The line-up in the race to appoint a new Birmingham City Council leader is starting to emerge – and it is an all white, middle-aged affair.
Councillors John Clancy and Ian Ward are likely to be the front-runners to replace Sir Albert Bore and last contested an election in 2005 when Coun Ward won the Birmingham Labour group deputy leadership, a post he has held ever since.
Coun Ward has also twice defeated the third candidate Barry Henley in deputy leader contests.
In 2014, councillors Clancy and Henley challenged for the leadership and deputy leadership on a joint-platform, but will now be rivals.
A Labour backbencher grumbled: “It’s the same faces and yet again we have three white middle-aged men to choose from.”
The 78 Labour councillors will vote on November 23 and challengers have until noon on November 9 to nominate themselves, meaning there is plenty of time for further candidates to emerge.
All three launched their campaigns this week with direct appeals to the group, saying they will engage more with Labour backbenchers – in this Coun Ward, in particular, sought to distance himself from Sir Albert’s more dictatorial approach.
“We will look to invest our budget first in children, not IT,” he said.
He also promised to reach out to the wider city, including the business community.
“The council has to stop seeing itself as doing things to the city, it needs to see itself as doing things with the city,” he said.
His campaign manifesto had revamped many policies from his earlier leadership challenges and included using the city’s vast asset base to invest in housing, infrastructure and job creation and reviewing the management fees of the council pension fund.
Meanwhile, councillors Ward and Henley – who delivered his campaign pitch via email from his honeymoon in Malta – seemed to focus on the way the council and the Labour group was run. They both argued they could convince the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel they could deliver the change needed to avoid a Government take over in the new year.
Coun Ward said: “We must then demonstrate the changes needed, on the scale required, are understood and will be delivered. Misunderstanding this challenge, or worse, behaving recklessly, will be disastrous for the council, Birmingham and its citizens.”
He appeared in campaign mood during a corporate resources scrutiny committee hearing where he sought to convince councillors he understood the scale of the problems facing the authority, talking about how things must change and the council become more open or risk the Government intervention.
There was also a stark warning from Coun Henley, who highlighted his business experience and pointed out that the leadership in recent years has been ‘a shambles’.
He said colleagues “were unanimous that Birmingham does not need another council leader like Councillor (Mike) Whitby or Councillor Sir Albert Bore whose self belief led them to ignore the contribution others could make and to make the mistakes that Kerslake identified.”