Some cabinet members at Birmingham City Council reportedly wept when Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham City Council, tendered his resignation on Monday in a week of tears and fears.
Waterworks aside, there has been an outpouring of recognition from many people in business and academia about the positive impact Sir Albert has made in helping Birmingham kick-start an economic renaissance. It’s by no means the work of one man but under his stewardship - notably of the Big City Plan - there has been a clear vision for the city centre and significant inward investment generated.
But with the paint still drying on a gleaming Grand Central and the need for Birmingham and a new combined authority to seize the opportunities that devolution potentially provides, the timing of Sir Albert’s departure in December is not good. The lack of an obvious successor with statesman-like gravitas and the respect of the business community is worrying for the city in the near future.
Despite the fact that Sir Albert has weathered many political storms, last December’s highly critical Kerslake review of Birmingham City Council’s performance and leadership was the writing on the wall.
Birmingham is now bracing itself at the end of this month for a second report from the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel. The fear amongst some politicians is that if this still indicates poor performance at the authority there is a threat that there could be direct Government intervention in running the council. Some Labourites feel that a change at the top could save Birmingham from this fate.
A couple of reports in the national media about Sir Albert’s resignation came back (again) to pitting Birmingham against Manchester for second city status. Isn’t it time to move on with this tired parochial debate? Political and business leaders in both cities know the real competition isn’t up or down the M6 - it’s found in cities across the globe – whether that’s Munich, Montpellier or Mumbai.
And finally if we’re going with the Brum Manc comparison, let’s not forget that Sir Albert hasn’t been able to draw upon the backroom support of a Howard Bernstein -type character or a Chancellor with an overt focus on the Northern Powerhouse.
Matt Sutton, associate director