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IRON ANGLE: Finally, the big Lib Dem secret is revealed; LOCAL GOVERNMENT WITH A SLANT.

Byline: By Paul Dale

Birmingham Liberal Democrats, stung by Iron Angle's criticism of their voting methods, have agreed to delete the top-secret classification surrounding the election of new deputy city council leader Paul Tilsley.

It turns out that Tilsley got the support of 14 fellow councillors, Mick Wilkes was backed by 13 and, in a typically Lib Dem interlude, one group member couldn't make up his mind and abstained.

The hunt is on now for the Tilsley supporter who spread disinformation that his man had won by a cricket score.

Iron Angle knows the guilty party, but couldn't possibly say.

Brainbox Wilkes, once Birmingham University's youngest professor, is taking a typically practical view of events.

'These close results do happen. We have just got to move forward,' he said.

As to the person who abstained, and by doing so possibly made Tilsley the winner, Wilkes grunted: 'I have a pretty good idea who that was.'

The group decision to try to keep the voting figures under wraps is now seen as a huge mistake. In fact, it's pretty well impossible to find any Lib Dem councillor prepared to admit that they supported the confidentiality clause.

'I think everything should be out in the open,' said Wilkes, whose dogged persistence as head of the council scrutiny section has won him admirers within the Lib Dem group.

Bizarrely, if the mystery abstainer had voted for Wilkes, making the result a tie, the two contenders would have had to draw lots to see who got the onerous pounds 50,000-a-year job as deputy council leader.

The unscientific and certainly undemocratic way of settling a tie is national Liberal Democrat Party policy.

On the subject of Paul Tilsley, the new deputy council leader had his diplomatic head on when he wrote the preface to a scrutiny report on the Young People's Parliament in Birmingham.

Young people feel excluded and want more involvement in the democratic process, he noted, before adding majestically that we must all make efforts to address the imbalance that exists. Then, this gem: 'That is not to say we are doing things wrong, merely that we can do things much (sic) differently than at present.'

But if the council has to behave 'much differently', then it must have got it wrong before. Or have I got it wrong?

n Tim Huxtable, secretary of the Birmingham council Conservative group, has a new nickname - the smiling assassin.

The seemingly easy-going Huxtable has been responsible since June last year for approving, or rejecting, applications by councillors and officials for foreign travel. This is no small job, given Birmingham's fascination with sending delegations across the globe.

The latest figures show that Huxtable has sanctioned 186 trips at a cost of pounds 56,000. That compares with 184 trips at a cost of pounds 103,000 this time last year. How has he managed almost to halve the cost without any significant reduction in the number of visits?

Rumours that Brum's representatives abroad are having to use low-cost airlines and stay in B&Bs are being denied. But council leader Mike Whitby is happy with Huxtable's frugal performance
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 4, 2005
Words:522
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