THERE WERE NO pom-poms in sight in Mulberry Place tonight as John Biggs presented his new Advisory Cabinet to the Council – but as so many of the cheer-leaders were in the said Advisory Cabinet, there was no one left to dance and twirl on the sidelines.
Executive Mayor John Biggs has retained his three deputies:
•Cllr Sirajul Islam remains the statutory Deputy and retains his housing portfolio;
•Cllr Rachel Blake (referred to by many, often including John Biggs himself, as the “next mayor in waiting”) continues with Planning and Air Quality and – now with Tackling Poverty tacked on;
•Cllr Asma Begum continues with the portfolio of Community Safety and Equalities – which specifically includes responsibility for the Somali Taskforce.
With all the same at the top of the tree, it has to be said that much is the same in the supporting branches too.
•Cllr Danny Hassell retains his responsibility for services for Children, Schools and Young people – a portfolio he made very much his own over a year spent working closely with senior officers to close the remaining Council day care nurseries.
•Cllr Candida Ronald retains the portfolio for resources, which still includes the voluntary sector, but she now has additional responsibilities for local presence, grants and the voluntary sector. This is presumably in recognition of her work on the Council’s grants policy over the last year – which centred around getting an external body to do the awarding of grants.
•Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman – known to many as “the quiet man”, given his resemblance to former Tory Leader Iain Duncan Smith – continues in Cabinet with the Work and Economic Growth portfolio.
•Cllr David Edgar continues with the Environment portfolio. This is thought to centre on the important job of counting trees: John Biggs promised to plant 1,000 new trees in his four year term in office, and it seems that it’s down to Cllr Edgar to tell him where to put them. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to cut down any trees to make room for them.
•Cllr Amina Ali has taken over the Adults, Health and Wellbeing portfolio – a small step up from her former job in Culture, Arts and Brexit – from veteran Cllr Denise Jones.
•Cllr Sabina Akhtar is the one new entry to the Cabinet, promoted from her role as a mayoral advisor on community safety and the voluntary sector and straight in with the Culture, Art and Brexit portfolio previously held by Cllr Ali. This is often seen as a junior Cabinet position, but it may well be that Cllr Akhtar finds it a challenge.
The problem for the Executive Mayor is that he has a large Group of Labour Councillors – many of whom will be hoping for a political and financial reward – but only a maximum of eight Cabinet positions and the post of Statutory Deputy Mayor to bestow. John Biggs will have to give some serious thought to how he can reward the second tier of his supporters – perhaps we can dub them the twiglets – at the next Council AGM.