How time flies. It has been four whole months since the Birmingham Labour group narrowly elected John Clancy as the leader of the council.
That it followed a particularly bitter leadership contest led many, not unreasonably, to suspect that the whole thing would come crashing down in a matter of weeks.
But he has defied expectations, won many people over and seems as secure in his post as a senior Birmingham Labour politician can be.
Upon his appointment at the start of December, Councillor Clancy was given a list of ten demands from the Birmingham Post & Mail and, as he heads into his first set of elections as leader now is the time to rate him against those demands – using a traffic light system, green for done, amber for partial delivery and red for not much progress.
1. Keep commissioners out (GREEN)
The Government-appointed overseers announced a couple of weeks ago that they are content with Birmingham City Council’s progress under the new leader (can we still call him that after four months?) and are happy to withdraw. Job done.
2. No more jobs for the boys (AMBER)
The make-up of cabinets, at any level, is based as much on political convenience as ability. It was widely thought Cllr Clancy, having had only two public endorsements from the previous cabinet, would dismiss the rest and put his own supporters. But in the interests of continuity and keeping the ship steady he decided to retain the group he inherited from Sir Albert Bore. However, the real test will come after May when the annual meeting gives him a chance to swap things around. How far will he go?
3. Let’s see free school meals (AMBER)
4. End the secrecy (RED)
We have been promised more openness from an organisation which has traditionally played its cards close to its chest. There have been positive noises about making the councillors more accountable to the public, more use of webcasts and Clancy himself has been out and about around the city. But westill need to be persuaded anything has changed on the ground.
5. Punch our weight in the capital (AMBER)
Too early to tell and this is as much a job for the Combined Authority as Birmingham City Council. The modest devolution deal is a negative, but a more positive sign is that Local Government Secretary Greg Clark was content to withdraw the commissioners.
6. Stop talking about partnerships, deliver them (GREEN)
There are many different types of partnership - public services, businesses, residents groups - and the council is getting better at most. The recent soup kitchen deal with the SIFA Fireside homeless shelter shows what can be achieved with the charity sector. We need to see more successes to cement that green.
7. Stop ignoring young people (AMBER)
The award of £50 million for investment in skills was a great for the city’s school leavers and young unemployed. Some councillors are better than others at engaging with young people (and a handful fall into that age bracket themselves) but there is still too little evidence of their voice being heard in the main political arenas
8. Tackle intolerance (GREEN)
Despite occasional tensions (and the outrage poured into social media each hour) people in general get along in Birmingham. At a time when anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic views are on the rise, the city’s political elite need to be seen to be challenging the small but significant undercurrent of racist, homophobic and sexist sentiment out there. A difficult one to measure, but Cllr Clancy has been leading from the front on this.
9. End the congestion (RED)
Four months is probably too short a time frame, but still the city remains one inconvenient rear-end-shunt away from gridlock at any time. Succeeding where dozens have failed and delivering the reinstatement of Camp Hill Chords and Sutton Park rail lines would be a major achievement.
10. Make our money go further (AMBER)
It is too soon to tell, but after highlighting the expense of Birmingham City Council’s contracts from the backbenches for so many years we expect Cllr Clancy to deliver on this before the next budget. His proposals raising money through pension funds and housing stock assets seem to be gaining a support in influential areas. This is a very strong amber.
This is a solid start and there is much promise of progress, but Cllr Clancy cannot put his feet up and consider his work done just yet.