A leading Birmingham lawyer has been forced to resign from the board of a business lobby group following a bitter verbal spat with the leader of the city council.
Andrew Sparrow (pictured), deputy chairman of Birmingham Forward, quit yesterday less than a month after claiming the council was mired by a culture of indecision.
Mr Sparrow, who would have been Birmingham Forward chairman next year, claimed last night that he was the victim of "playground politics" practised by Mike Whitby, the Tory leader of the council.
Describing Coun Whitby's performance as "shambolic", Mr Sparrow said the council leader had threatened to boycott Birmingham Forward while Mr Sparrow was chairman.
The crisis at the top of Birmingham Forward began when Mr Sparrow accused the council's Tory-Liberal Democrat leadership of allowing regeneration in the city to grind to a halt.
He hit out at the failure to proceed with major projects, including the metro extension and the new library. Birmingham City Council risked jeopardising investment because it appeared uncertain and did not know where it was going, he said.
Mr Sparrow said yesterday that Coun Whitby had acted out of desperation.
He added: "I just think that making threats of that kind is no way to run a city. It is the politics of the playground and I would have stood up to him.
"For the leader of the council to hold a gun to the head of an independent business lobby group is unacceptable and suggests desperation on his part.
"I am furious that Coun Whitby has stooped to the levels he has.
"I can only say that he must feel very uncertain as to his own position to resort to such tactics.
"I made my comments in the public domain because I knew that all the usual avenues for Birmingham Forward to get a meaningful dialogue with the council were falling on deaf ears.
" For 16 months Mike Whitby has refused to commit to dates for private events which afford Birmingham Forward the chance to put their concerns.
"The council leader's performance at a series of breakfast meetings held jointly with the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Birmingham Forward have been described by almost all those present as 'shambolic'."
Mr Sparrow said he had resigned from the board to speak his mind in the future.
He added: "Although no one has come to me personally to say what I said was wrong, I recognise that my concerns are not shared by some members of the organisation and despite much support from the wider community I do not wish to prejudice Birmingham Forward."
Coun Whitby, who denies playing any part in Mr Sparrow's resignation, said: "This is entirely a matter for Birmingham Forward and Andrew Sparrow. I cannot comment in any way.
"What I can say, however, is that I have been inundated with letters of support from leading representatives of the business community wishing to express their backing for the council's vigorous approach to regeneration and the building of a better Birmingham for all."
Birmingham Forward has begun the process of selecting a new deputy chairman.
Derek Inman, Birmingham Forward chairman, said: "I am sorry Andrew has resigned from the board.
"Andrew has given many years of service to our organisation and played a significant role in many of our achievements.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his contribution."
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