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The rising star and the professor

The rising star and the professor

🕔19.Jul 2018

Politics has always been a game of snakes and ladders. One day you’re up, the next day you’re down. But there’s something of a teaching theme among a group of senior council figures who continue to play leading roles in public life, writes Kevin Johnson.

Brigid Jones, deputy leader of Birmingham city council, has been named in the Municipal Journal’s top 40 under 40 list of rising stars..

The MJ says it is highlighting 40 talented people in and around local government.

Among others listed are Ben Houchen, Conservative Metro Mayor of the Tees Valley; Sean Anstee, who was leader of Trafford Council in Greater Manchester until this year’s local elections; and Liam Booth Smith, special advisor to the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government and until recently CEO of the Localis think tank.

Cllr Jones, 31, says her biggest achievement is:

leading England’s biggest urban children’s services department through five difficult years and securing significant improvements, while simultaneously leading through the aftermath of the Trojan Horse affair in education resulting in the service coming out of Government intervention.

Brigid Jones has a Physics Degree from the University of Birmingham where she took on a role supporting energy research.

She states that her ambition is:

Labour just won a four-year term in Birmingham on a manifesto of service improvement, a brighter future for our young population, and putting Birmingham in its rightful place on the world stage through hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

I want to look back in four years and see we’ve achieved this.

Cllr Jones is deputy leader thanks in part to the fall of Cllr John Clancy in the aftermath of last year’s waste management crisis at the council.

Cllr Clancy has now popped up as Visiting Professor at Birmingham City University’s Centre for Brexit Studies.

As well as shooting from backbench critic to leader almost overnight, Cllr Clancy earned a reputation as something of an expert in government pensions.

This week, he has aired concerns over the way in which the Brexit bill is calculated by the EU Commission.

He says that he has found a ‘bomblet’ regarding pension liabilities.

Speaking as part of a BCU podcast, Professor Clancy said:

The liabilities included in the accounts for the EU’s civil service Pension Fund have just hit €73 billion.

The problem is that the UK, on leaving next March, has to commit to pay – one way or another – its share of that huge figure [and] it is one the biggest items on the Brexit bill.

The UK needs now to ask some tough questions of the EU Commission about their figures – questions which, to be frank, the Treasury and our negotiators should have been asking a long time ago.

Prior to a leading role at the council, Prof Clancy had been an English teacher and visiting lecturer.

He went on to say:

It’s gone up €10 billion since 2015 and over €6 billion just since the last accounts.

Surely this isn’t the EU Commission or its negotiators pulling a fast one at the last?

I’m not being anti-EU here, as the methods they use are not untypical of those who calculate pension liabilities within the UK, for example, local authorities or in higher education, but we need to get to grips with this artificial problem, and soon.

Due to wider ECB policy, the real discount rate they’ve unjustifiably used for the 2017 accounts has suddenly and rapidly inflated the pension liability figure – it might work for an accounting exercise, but it’s not a tenable figure for our negotiations.

Professor Clancy’s predecessor as leader, Sir Albert Bore, is now chair of the council’s Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee. The former lecturer has a PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Birmingham and an honorary doctorate from Aston University.

Mark Rogers, the former council chief executive, is now the States of Jersey’s Interim Director General for Children, Education & Skills. He started his career teaching in special schools.

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