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Clancy: Three days, three outcomes

Clancy: Three days, three outcomes

🕔11.Sep 2017

John Clancy, Labour’s leader of Birmingham city council, faces his toughest three days in the job. Tonight, the Labour group; tomorrow a full Council meeting and Wednesday his Cabinet.

In short, his leadership may be broken or he may start to rebuild trust in it during the next 72 hours.

Or, he will hang on without full authority being restored. Political ‘civil war,’ as some describe it, would continue. That would be the worst possible option for everyone in the long run.

It wouldn’t be politics without rumour and gossip. Councillors being flown in from holidays to vote for the leader in a possible no confidence motion tonight.

Cabinet sackings and/or resignations.

A number of anonymous social media accounts springing up to *engage* with councillors and *assist* in the selection battle for seats at May’s all-out elections.

Talk of legal actions, injunctions and industrial tribunals.

The Labour party hierarchy and local MPs leaning on, or supporting, the leader in his hour of need.

But, what continues to surprise many is the lack of people standing up for the leader – and his actions in trying to resolve the industrial dispute – in public.

Beyond those simply seeking unity and calm as the precursor to fixing the bin strike and preparing for local elections, the next few days provides an opportunity to ask questions and for councillors – including Cabinet members – to make clear where they stand once answers have been given.

Our coverage in recent days has benefited (if that’s the right word) from leaks and briefings. We have endeavoured to corroborate and reflect information in a balanced way and provide context where at all possible.

READ: Clancy – questions of conduct

But, we cannot know the full picture. We have not seen every email, text message or document. We were not at the meetings.

Even in the midst of an industrial dispute and with all the legal complexities and political shenanigans, Cllr Clancy and all those involved would do well to bring more transparency and openness to the debate.

It now rests with the leader and councillors across the political divide to resolve the political crisis during this week’s key meetings. There are fundamental issues of judgement, trust, accountability, confidence, conduct and leadership at stake.

The reputation of Birmingham – the city and the city council – has taken a bashing in recent days. Meanwhile, the progress made in implementing the Kerslake reforms – not least in governance – has taken a step back.

As well as the political crisis, it will be a critical few days in the industrial dispute too. Council and union representatives are due to meet today, but it would seem there is even disagreement about the scope of those talks.

To most outside observers, the council has to find a way of sharing with union officials the legal basis for potential equal pay claims that lies at the heart of their different positions on Grade 3 Leading Hands roles in waste management.

Meanwhile, the process of recruiting a permanent chief executive is underway. Stella Manzie, the Interim Chief Executive, has let it be known that she will not be applying for the post but – as we revealed last week – will stay on for six months until her successor is in place.

She told colleagues:

I have been chief executive of four different councils so one more at my time of life, even one as exciting as Birmingham, just seems like one too many!

Ms Manzie is speaking to potential chief executive candidates on behalf of the political group leaders. We understand she talked to one of the leading candidates at length at the end of last week.

All other interim chief officers, including Chief Financial Officer Mike O’Donnell, have also had their contracts extended.

Ms Manzie continued:

Clearly there are some challenges at the moment with the coverage of the Council as a result of the refuse strike but there are still some good things going on, with an improving position in many of our schools, a better position in children’s social care and good performance in areas like processing of planning applications.

Appointing a permanent chief executive – with the support of opposition group leaders – is the single most important act of any council leader.

This week’s key meetings must resolve the political crisis – if not the industrial dispute – so that Birmingham city council can attract high quality candidates, with a chief executive then appointed who has the full confidence of the council and the Improvement Panel.


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