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City Council has finally called time on a bad deal

...and election fever, a whose got the biggest competition and good and bad news for city leader

Birmingham City Council and its IT contractor Capita have finally realised what many suspected – that its ‘Service Birmingham’ set-up has been a disaster.

So it has finally wound the joint venture up in favour of a more traditional contractual relationship.

The company was supposed to develop IT systems for the city council and then make money by selling on those systems and expertise to other councils or public agencies. But this did not happen.

Instead Service Birmingham made profits... most of which went to Capita.

As the company’s only client, any dividend coming to the council was simply money it had paid in first.

Seems like the whole set-up was a huge waste of time and money.

Mayor can make a difference, even if he has little power

Andy Street chose his first week as West Midlands mayor to launch a task force on homelessness and rough sleeping – pulling together an impressive panel of high profile charities and public agencies to pool resources and come up with ideas to get people off the streets.

As well as being firm action to tackle an acute problem, it showed the value of the mayor’s role.

Homelessness is not one of his direct responsibilities but he has decided to take a lead.

It is a clear example of using influence or soft power to make a difference.

Only the mayor has the region-wide remit and moral authority to do this.

My majority is bigger than yours

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson holds aloft a 'zombie killer' knives.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson holds aloft a 'zombie killer' knife

There was a good-natured, if a little sly, dig at our new West Midlands Mayor as he chaired his first combined authority meeting.

Labour Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson welcomed Tory Andy Street to his new job and promised that he would not mention the fact that he has the biggest personal mandate in the region.

Mr Jamieson secured 306,578 votes in his 2016 election over the same area compared to Mr Street’s 238,628 votes earlier this month.

A little bird has informed us that Mr Jamieson, once a transport minister during the Tony Blair years, celebrates his 70th birthday this Thursday and is showing no signs of slowing down.

He regularly declines to take the lift up to his eighth floor office at Lloyd House Police headquarters and runs up the several flights of stairs – leaving his younger less agile advisers catching their breath behind him.

There are easy games

Patrick McLoughlin

It is a tired football cliché that managers often say when they are expected to triumph that there are no easy games.

You hear it when a Premiership team draws a non-league side or when England play a qualifier against San Marino, or Liechtenstein.

It’s often a case of getting the excuse for failure in early and trying to lift a team from complacency.

Now it is creeping into politics with Tory party chairman Patrick McLoughlin saying the Tories are taking nothing for granted in the election, suggesting that the walkover widely predicted is in some doubt. Surely if there’s any time the Conservatives can be complacent it is now.

Good and bad news for council leader Clancy

John Clancy

There’s been good news and bad news for Labour Birmingham Council leader John Clancy in the last few days. On the positive side he, as well as deputy leader Ian Ward, will not face a challenge from within the Birmingham Labour group when it meets on Saturday. Dissenting councillors who had been warming up for a scrap were urged not to indulge in any unseemly internal contests during the General Election campaign.

It was also clear at the West Midlands mayoral election that although Labour is plumbing new depths in national polls 47 per cent of Birmingham voted for the red party, giving them high hopes of clinging onto council control in 2018.

But there was a downside as the mayoral result suggests testing times ahead for Clancy’s own survival in his Quinton ward where the Tories took the most votes. One observer suggested we may see what is called in political circles ‘a chicken run’ as Clancy withdraws from Quinton and seeks a safer haven for the 2018 local election.


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