The new Chancellor of Birmingham City Council will take out his scissors as he starts trimming budgets, renegotiating contracts and seeking out those frequently mentioned efficiency savings.
Randal Brew’s elevation to the city council’s Cabinet table was one of the worst kept secrets from last week’s Cabinet reshuffle.
With the previous, slightly unofficial guardian of the council finances, Len Gregory stepping back from party politics to become Lord Mayor, there was a vacancy in the Cabinet.
So Conservative leader Mike Whitby, realising tough decisions lay ahead, turned Coun Gregory’s unofficial role as chairman of the Performance, Efficiency and Productivity, or PEP, Group into a fully-fledged Cabinet position.
And Coun Brew (Northfield), the former Lord Mayor who last year challenged Coun Whitby’s leadership on a cost-cutting platform, was in pole position for the promotion.
But the retired accountant believes it was his work alongside Mr Gregory on the PEP Group which won him the job, not the fact that Coun Whitby needs to keep his leading rival happy or risk another challenge.
Coun Brew said: “We had the leadership contest last year and that was it. I said we need to work together and move forward.
“Apart from my year as Lord Mayor, I have been on the PEP Group since 2004 and have played my part in setting the council’s budgets.”
He said it was too early to say exactly what the Cabinet member for Finance job involved but agreed it was a reflection of the economic downtown and the need to ‘make sure we get maximum value for money’.
He takes responsibility for council procurement and internal trading, property deals and management of the city’s assets.But he dismissed the idea he would earn a reputation as an Iron Chancellor.
“I will have an input in department budgets, but we work as a team and always have, to deliver services at the proper prices.”
His first duty will be to find out how the council tax freeze and other spending cuts announced by Chancellor George Osborne will affect the city.
One of Coun Brew’s new colleagues, who might find his budget under severe pressure, is Tim Huxtable, the Cabinet member for the newly merged Transport and Regeneration department. His first job will be to ensure the Government does not pull funding from the Metro extension and three key rail schemes, Camp Hill, Sutton Park and Tamworth lines, which are in the pipeline.
The third new executive role, although not a fully fledged Cabinet position, will see the formidable Councillor Len Clark build on his investigation into the under-performing Children’s Services department by overseeing the implementation of his recommendations as executive member for Children’s Social Care.