It is rare to see a senior councillor demoted to the naughty step but that is exactly what happened to Birmingham Cabinet member Stewart Stacey after he turned up to face a committee without having finished his home work.
The Labour councillor for Acocks Green, in charge of commissioning, contracting and improvement, was sent packing after only a couple of minutes in front of the partnership, contract and performance scrutiny committee.
The incredulous members of the cross-party committee were furious that there had been no report on his work in advance of the hearing, and only a couple of sheets seemingly cut and pasted from his general job description on the council’s constitution.
Ten years ago, when in charge of Birmingham’s transport department, Coun Stacey was branded the Butcher of Broad Street after he banned cars and taxis from the city’s Golden Mile to ease traffic congestion – a decision which was swiftly reversed after businesses complained.
He is no shrinking violet and does not mind a bid of political argy-bargy.
But this time an unusually contrite Coun Stacey offered an apology from behind his enormous beard, muttering that he had produced, rewritten and then scrapped a detailed report and would try harder next time before stumbling out of the committee room with his officer.
Coun Stacey also suffered because he had followed the deputy leader Ian Ward, who has not only presented a four page precis of his work, but endured an hour and half of questions on everything from badminton to call centre performance.
So while the deputy leader was given A-plus for effort, poor councillor Stacey was handed the equivalent of the dunce’s cap.
Councillor Ward has now spent about seven hours in front of various scrutiny committees over the last few weeks, probably making himself the most scrutinised member of the Cabinet ever.
But ringing in his ears is a flurry of emails which have circulated around the Council House in the last week which claimed that the authority has become an unelected dictatorship, ‘a travesty of democracy’ and accused back bench Labour members of lacking the ‘nuts’ to do anything about it.
The fury came from former deputy leader Paul Tilsely who was livid at the way the monthly council meeting was reduced to three-and-a-quarter hours from something which until recently often ran to more than six hours.