Labour selects new Birmingham City Council leader, removing Ian Ward

Credit Brum City Council
Cllr John Cotton is the new Leader, with Cllr Sharon Thompson the new Deputy Credit: Birmingham City Council

Labour has selected a new leader of Birmingham City Council and removed Cllr Ian Ward from the position in a highly controversial move.

After an interview process with Labour's ruling NEC (National Executive Committee), the party selected Cllr John Cotton for the position.

Until now he held the position of Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities.

A labour party source telling ITV News Central that it was an "emotional" meeting of Labour councillors today (21 May) at the Birmingham City Council House. As they confirmed the choices.

In a tweet, they say "the Labour Group we confirmed our brilliant new leadership team that will be taking the city forward as we seek to build a cleaner, safer and better Birmingham for everyone."

Cllr Cotton said: "This is a huge honour, leading the city that has always been home.

"These are not the circumstances I would have wanted to take over in, but I feel I have a duty to serve. I will do all I can to unite the Birmingham Labour Party and deliver for our citizens.

"I want to pay tribute to Ian Ward who has not only led Birmingham City Council through a cost of living crisis, pandemic and delivered the greatest ever Commonwealth Games, but has given a lifetime of service to our movement.

"There is a huge amount of work to do over the coming months. We need to deliver the service improvements our communities deserve and tackle the significant financial and structural issues that threaten to impede our progress."

Cllr Cotton, who represents the ward Glebe Farm & Tile Cross, will be joined by Cllr Sharon Thompson as Deputy Leader, removing Cllr Bridgid Jones.

"It is an honour to become the new Deputy Leader, and serve in the City I love, which has been home all my life.

"This is not how I would have wanted to come into the role and I take over from BrigidJones who has done a brilliant job in the tough times.

"Brigid’s work over a number of years with colleagues has seen great improvements in children’s services and has been a huge part of the investment our city has seen.

"I want to also praise Ian Ward. He has led our city through a pandemic and more recently a cost of living crisis.

"Ian delivered a Commonwealth Games that put us on the map and was on time and under budget.

"We all owe him a debt of gratitude. I am grateful for all the support and friendship he has given to me over the years.

"I will work everyday to support John Cotton as our Leader, but also to bring people together so we can deliver for our city.

Former leader Cllr Ian Ward was criticised for being out of the country during the crisis. Credit: Handout / PA

The Labour Party began this process after an internal report found the leadership of the group was 'dysfunctional' citing instances of racism, misogyny and harassment.

But some councillors thought the party selecting a new leader instead of them being picked by elected members in the council chamber was undemocratic.

Speaking before the meeting, one councillor told ITV News Central "this isn't democracy", but one who supported it saying "now the healing can begin."

One Birmingham Labour Councillor said: "Cllr Ward and Cllr Jones have at all times acted with decency, they don't deserve this as they have done so much for Birmingham.

"The process has left a sour taste in our mouths, but the two chosen are good people and the planned coup was rejected, they now need to give us back our democracy."

Views echoed by Cllr Robert Alden Leader of the Opposition and Birmingham Local Conservatives said: "The London centric Labour Party takeover of Birmingham Labour is now complete.

"Without a single vote being cast in anger, or otherwise, Labour's Politburo have installed a new puppet regime in charge of Birmingham Labour.

"This regime is made up of two Councillors that were part of a cabinet labelled as 'dysfunctional' by Labour only last week, who said the cabinet's delivery of services was 'the biggest single threat to the party's reputation in Birmingham'.

"In reality, while the names of the leadership of the Birmingham Labour Group have changed, their same dysfunctional management of the City, as described by Labour themselves, remains.

"Their new focus, as instructed by London, is to protect the Labour brand, not deliver improved services for residents.

"While the Labour Party have abandoned helping residents in need, residents stuck in damp and mouldy Council houses, with rubbish dumped on their street, they can rest assured the Birmingham Local Conservatives will continue to stand up for those in need in the City and hold the Council to account for their failing services".