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City cabinet member for culture to stand for council leadership

Penny Hobrook is fifth Labour councillor to come forward to replace Sir Albert Bore as leader of Birmingham City Council

Penny Holbrook

A fifth Labour councillor has launched a city leadership bid with a pledge to tackle unemployment, spread prosperity throughout the city and protect the city’s vulnerable.

Stockland Green councillor Penny Holbrook joins four candidates who are already running for leadership of the Labour run council following the resignation of Sir Albert Bore last month.

As cabinet member for culture and skills she has won the praise of colleagues for her handling of difficult cuts to the Library of Birmingham and has been behind the development of the Birmingham Youth Promise - a pledge to find a job or training for every young person in the city.

Coun Holbrook is the second current cabinet member to come forward, after deputy leader Ian Ward, and highlights the need to continue with the improvement plan currently under way.

Announcing her bid to colleagues following the council’s monthly meeting, she said; “Birmingham is an amazing city, with huge potential ready to be released. If we are going to live up to that potential, we need real change in how the city is led and how we work together.

“We need to build a city where everyone’s voice is heard, and everyone’s part of the exciting future ahead. We must address the urgent need for improvement, continue with the improvement in children’s services, set a balanced budget and change how we work with partners.”

Coun Holbrook, who was first elected in 2003, highlighted the challenge posed by the potential Government take over following last year’s damning Kerslake report - a key factor in Sir Albert’s resignation.

“There’s a huge worry that without a fresh approach, we will be taken over by the Tory Government, with all the damage that will do to our city.

“Standing for the leadership of our Council is not something I ever thought would be required of me. It is not something I have ever had a personal ambition for. However I have been a member of the Labour movement for a long time - an activist for more than 20 years and a councillor for over a decade, and I know the time has come to stand up and fight for a better Birmingham.”

Protecting vulnerable people, including children and the elderly, will remain a priority she said,

“The council I lead will never, ever forget that you judge a society, not by those at the top, but by how it stands together with the most vulnerable. Economic growth is vital to getting Birmingham back on its feet, but growth that isn’t shared with everyone, is just another missed opportunity.”

Her policies are very much in line with those outlined in the Kerslake report such as setting a balanced budget, ensuring economic growth reaches the suburbs, continuing with devolution and the West Midlands Combined Authority and continuing with longer term finance and service planning.

Coun Holbrook also pledges to create decent jobs for citizens something she admits will not happen overnight.

In a swipe against some of her rivals grand spending pledges she said: “We have to set an honest, balanced budget. We will learn the lessons from the general election and show we can be financially responsible while protecting those most in need. Residents see through easy promises. We will be honest about what the future looks like, be clear that Tory cuts have consequences, and set out a clear vision for Birmingham.”

Believed to be initially reluctant to stand for leadership it is thought that colleagues have rallied around her after being unimpressed with the chances of deputy leader Ian Ward, but still keen to find a senior rival to take on front runner John Clancy. Also in the running are councillors Mike Leddy and Barry Henley. The deadline for nominations is November 9. The Labour group of 78 councillors will meet on November 23 to elect their leader who will then become City Council leader on December 1.

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