38-37 victory in contest to head city council.
Cllr John Clancy has been elected to succeed Sir Albert Bore as the new leader of Birmingham City Council. At a meeting of the 78-strong Labour group of councillors Clancy was elected by a single vote over rival Penny Holbrook. The margin could barely have been closer with Clancy securing 38 votes to Holbrook’s 37. Somewhat surprisingly there were two spoiled papers.
It proved to be a very long night, with the final result only coming at around 11pm, The first round had seen Clancy poll 31 votes, Holbrook 23, Ian Ward 22 and Barry Henley 1. However, following around ninety more tense minutes, at least for the candidates. Clancy finally emerged victorious in this, his fifth leadership attempt.
Clancy, a councillor for the Quinton Ward of the city, had unsuccessfully challenged Sir Albert Bore four times since 2011, scoring 30 votes as recently as May. He had been overwhelming favourite to win the race since Bore announced that he was stepping down in early October following ongoing criticism of his leadership style by the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel set up to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Kerslake Inquiry into the management and operation of the city council. A secondary, but no doubt related factor in Bore’s departure was growing unrest amongst Labour colleagues over both his leadership style and the threat that Commissioners may yet be sent in to run the city by Whitehall.
Clancy has pledged to focus less on grand city centre projects and more on the rejuvenation of the city’s 40 wards through a package of devolution measures transferring decision making to the most local level possible. He plans to consider replacing the current Leader and Cabinet system by returning to the Committee system and intends renegotiating the Council’s controversial outsourcing contracts with Capita and Amey and has promised an ‘open data’ council where such contracts are open to public scrutiny.
A further pledge involves the launch of a Birmingham Bond as a means of raising finance for house building and other infrastructure projects. Whilst Clancy’s victory was no surprise interest now turns to who will be elected as his Deputy, assuming that current incumbent Ward relinquishes the post, and what the make up of his first Cabinet will be.
However, given that Clancy commands the support of less than half of the city’s Labour councillors, compromise will need to be high on his agenda in the months ahead, not just as far as the Improvement Panel are concerned, but with regard to his party colleagues too.