Birmingham City Council in crisis after critical report

Cllr Ian Ward

A report into Birmingham City Council by its Campaign Improvement Board has found the local Labour party to be “dysfunctional” and dominated by “personality-driven factionalism”.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) appointed the Birmingham Campaign Improvement Board last year with the group returning with more than 50 recommendations after speaking to around 50 people over three months.

The BBC revealed that the board found that, “women councillors and BAME (black, Asian minority ethnic) councillors in particular reported that they felt disengaged and disempowered. There were a concerning number of members who highlighted the levels of misogyny”.

The board said, “it is clear the existing culture and processes have contributed to a dysfunctional climate”.

It recommended that the council, deputy leader and group offices be interviewed and appointed by Labour’s National Executive Committee and other party members from outside the region annually, rather than every four years – due to its belief that the “Birmingham Labour Group cannot run its AGM”.

The party is now to select a new leader, which could possibly oust current leader Ian Ward and his deputy, Brigid Jones.

The Labour crisis has caused uproar with some councillors angry over the treatment of Ian Ward telling BirminghamLive that the announcement was “disgraceful behaviour from higher powers”.

Mr Ward said in a statement to the BBC: “As the leader of Birmingham City Council I have led our city through the challenges of austerity and the pandemic, safeguarding frontline services, and delivering the best Commonwealth Games we have ever seen.

“I have led Labour to two overwhelming election victories. I retain the confidence of the Birmingham Labour group having recently won a leadership election and I hope to continue leading our group as we tackle the major challenges that our city faces.

“I fear that by reversing the Kerslake recommendations and returning to annual leadership elections, the group risks turning inwards instead of facing the city’s challenges.
“We need to focus on winning the mayoral, council and general elections, and political instability from annual elections puts that all at risk.”

The Labour party will interview candidates for Birmingham City Council’s leader and deputy leader roles on Friday.

GMB Union says this is a “critical moment” for Birmingham and called for urgent action on equal pay.

It said the council has been in a dispute with the union over pay discrimination against women workers at the Council.

Michelle McCrossen, GMB Organiser, said: “This is a critical moment for everyone that cares about the future of local services here in Britain’s second city.

“GMB members have long known the failings of the Council’s approach to working with trade unions, the starkest example of which is their shameful failure to deliver equal pay. There can be no bright future for Birmingham that doesn’t involve the council righting that historic wrong. It’s right that Labour takes urgent steps to get its house in order.

“We call on Ian Ward and the Birmingham Labour administration to show leadership and finally deliver pay justice for the city’s women workers. If they won’t then the answer is simple; get out of the way of equal pay”.