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Prove you're in charge, council leader Clancy

John Clancy's Birmingham City Council leadership facing it's toughest test as his close ally resigns in hijab row

Council cabinet, including cllr Zaffar at right hand of leader John Clancy

For a second time in two weeks Birmingham City Council’s leadership has been rocked by the sudden resignation or departure of a major figure.

And both times the fear of Government reprimand or intervention seems to have prompted the decision.

Last week’s departure of chief executive Mark Rogers plunged the council into crisis because it was both unexpected and showed poor timing ahead of the budget.

It also raised questions about cllr John Clancy’s leadership as even those inside the council were met with a wall of silence from his office for several days as the crisis unfolded.

But the resignation of Waseem Zaffar as cabinet member for equalities, openness and transparency is far more worrying for Labour council leader John Clancy.

The chief executive was a non-partisan civil servant who Clancy had inherited when he took over as leader.

City leader Coun John Clancy

Whereas cllr Zaffar was very much Clancy’s own man and his de facto deputy leader (the official deputy leader is not appointed by the leader).

The two have been political allies for years and Waseem effectively ran Clancy’s Labour leadership campaign in 2015.

They are also both close friends of former Erdington MP and Labour mayoral candidate Sion Simon - in fact cllr Zaffar has been very busy on the Simon campaign trail.

And the ambitious cllr Zaffar, who has only been a councillor since 2011 , has been talked of as a future leader, a successor in waiting.

His ability to network, build alliances and use social media were seen as his strengths. So it is ironic that a clumsy and ill-informed statement on the hijab while playing to the crowd on facebook has led to his resignation from cabinet after just ten months.

That he was wrong on a matter of his equalities brief and contradicted by his own Labour colleagues was particularly damaging.

The Government was also clearly unimpressed and the Integration Tsar Dame Louise Casey could not let it stand given the backdrop of Trojan Horse and the council’s much discussed persistent failings .

Now in the midst of all this councillor Clancy has lost one of his closest allies and his leadership is being sorely tested.

Last week we asked just who is running Birmingham City Council . Now it is time for Clancy to prove that he is.

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