have been at the top of any list of questions, you might think.

If Sir Albert was to have been roasted, then the scrutineers must have forgotten to switch the oven on. To describe the session as tepid is probably giving more praise than is necessary.

Perhaps they were put off by Sir Albert’s opening gambit. He would have to leave after an hour for an urgent private meeting with Chancellor George Osborne and Lord Heseltine.  Very sorry, would love to sit here shooting the breeze all morning with you, but more important people to impress.

Naturally, the council leader didn’t get where he is today without knowing the value of getting supporters into key roles. Carl Rice, a fellow Ladywood councillor and a key ally, began the questioning by lobbing an inviting full toss about Sir Albert’s re-worked cabinet structure.

Was the new system, where cabinet members share responsibilities and bounced ideas off of each other in an open plan office, working? And how did it all fit in with scrutiny, Rice wanted to know.

Asking Albert Bore about political structure is a little like inviting an alcoholic to open a bar. He lives and breathes local government organisation, always has done and always will do.

Is the new system working? Does night follow day? Of course it is working, and Albert could explain exactly how, in great detail, for 15 minutes.

That left 45 minutes.

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