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Clancy talks of Tory misdirection but is unable to sprinkle any magic on the budget he inherited

The Labour leader has dealt with the legacy of his predecessor and must now start pushing his own agenda

John Clancy on the power of misdirection

Taking over as leader of Birmingham City Council part way through the municipal year, it was always inevitable John Clancy would end up dealing with the hangover from his predecessor.

The Labour leader was constantly reminded by rivals throughout the four-hour budget debate he was presenting a business plan drawn up by Sir Albert Bore.

For some, this explained why he delivered the speech with grim determination. Supporters said that of course there was always going to be little enthusiasm for another brutal package of enforced cuts.

His first budget was peppered with the usual details - £88 million cut this year and a running total for the austerity era, about £815 million over nine years.

There are to be 1,200 job losses and changes to terms and conditions , although remaining staff would be set free to innovate and adapt - not something one usually associates with local government.

He highlighted the argument over fairer funding, which Birmingham has belatedly won, but too late to avoid cuts. All that was missing here was Sir Albert’s usual assertion that this is the "end of local government as we know it".

Of course, Clancy did, in the spirit of the Kerslake review, also talk about "hope" and set out a long-term vision including the devolution deal, HS2, inward investment. There was a pledge to crack down on intolerance and extremism in all forms and celebrate the city’s diversity.

Few could argue with his priorities of child protection and housing. But the message about protecting the vulnerable from the worst of the cuts, adapting the organisation and embracing regeneration and economic growth as a means to recovery are all familiar themes from Sir Albert’s previous budget days.

Only the odd line, such as a mention of that Clancy favourite Brummie Bonds, gave any sign that something had changed.

Tory councillors pointed this out time after time, including Gareth Moore who wondered where the fabled ‘Clancynomics’ were.

The Labour leader did come to life for his closing statement in which he brushed aside the repeated Tory attacks over cuts to superloos and dog cruelty investigations (described as ‘Clancy’s cruel canine cuts’ by backbencher Peter Douglas Osborn) as pure "misdirection", designed to draw attention away from the headline cuts to adult social services.

With the budget now out of the way, there are also high hopes that another hangover from Sir Albert’s era, the Government-appointed Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel, will be on its way, satisfied the dysfunctional authority it found 18 months ago can be trusted to look after itself from now on.

So with last year’s work now almost done, we will be waiting to see Clancy emerge from the shadow of his predecessor.

"I'm mortified"

St Augustine was outraged at misquote

An English teacher by trade, it was with some embarrassment the Labour leader managed to mix up his famous quotations, wrongly attributing the prayer ‘God make me pure, but not yet’ to St Francis of Assisi.

The wonders of social media meant that those following on Twitter knew almost immediately that it was St Augustine’s prayer.

And the point was soon made in the debating chamber by councillor Timothy Huxtable, a notorious stickler for those kind of things, who added that, as a keen ale drinker, Clancy should have been doubly shamed as St Augustine is the patron saint of brewers.

Clancy held his hand ups and admitted being "mortified" by the error and managed a modest recovery with another quote from St Augustine that ‘God loves each of us as if there is only one of us’ and adding that there is only one Timothy Huxtable.

No guarantee for deputy police commissioner

Yvonne Mosquito
Yvonne Mosquito

If anyone thought the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner elections might pass without too much trouble they may be mistaken.

All was going smoothly when the parties made their candidate selections without any of the in-fighting which has accompanied them in the past.

Labour selected David Jamieson and the Tories Les Jones – the pair who finished first and second in the by-election two years ago .

But now trouble may be brewing over the choice of deputy, a post currently occupied by Birmingham councillor Yvonne Mosquito.

The £65,000-a-year job is not a political one, it is appointed by the PCC in common with the rest of his office – most of whom have been given notice ahead of the election.

Mr Jamieson explained this when asked on Winson Green-based New Style Radio whether Coun Mosquito would remain his deputy should he win the May election.

But he was unable or unwilling to give any assurance over Coun Mosquito’s future.

So the rumour mill is now in full swing that she could be replaced or the role even scrapped.

A lot of love for Kingstanding

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham at Witton Lodge Community Association in Perry Common

It appears that a nail was hit firmly on the head with my prediction earlier this year that Kingstanding is an area to watch in the May local election.

Last week, Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Halesowen MP James Morris dropped by for the Tories while the Labour side were greeted to a state visit from l eader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham . The people there must very special indeed.



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