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Birmingham City Council needs all the friends it can get says Labour leadership contender

Coun Penny Holbrook hits back at rival's 'novice' claim and says she would welcome the support of colleagues and the wider city in running the council

Clockwise from top left: Councillors John Clancy, Ian Ward, Mike Leddy, Barry Henley and Penny Holbrook

Council leadership contender Penny Holbrook has hit back at a rival’s claims she is unable to take the big decisions alone - saying the next leader is going to need all the friends they can get.

Coun Holbrook was criticised for her claim that she would need the support of others to do the job. Five Labour councillors are battling it out to succeed Sir Albert Bore as council leader.

Leadership rival, current council deputy leader Ian Ward said that colleagues should not turn to novices during the current crisis and said the leadership is not Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - "You can't phone a friend when things get tough".

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Coun Holbrook agreed that strong leadership would be needed to handle massive budget cuts and improve performance in areas like child protection.

"Given the scale of the challenges that the city faces, the council is going to need all the friends we can get," she said.

But Coun Holbrook, cabinet member for culture and skills, said that she had shown strong leadership in her handling of cuts to the Library of Birmingham and, with a string of new partnership deals with the likes of Google and the Brasshouse Language Centre, the library had a future despite the cuts.

"We do need other people to help us deliver services," she added.

She said she would be delivering an optimistic vision to councillors.

"We have got huge changes, everyone's clear that a budget has to be set, we've got to deliver the changes the Improvement Panel is looking for and the combined authority is the only game in town," she said.

"But I believe we can still make Birmingham better but not through the council alone. Anyone with an offer to make is welcome to the table."

She is battling it out with councillors Ian Ward, John Clancy, Mike Leddy and Barry Henley for the job.

Meanwhile, Coun Clancy has now been given public endorsements on social media from more than 20 colleagues.

He needs to get near 39 votes to secure victory on a first round of the ballot on November 23.

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