Great news today that Birmingham’s Labour Council is starting to back-track on their controversial plans to scrap HLBs and the City Board.
The plans, put forward in a document published this summer, with an introduction by the Council Leader Sir Albert Bore himself no less, were widely criticised by HLB members across the city and by Conservative Councillors, including me in several posts on this blog.
Labour MPs who would doubtless have jumped up and down if the Conservatives had ever suggested abolishing HLBs, were strangely silent when it was Labour Cllrs who were proposing the idea.
Now, it seems, the Council’s Labour leadership has finally started to take notice of the huge wave of feeling on this issue. The consultation is to be extended until October 24th. And it was explained at the Edgbaston District Committee meeting this morning that, running alongside the new tenant engagement proposals laid out in the document, there will be a suggestion that the Ward HLBS and the City Board could stay as part of the new structure.
This sounds a lot more like the “building on and strengthening the HLBs” idea that many of us have suggested.
I strongly suspect Labour might suggest that wards will have to pay to support HLBs out of their local funds if they want them to continue in their areas. But how will that work as far as the City Board is concerned? The City Board only works if it covers all areas of the city, but if Wards have to fund HLBs themselves how will tenants in areas which don’t agree to fund a local HLB be able to feed into the City Board? I asked that question at this morning’s meeting but was told I would have to wait for an answer on that.
Meanwhile, a decision on the future of tenant engagement in the city is now to be taken at Cabinet (not Full Council) on December 10th, we were told this morning, and the new arrangements will start in the New Year, NOT on November 1st as previously stated by Labour.
So comments about the absurdity of a consultation with HLBs which took place over the summer when HLBs don’t meet, also seem to have been taken on board with the extension announced today.
This is great news for those of us who supported the tenants and fought for the HLBs to remain. The one Labour Councillor who did turn up to the Edgbaston consultaton meeting and who spoke in support of the HLBs along with the Conservative Councillors there, said this morning he felt his position had now been vindicated. Shame his colleagues didn’t have the courage to do the same.