Birmingham's Tory leader Lord Mike Whitby has confirmed he will stand down from the city council at next May’s local elections.
But the councillor will carry on as Conservative group leader, a position he has held for more than ten years, until next spring.
He had been criticised by colleagues for spending too much time on his new duties in the House of Lords rather than looking after his responsibilities in Birmingham, having missed recent Conservative group meetings, cabinet meetings and the monthly full council meeting. Several have called on him to either pull his weight or step down now.
With the Conservatives having only one-seat more than Labour in the House of Lords it was thought he would be needed in London more often than not.
But now Lord Whitby says he has reached agreement with the chief whip to be in Birmingham on Mondays and Tuesdays – when the key council meetings are held.
The news that he would resign the Harborne seat he has held since 1997 was not unexpected. Labour has won the vote in the two most recent elections and Lord Whitby was always likely to step down rather than risk being voted out.
But it leaves the door open for seasoned campaigner and former Lord Mayor John Alden, who lost his seat in 2012, to make a return to the political frontline.
Lord Whitby said that while his council career is drawing to a close, he will continue to battle for Birmingham in the House of Lords.
He said: “I will be well placed to articulate an accurate portrayal of Birmingham’s aspirations and achievements.
“Between now and May 2014, I will be working with my excellent deputy leader Robert Alden, in continuing to hold the Labour Administration in Birmingham to account whilst producing a balanced budget to put to the council in the New Year.”
He said that the focus of his opposition will be on the ‘harm’ the Labour administration is doing to the city with its “continued cries of doom and gloom and armageddon which is beginning to affect the Birmingham’s reputation as a dynamic, progressive city and is totally unacceptable”.
His official statement was backed by his shadow cabinet colleagues, deputy leader Robert Alden and councillors Timothy Huxtable and Randal Brew.