Departing council leader fires blistering attack on rivals as he steps down from role

A defiant Walsall councillor launched a blistering attack as he stepped down as leader of the authority. Members of Walsall Council confirmed Garry Perry will replace Mike Bird as the new supremo at an extraordinary meeting on Monday (June 3) night.

But Councillor Bird, who was suspended by the Conservative Party for three months following a disciplinary investigation, tore into a 'cabal' of Tories before formally tendering his resignation as leader. In a near 15 minute speech, he said accusations of him being a racist had been proven false, adding that his suspension was due to a failure to control a 2022 Conservative Group AGM.

And Councillor Bird said his rivals suffered from "sociopathy" while the Conservative Party had left him rather than him leaving them. But he also expressed his gratitude for the support from his family, his long serving PA Donna Baker, officers as well as many of his Tory colleagues and councillors from across the political divide who had spoken up for him.

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He talked about his pride at the achievements of the council under his stewardship which included a strong financial position, the best ever children's social care ratings and a raft of regeneration projects. Councillor Bird said: "It's common knowledge that I've been fighting a cabal of individuals for the last three years who are hell bent on disrupting the democratic process of this council.

"Having furnished the Conservative Party with a tissue of lies that I was a racist only to be cleared of all charges on this issue despite what they would like you to believe. My sacrifice is to protect local democracy in Walsall where no party of any political colour should be allowed the intervention that we have seen in the last few weeks.

"I will be back. I have not left the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party has left me. I therefore offer my resignation. When the race card is played by liars and cheats, you defend yourself to the hilt. I have done that and I'm proud to have done that and it has proven not to be the case."

Councillor Perry said the meeting was a "sad" occasion and not a joyful one and paid tribute to the former leader's achievements and dedication. He said: "As we seek to move forward, the next few days and weeks you'll hear a little bit more about the type of leader I want to be.

"I've decided I'm going to use the power of my unique voice constructively to build up and not to tear down, truthfully and respectfully, challenge, correct and comfort generously to bring hope and inspire but much less than I intend to listen."

Heartfelt tributes to Councillor Bird were also given by his long-standing deputy leader Adrian Andrew, and Tory colleagues Rose Martin and current Mayor Anthony Harris. Independent group members Pete Smith and Aftab Nawaz - who had been thanked by Councillor Bird for giving evidence to say he wasn't a racist - criticised the national party for it's decision.

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Labour's Tina Jukes and Paul Bott also praised Councillor Bird's leadership and service as a councillor. But one his opponents Conservative Councillor Waheed Rasab said: "We live in a country where there is a rule of law and democracy and when you complain, your complaint is investigated.

"This council will be here for another 100 years. Leaders come and go, prime ministers come and go, councillors come and go and we should not be upset if the decision is not in our favour. We must respect the decision of the Conservative Party. It is my honour and privilege to support our new leader Councillor Garry Perry as he takes control for the first time.

"Leadership is not about guiding a team, it is about inspiring, motivating, fostering an environment where every member can thrive. Not a few, everyone. In Councillor Perry we have someone who represents all these qualities and more. He brings a fresh perspective and modern ideas which promise to push us forward."

And Councillor Suky Samra, who was also suspended following a disciplinary investigation but has sat as an independent for more than a year, added: "Martin Luther King said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. With leadership comes great responsibility. Some grasp that leadership, some nurture it, many divide and conquer.

"You look at that (leaders) board, many great leaders would love to get that sort of service in and I think the retiring member should accept that and be very graceful in his service to this authority. But today is not about the past, it's about the future. We are ushering in a new leader. This is a new dawn for Walsall politics, unshackled and not entitled."

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