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Secret Election Diary: Holbrook told friends ‘council leadership isn’t something I want’

Secret Election Diary: Holbrook told friends ‘council leadership isn’t something I want’

🕔16.Nov 2015

Penny Holbrook told her supporters three weeks before deciding to run for the Birmingham city council leadership that she wasn’t ready for the job and didn’t want to do it.

In a text message to close friends the cabinet member for culture, learning and skills said she was having to talk herself into standing and had decided the post wasn’t something she wanted.

She also claimed it was likely that Government commissioners would be sent to run the council if the leadership goes to Cllr John Clancy, who is seen as the front runner.

The message was written a couple of days after Sir Albert Bore announced his intention to stand down as leader of the Labour group and the council on October 13. Cllr Holbrook eventually decided that she would be the fifth candidate for the position just before nominations opened on November 4.

When she put her name forward, Cllr Holbrook admitted there had been much soul-searching going on, but did not explain why she had changed her mind and decided to stand.

Cllr Holbrook told Chamberlain Files she had sent the text message to four close friends and was upset that it had been made public.

In the message she said:

In all honesty I also had to talk myself into it so much each day it is clear it is not something I want / am ready to do. I am sorry if you feel I have let you down, but I am so appreciative of your support and grateful for all the help you have given me x.

She added:

Risking Clancy winning will bring in the commissioners.

Cllr Holbrook explained she was concerned that Cllr Clancy would embark on a zero budgeting exercise if he is elected council leader on December 1. Such a venture would be time consuming, involve ripping up budget preparations and starting again.

The council would risk not being able to deliver a budget on time.

Asked why she had changed her mind about standing, Cllr Holbrook said:

It became clear to me that no one else would be able to beat Clancy and the only option was for me to stand. I am the only person who can stop the commissioners from coming in.

Cllr Clancy rejected any suggestion that his policies as council leader would result in commissioners being sent to run Birmingham. He pointed out that a zero budgeting review contained in his manifesto would not be pushed through for the 2016-17 budget.

Cllr Clancy said the Labour group had accepted that it would be too late to change the budget preparations already on the table and Cllr Holbrook had misunderstood his plans.

He had shown “considerable flexibility” in the face of the practicalities of Sir Albert not standing down until December 1, which would not leave enough time for a zero budgeting exercise.

Interviewed by Chamberlain Files on November 9, Cllr Holbrook said nothing should be read into the fact that she was the last of the five leadership candidates to declare.

She insisted:

You don’t have to be the first to rush into the race in order to be credible.

You have to be absolutely certain you can do the job and you want it enough.

It was important to me to the thinking what’s best for Birmingham.

Candidates for the Birmingham city council leadership are: John Clancy, Ian Ward, Mike Leddy, Barry Henley and Penny Holbrook.

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