The great Birmingham Council House dress code debate


The newly elected Northfield Councillor has cause quite a stir by attending a full Birmingham City Council meeting without a shirt and tie. 

Cllr Olly Armstrong making his first contribution to council house debate

When Labour’s Olly Armstrong attended his first ever full council meeting on Tuesday 12th June, he checked with officials that his outfit of grey trousers and a t-shirt and sweater was acceptable before entering.

Watch BCC Council Meeting, Tuesday 12 June

A few eyebrows were raised, but one Conservative Party activist was seemingly outraged.

Commenting on the session on his Facebook page, former Longbridge and West Heath candidate Graham Knight – who narrowly lost out to Labour’s Brett O’Reilly in last month’s election – wrote: “… the newly elected Labour councillor for Northfield turned up in jeans and tee shirt showing a respect for Birmingham’s Council and the people of Northfield never before seen in the Council chamber.”

Dr Knight was also moved to write a letter to the editor of the Birmingham Post.

In his letter, ‘Scruffy councillors letting city down’, he writes: “DEAR Editor. it seems wholly regrettable to me that members of Birmingham City Council have now taken to turning up to full council meetings clothed in T-shirts and jeans.”

Dr Knight goes on to say that it “seems disrespectful” to the city council and its citizens for councillors to “turn up decked out as though the are going to a bowling alley.”

In conclusion, Dr Knight suggests that there should be a dress code for formal city council meetings.

In response to the letter, Cllr Armstrong said: “It [also] seems apt that he is more concerned about what I looked like than what I said or what I am keen to do. It feels metaphoric of the Tory approach to the city.

“Mr Knight also made it clear to me in a long and somewhat what one way conversation at the Northfield Library suffragette recognition ceremony last week, that he didn’t actually watch my maiden speech in the council chamber, and his rage at my attire was based on second hand rumour.”

Cllr Armstrong added: “Graham is always welcome to come to my monthly ward forum meeting to discuss correct councillor clothing, alongside food banks, homelessness, universal credit and toxic air pollution. I would value his input on all of this.”

Cllr Armstrong shared Dr Knight’s letter on social media, asking for other opinions:

While many responding on Twitter appeared to support a councillor’s right to wear whatever they please, one user said: “It’s about respect Olly. People elect you – you respect them by respecting the office of councillor.”

Cllr Armstrong responded: “I respect them by listening, then responding to bring about actual change. I respect them by advocating for them in times of need. I might wear a suit sometimes. Sometimes I might not. That has nothing to do with any level of respect.”

What are your thoughts? Do you think Councillors should be judged on their clothing or their actions? Do you think there should be a formal dress code for meetings in the main chamber of the council house?

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  1. What are the priorities here – Councillor Armstrong replies to e-mails and holds ward meetings. Councillor Simon Morrall (Frankley Great Park) does not reply to my e-mails and hasn’t held a ward meeting as yet. Wearing a smart suit will not alter the democratic deficit in this area.

  2. i can see how Graham Knight lost his seat on the council if he’s more concerned what people wear to a council meeting than what they’ve said or done,
    About time we had some Councillors, of the people. what a breath of fresh air


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