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Brum's partners prove to be cold comfort.

Byline: By Paul Dale

Recriminations over the supposedly high-powered summit that turned into a damp squib are continuing - and the outlook is not good for Birmingham Forward.

Members of the professional services lobby group, who have always given a good impression of having rather more influence in the corridors of power than is really the case, were swaggering with importance when they managed to persuade the Tory leader of Birmingham City Council, Mike Whitby, his Lib Dem coalition partner Paul Tilsley and Labour opposition leader Sir Albert Bore to appear on the same platform at a future of the city debate.

They preposterously called it the Three Tenors summit.

Whitby got the hump and pulled out at an early stage. Tilsley decided not to attend after stumbling across a botched attempt by Birmingham Forward chief executive Simon Murphy to bounce Whitby into having Sir Digby Jones as the chairman of a New Street Station champions board.

That left one tenor, Sir Albert, to sing convincingly for his lunch before 120 movers and shakers.

All very embarrassing, but things are even worse for Birmingham Forward than you might think.

Murphy, a former Labour MEP, announced at the summit that Coun Tilsley had pulled out at half an hour's notice. This statement was corroborated by Birmingham Forward chairman Derek Inman.

In fact, Tilsley had made it perfectly clear verbally to Murphy two weeks before that he would not attend.

In order to give his statement a tinge of truth, Murphy had arranged for Tilsley's secretary to be rung half an hour before the summit began with an inquiry as to his whereabouts. So, while it is true to say Birmingham Forward was told 30 minutes before the start that the deputy council leader would not attend, this was merely re-confirmation of what they already knew.

It is safe to say that relations between the council's Tory-Lib Dem leadership and Birmingham Forward are icier than the men's downhill race at the Winter Olympics. There is unlikely to be much in the way of glasnost until Mr Murphy departs.

Meanwhile, with surgical precision, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry seized the opportunity to be helpful. Sue Battle, the chamber chief executive, writing in The Birmingham Post, pointed out that the summit couldn't possibly have been representative of the city's business community since it wasn't organised by the Chamber.

The inference was clear enough: there is only one real business organisation in this city, and it ain't Birmingham Forward.

Isn't partnership working wonderful? n The Birmingham Council Plan for 2006+ has been approved by the Plain English Society.

But only after some hasty re-writing.

The section on managing resources more effectively originally spoke about "beginning the implementation of the rationalisation of in-person contact".

It was changed to "focusing face-toface contact with customers who most need personal support".

Congratulations to scrutiny supremo Coun Mick Wilkes who spotted the gibberish.

In doing so, Wilkes amazed his colleagues by proving that he had actually read the Council Plan.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 18, 2006
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