Sir Albert Bore, the former leader of Birmingham City Council, was appointed chairman last week of one of the region's biggest hospital trusts. He spoke to Health Reporter Emma Brady about the challenges he now faces
Sir Albert is a busy man. He officially takes up the reins as chairman of the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) – which is behind the city's super-hospital development – next month but now he's pressing the flesh.
With 26 years' practice of doing just that at Birmingham City Council, where he is still leader of the opposition Labour group, he knows what to expect. Yesterday Sir Albert, who has a number of directorships as well as his political duties, said his acceptance of the role, which he will formally take up on December 1, was "not an admission that I will not be council leader again".
The 60-year-old, who has represented the Ladywood ward since 1980, became the council's leader when Labour won the local election in May 1999 and retained the post for five years.
"I was asked at interview whether I would have applied for the job if I was leader of the council and the answer was no, the answer is still no," he said.
"It's not that the two jobs are impossible to do together but I think there would be a conflict of interests, too big a conflict of interest if you look at being chairman of UHB and leader of the council.
"However, this is not an admission that I will not be council leader again. I would never admit to not being able to do something in the future, as you can become hostage to such quotes."
Aside from his council commitments, Sir Albert, who has been given a four-year contract with UHB, also sits on a number of boards including the NEC Group, Birmingham International Airport and Marketing Birmingham.
And although this is his first foray into the health service, he maintained this was not a case of 'jobs for Labour boys'.
"I have a four-year contract until December 2010. It should be possible in the coming months and years to continue the activities I'm engaged in, one will not be to the detriment of the other," said Sir Albert.
"I do sit on a number of boards which do take up some time so I may have to reflect on the balance of these activities but I see no reason of giving any of them up at this time.
"As for the Tory critics, look at who's in different roles across the city. There have been primary care trust chairs from other political parties and one hospital trust, Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, has a cabinet member on its board."
Sir Albert's biggest challenge will be to help deliver Birmingham's first new hospital for 70 years, on time and on budget.
Contractors began working on the site after the #559 million private finance initiative (PFI) scheme was approved in April. It is due for completion in 2010/11.
But for the Labour knight, who oversaw the development of the International Convention Centre, the Bullring and Eastside quarter, this must be familiar territory, so why did he apply for the job?
"It would've been very foolish of me not to look at an opportunity like this. The fact I've been successful in getting this job means there's a role for my experience here," said Sir Albert.
"I've been on the council for 26 years, but it's not quite 'been there, done that' so when I saw the advert for the chairman's role it was too good an opportunity.
"Its potential was attractive to me, not just in terms of healthcare but in serving the people of Birmingham, delivering through PFI a new hospital for the city, and in particular the potential to regenerate this area of south-west Birmingham." He added: "I've been on the other side of the fence for a number of years but I am looking forward to being on this side of the fence."
Sir Albert Bore's CV
Albert Bore, a physics lecturer at Aston University, is elected as councillor for Ladywood in May 1980
Three years later he battles Clare Short in the race to be Ladywood's MP – she won
He played a pivotal role, while chairing the city's economic development committee, in transforming Brindleyplace, developing the International Convention Centre, National Indoor Arena and convincing the Hyatt group to build a new hotel in Birmingham
Sir Albert became leader of the Labour group in May 1999, but only by four votes, ending Theresa Stewart's term as council leader n He won two subsequent leadership battles, in November 1999 and October 2000
In 2002, the council leader brokered a deal with left-wing members to retain his leadership, unchallenged, until June 2004
Sir Albert holds a number directorships including posts with Birmingham International Airport, Marketing Birmingham and the NEC Group