The Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail both have reports of dissent among backbench Conservative councillors in Birmingham at some of the policies of the Conservative-led Council. Two points of dispute have emerged.
Firstly, the proposal of the Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr John Lines that firms bidding for a repairs contract should have to buy vans from a local firm LDV. "A number of people expressed grave concern about attempting to give special protection to Brummie firms," says one councillor. "The fear is that other local authorities would retaliate and companies in Birmingham would find themselves unable to sell goods to the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds councils." It is also described as "socialist, protectionist and illegal."
Secondly, the proposal for a municipal bank, at a proposed cost of £200 million, which is described as a "waste of money."
There is speculation that a challenge to the deputy leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Len Gregory, is more likely than to the Group Leader (and Council leader) Cllr Mike Whitby. One proposal is that there should be an equivalent for the 1922 Committee to ensure that the views of backbenchers are taken into account rather than them being merely "voting fodder."
The situation is complicated as the Conservatives run Birmingham in coalition with the Lib Dems. Despite not having an overall majority the Conservative Group is still pretty large – 49 councillors. So it is not surprising there should be the odd dispute; at least it is over the serious matter of policy rather than some personal squabble. It must be frustrating for the rebels to find a Conservative Council adopting socialist policies in certain respects although I'm not sure they will have advanced their cause by one of their number briefing the press on what should have been a private group meeting – interesting as it is to read about it. Anyway, I have invited Cllr Whitby to respond.