The phrase ‘‘common sense has prevailed’’ is not one many would usually associate with local government. But in the case of Sutton Coldfield’s new district committee that appears to be the case.
Regular readers will know that a flagship policy of Birmingham’s new Labour leadership is devolution of powers and responsibilities to the ten districts.
This has gone as far as giving paid executive roles to two Conservatives and one Lib Dem councillor to run a wider range of services, including housing and waste collection, in three out of the ten districts.
But there was much criticism from the backbenches when it emerged that the district meetings would all be held in the Council House during the working day and not in the areas they serve at night.
“How will the public get to them if they are miles away in the city centre at a time when many are at work” was a cry from the opposition benches.
Labour leader Sir Albert Bore argued that the meetings of their predecessor constituency committees were generally poorly attended and that it saves money and time if staff are not transported out to districts after office hours.
Most angry were members of the Conservative-run Sutton Coldfield District Committee.
The case was made not only on the highly emotive case that the Royal Town has a strong distinct identity within Birmingham.
It was also pointed out that for practical purposes there is an ideal venue at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall and that Birmingham City Centre involves a major round trip for councillors, district staff and the public.
At first the request was blocked and council leader Sir Albert Bore insisted that ‘‘he would always try to be helpful,’’ but that his ‘‘hands were tied’’ due to the level of savings.
But now we find that the Sutton Coldfield District Committee will be on Monday, July 15, at 5pm in Sutton Coldfield Town Hall.
The committee’s only Labour member Rob Pocock insists that the Royal Town is a special case and the door was always open for devolution to take a different path to that in the rest of Birmingham.
It also appears that the financial case was made as many district staff are based at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall.
Coun Pocock (Sutton Vesey) said: “This was blown up for political purposes to cause division between the Conservatives in Sutton Coldfield and Labour in Birmingham.
“In practice this was never going to happen. It was always a question of appropriate use of resources.”
Now that the Sutton question has been answered councillors in other far flung districts, such as Lib Dem-controlled Yardley, may well be looking to make a similar case and eventually end up returning to the libraries, community centres and sports halls, leaving the council looking elsewhere to make the £900,000 savings from its meetings and democracy budget.
There have been rumblings from various backbenchers over the time it is taking the new Labour administration to get its new Council House in order.
Following his local election victory, Sir Albert moved quickly to overhaul the constitution and put in place a new Cabinet set-up, moved offices about a bit and set up new committees to which members were duly appointed.
The new Labour Cabinet rushed through its commendable living wage policy at the first meeting to demonstrate that things were indeed ‘‘happening’’.
Apart from that, and a few policies and reports inherited from the previous administration, since May there has been little evidence of any activity to the outside world.