Thank you Deputy Lord Mayor…

At yesterday’s full council meeting a motion about knife crime was put forward by the Conservative Group.  Councillor Cotton and I were due to be moving an amendment to the motion but unfortunately we were only given the opportunity to do so formerly which meant we could not provide a challenge to what had already been said.

I have a lot of respect for Cllr Yip’s passion for young people and would have welcomed the spirit of his motion. I would have particularly welcomed the chance for debate.

Knife crime is a serious issue and I would have agreed with him that there is much more that needs to be done. But I do have problems with his motion and the fact that it was focused on the ‘welcome action taken by the Government’ and refused to recognise how young people have been systematically let down by his government. He accused us of politicising the issue. I would have pointed out the political neglect by his government.

The motion recognised that more needs to be done both in the short and longer term to get knives and violence off our city’s streets and called for more powers to restrict knife sales and more sustainable funding solutions to enable an increase in police numbers. All good.

But, at the same time, the link between fewer police officers on our streets and the increase in violent crime was totally refuted. This denial mirrored in the government’s serious violence strategy despite a leaked Home Office document suggesting that budget cuts had “likely contributed” to rising violence and “encouraged” offenders.

I didn’t get the chance to speak but I would have pointed out that the crisis we are facing reflects a deeper and much broader societal malaise which has been exacerbated by austerity. The tragedy where we see young people killing other young people, often reported as ‘gang related’ – a catch-all description designed to apportion blame and perpetuate a government agenda which ignores the material reasons why young people are carrying a knife in the first place. Violence is symptomatic of the social inequality and feeling of exclusion in our society.

Nearly 60 years ago, it was a conservative government who recognised that young people needed investment in services that would support and nurture them. This led to the Albermarle Report which highlighted the need for early intervention and prevention and believed that this provision should be available to all young people. This led to the creation of a universal youth service.

Fast forward to the present day – and it is a conservative government who has overseen the near destruction of services for young people across England and Wales with youth services, delivered both by local government and the voluntary sector, now facing the biggest funding crisis for generations.

Spending on ‘youth services’ has been cut by nearly £750m since 2010-11 – it is then no wonder that young people have been left feeling excluded and at odds with society.

Without drastic action by government to invest in youth provision by making youth services a statutory service, they are further condemning young people to becoming a lonely, lost generation with nowhere to turn.

The motion also talked about a new legal duty to underpin its new public health approach and I would have raised the concerns already being cited by trade unions and the workers that they represent. We cannot allow government to wash its hands of responsibility, instead laying blame at the feet of frontline workers, teachers, youth workers, health workers and other professionals for failing to spot violent crime among young people.

The Conservative motion was very long. It raised a lot of points and in response our amendment was long. In fact I really don’t think I would have been able to fit everything I wanted to say in the 4 minutes I should have been allocated.

Whilst the motion and our amendment welcomed inclusion of knife prevention orders into the Offensive Weapons Bill, I would have raised the need now for a pause for thought. In the hurry to calm public anxiety, I don’t believe that the Home Office consulted as widely as they should or could have done. I think if they had consulted youth offending teams, youth workers and those who work directly with young people they may have ended up in a different place. It is vital that sufficient safeguards are built into the proposed legislation to ensure that the full circumstances of any young person are taken into account by the police and by the court before an order is applied for or imposed. These orders must not result in the criminalisation of young people who might themselves be victims of criminal exploitation.

The rise in knife crime is a serious problem that needs serious long term solutions and cannot be solved with knee jerk reactions and hastily drawn up legislation. There are many factors that contribute to the rise in knife crime including poverty and the lack of opportunity.  And austerity.

Austerity is not over and it continues to have a huge impact on public services, the education of future generations and the NHS. Austerity is not working, this clear to see  as the national debt continues to grow. Something else denied by Cllr Yip.

I believe that although the motion was well intended, it chose to ignore some of the hard to swallow consequences of government policy. It also failed to accept responsibility for the devastating effects of austerity on public services and on the lives of those now living in poverty in our city.

Knife crime is a serious problem. It is a social problem – its causes, not its symptoms, must be treated, and austerity, a deliberate political choice, is one of its causes. Austerity has consequences. It abrogates the responsibility to care for, to nurture and to lead children and young people into positive lifestyles. Government needs to invest in young people and need to ensure that local communities have positive services and activities for young people. It needs to legislate for a statutory youth service – a universal offer for all young people. Engaging with young people is sustainable and productive. Imposing interventions on children and young people is short-term and destructive. Young people must be part of the solution to knife crime, not part of the problem.

The things I didn’t get a chance to say in today’s debate on austerity

Lord Mayor,  following the dire result of the General election for the Conservative Party, isn’t  it time that the government listens to the electorate and accepts that our citizens have had their fill of austerity?

Overstretched public sector employees feel increasingly taken for granted as they do far more with far less.

Our public services are delivered by teams and workers in crucial roles across central and local government, health and social care, emergency services, criminal justice and education and have equally earned their right to a pay rise that keeps up with the cost of living.

And on a day where the government are pushing their dubious pro-worker credentials, they also tell teachers that the 1% pay cap will remain firmly in place – another real terms pay cut for the eighth consecutive year. An insult to those whose salaries have fallen 15% behind inflation since 2010.

Quite simply Lord Mayor, the Conservative government has wedded itself to a programme of spending cuts and is oblivious to the damage being done to cities like Birmingham, to the services we deliver and to those citizens who depend on those services.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said in public that the government recognises that its poor performance in the election was partly due to the public being weary of public spending cuts but still austerity continues..

During the decade between 2010/11 and 2019/20, total public sector spending will have fallen by 13%, or almost a sixth, in real terms . And these cuts to local authority budgets, our budgets, are having a profound effect on the services people receive.

As you know Lord Mayor, here in Birmingham, our budget has lost over £600m since 2010 – a figure so immense it is difficult to comprehend.

And make no mistake, we are hurting – our communities are hurting, despite our very best efforts to shelter our poorest people and places from the worst effects. Our poorest communities and our most vulnerable residents – hardest hit and least able to cope without the services we can no longer provide.

Across the UK, youth services and Connexions services have been slashed, with councils closing youth clubs up and down the country. Here in Birmingham we have done our best to protect these services, but make no mistake, our staff are having to do far more with far less.

And our young people Lord Mayor – facing incredibly tough challenges, a generation taken for granted and abandoned by this government.

It is our young people who find themselves on the wrong side of a profound unfairness which has left them worse of than their parents, with worse job security and poorer housing prospects. The 20th century promise that each generation would be better of than the preceding one has been broken and the dissatisfaction of our younger citizens clearly seen with record numbers of young people turning out to vote in the general election. No more will they be taken for granted, no longer will their voices be unheard.

And today, the Prime Minister is relaunching herself, appealing to the Labour party for ideas to improve the country and pledging to tackle inequality and injustice… yes really.

I believe that Jeremy has sent her something to help her out.

Lord Mayor. it would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious!

Surely the British public left her under no illusion in terms of what they wanted and clearly the electorate in Birmingham spoke loudly and clearly at the ballot boxes.

You see, politics is about choices, and there is always a choice and always an alternative.

The choice for the government is clear – a fairer and more just society will only be achieved when it is accepted that austerity has failed the many.

Birmingham needs a fair funding settlement that allows local government services to be adequately resourced, that allows all our residents, and particularly our poorest and most vulnerable, access to the vital services they need, and that allows our workers to be fairly rewarded for the contribution they all make.

If you believe in equality, fairness and justice then vote for an end to austerity and fair funding for Birmingham.


My vote for #brumleader

  I’ve only been a councillor for little over 18 months, but already this is my third chance to cast a vote for who I want to be leader of my group and of the council. I didn’t expect to be picking a leader next week, and like many others I’m sure had this task tucked firmly away, ready for next May. But with this election, we have a lot to lose, and a lot to play for.
  I know many of my fellow councillors made their minds up quickly, without it seems encountering the trouble I have found in separating the candidates and identifying the chosen one! Not that surprising as we are all colleagues from the same party, with common principles and values. Above all, we all hold Birmingham’s future very dear and we all care deeply about the City and its citizens. That said, this was always going to be a difficult decision to make.
  I have held back from coming out to publicly support one candidate over another. I’ve sat back and listened, I’ve spoken to candidates and colleagues, and I’ve asked questions… lot’s of them.
  I deeply believe that the choice we make on Monday evening is not something to be rushed. It shouldn’t be an easy decision, it shouldn’t be one made for personal gain and it should not be one that we make under duress. But I’m ready to make that choice.
  Penny Holbrook is a great Cabinet member who has proved herself as being a smart cookie, and has boxed clever in her dealings around the Library of Birmingham. She has worked hard to ensure that there are opportunities for our young people, found ways to mitigate against frontline youth service cuts this year and has fully supported me in my role as Youth Champion. But, and it’s a big but, I don’t think she’s ready for the enormity of the task ahead and I think that deep down she knows this too.
  John Clancy, another colleague who has plenty of drive and passion and who is overflowing with ideas and policy suggestions. Having been that singular opponent over the past years he has shown strength and audacity in the face of ridicule and I respect him greatly for that. But my worry is that this is not a time to wipe the slate clean and start again. We need stability and focus to progress the priority areas that we as a council must address. I think John could be a good leader, one day – but not this day.
  We have unpalatable decisions to make about cuts to services because of the relentless drive for austerity by the government resulting in the disproportionate reductions to our funding. We have to demonstrate that we can take forward and make real progress on the multitude of recommendations placed upon us by Kerslake and we must prove to the Improvement Panel that collectively we can make the changes necessary.
  As a council, we face many challenges ahead of us. This will be no easy task, with no time for on the job learning, and no room for mistakes. If we are going to get through these critical times, then I firmly believe we need someone with the skills and experience to get on with the task. I believe Ian Ward is the only one who can offer us this.
PM2151859  Ian has promised “change, but not too much change“. But it is change in the areas that need it and this is crucial to what the Improvement Panel has highlighted many times – the need for a change in the culture and that as a council the need to be open and transparent and working in genuine partnership.
  As backbenchers, many of us have felt frustrated over the past year and have felt left out of the decision making processes that are so important in the democracy of local government. Ian has promised a style of leadership that draws on the talents of all, that consults and involves and recognises that there is the need for the Council to have a genuine relationship with all. This recognition extends to include partners and stakeholders, working together to form a collective solution to the immense challenges that we face.
  Our young population is a huge an asset to Birmingham, yet too many young people do not have the opportunities they need to grow, thrive and achieve the great things of which they are capable. In the hustings on Friday night, Ian gave us a brief glimpse of his vision for the young people of Birmingham and I found this inspiring and refreshing. Ian recognises and values the services supporting young people across the City and offers something that had been lacking –  genuine opportunities for all of our young people and not just a few.
  Ian understands the need for a city wide approach, a shared vision for what a Birmingham that is great for all our young people can and should look like. A vision that continues to empower young people, that works with them to ensure that they become the very best that they can be. And a vision that draws in all partners, stakeholders and business to make a meaningful and long lasting contribution to supporting the dreams and aspirations of our young citizens.
  The timing of this election could not be at a more critical juncture for us as a Council and for the City. I will be voting for Ian Ward. I believe he is the only candidate who can lead us safely along the treacherous path we must now take whilst championing the needs and interests of our great city and of all its citizens. I know that many of my fellow colleagues will be voting for Ian for many of the same reasons that I have outlined and will have reasons not touched upon here.
  This leadership is so vitally important for the Labour  group and for the Council to ensure that together we can work on and identify the solutions needed to tackle the huge issues that we face. I truly believe that we all wish to play our part in collectively taking forward Birmingham’s vision for all of its citizens and this can only be achieved if the leadership election on Monday results in Ian Ward becoming #brumleader.

We can be the comeback kids of British politics…

’The Liberal Democrats can be ‘back in power’ in five years, leader Tim Farron said yesterday, as he positioned the party for another coalition with the Tories at their conference in Bournemouth.

Seriously… have they learnt nothing from their five year relationship after getting into bed with the Tories?

Perhaps Tim is still ‘living the dream’ of being elected leader and has not really begun to face the reality of the situation he now oversees.

But then the ex leader is also seemingly sharing the same dream… or perhaps he was flying high on the back of his standing ovation to the Lib Dem conference when he told delegates that “We can be the comeback kids of British politics.”

On the one hand Farron espouses that the Libs have all the answers, that they can reach those others cannot – the centre ground, and that a cosy coalition deal with the Tories in 2020 would be great… and on the other hand he attacks the Tories on big issues?

Farron has been notably critical of the coalition, giving the leadership a score of two out of 10 for its handling of the politics. He had hoped to carve out distinctive ground for the party by being pro-immigration and civil liberties, but he seems to have reversed his thinking now he, as leader, saying  the party should not be embarrassed about seeking power and refusing to distance himself from the party under Nick Clegg, saying ” there is nothing grubby about wanting to win”. Well sorry Tim, but there really is if it means reneging on your promises, turning your back on your values and principles and selling your soul to the devil.

Tim’s narrative is not just farcical at the very best, it’s delivered in an air of complete and utter arrogance.

The electorate are a canny bunch and can be very unforgiving. I spoke to large numbers of voters on the doorstep who felt hugely let down by the Libs in the 5 years of coalition. And … for what Clegg did (or actually didn’t do) to the thousands and thousands of young people that were ‘conned’ into voting for him… just unforgivable.

And Farron must know this…surely? Wasn’t it evident enough in the disastrous results and the fall to just 8 MPs and a drop in the polls since then to just 6%?

Nearly non existent in Birmingham, with a smattering of councillors and no MPs. The Sunday Politics show has to now resort to having an ex MP on just so that they can have some cross party balance…

I think Farron and his party need to pull themselves back to the ‘real world’ and accept that their are currently of little significance, they are again a small acorn that may grow into an oak tree, but its going to be a long long process, and may only be one suitable for bonsai competitions…

Maybe a visit here would help – oh … looks like they’ve missed that pony too!

Source: Tim Farron: Lib Dems would go back into coalition with Tories | Politics | The Guardian

George Osborne’s assault on welfare must not go unchallenged | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

They walk on air, for now. This government can say and do whatever it damn well pleases, with Labour awol until it has a leader. And George Osborne has just pulled off an outrageous betrayal of the cohorts of over-65s who gave the Tories their victory, yet nothing has happened.

Barely 10 weeks since a manifesto pledge to cap the care costs of elderly homeowners, Osborne has abandoned it. This perfidious U-turn is every bit as shocking as was the Liberal Democrats reneging on tuition fees. That’s just one example of the Conservatives’ current air-walking untouchability. But their majority is only 12, they make bad errors, and no one can fool everyone all the time with factoids and fictions.

George Osborne’s assault on welfare must not go unchallenged | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Almost half all Birmingham children live in England’s poorest areas, commission report shows

Families are being urged to join the fight against child poverty in Birmingham as a report today revealed that nearly haChild Poverty After Housing Costslf of all under-18s in the city live in the country’s poorest areas.

A Child Poverty Needs Assessment published by the new Birmingham Child Poverty Commission shows that 49 per cent of children in the city – nearly 137,000 – live in England’s top 10 per cent most deprived areas.

Read more here.

What have young people done to Osborne to deserve such contempt? | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

I was going to write about the devastating impact that Osborne’s budget will have on young people but instead urge you to read Polly’s take on it all as she expresses far better exactly what I wanted to say.

Why are the young caught in the cross-hairs of this government? That will mystify future social historians. Most societies talk of them as “our future”, to be nurtured and encouraged, but in yesterday’s budget, yet again they were pursued in a special vendetta of dislike, bordering on disgust.

via What have young people done to Osborne to deserve such contempt? | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian.

What have young people done to Osborne to deserve such contempt? | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

Jeremy Corbyn is in the Labour leadership race. The real debate starts here | Owen Jones | Comment is free | The Guardian

Jeremy Corbyn is in the Labour leadership race. The real debate starts here | Owen Jones | Comment is free | The Guardian

If Labour MPs deny the party and the country a genuine debate, it will reflect disastrously on them. It will do whoever emerges victorious no good, either. Labour has just suffered one of the worst defeats in its history. If the party doesn’t have the good sense to have a meaningful debate now, you might wonder why it doesn’t just pack up. So come on, Labour MPs. Put your future careers aside for party and national interest. Lend Corbyn a nomination, and let a real debate begin.

via Jeremy Corbyn is in the Labour leadership race. The real debate starts here | Owen Jones | Comment is free | The Guardian.


Forget Labour’s leadership contest, it’s supporters who can save the party | John McDonnell | Comment is free | The Guardian

There’s been a lot of self-serving nonsense talked about why Labour lost the election and what it has to do to win in the future. We’ve just witnessed a well-planned media blitz of failed New Labour ex-ministers and their new-wave proteges blaming Ed Miliband with all the old Blairite mantras that Labour has failed to be a party of aspiration, to occupy the middle ground and appeal to middle England.

Forget Labour’s leadership contest, it’s supporters who can save the party | John McDonnell | Comment is free | The Guardian.

A cruel society is being built. Voting Labour begins the fightback | Owen Jones | Comment is free | The Guardian

It’s a moment many of us who oppose this government have had: something that powerfully crystallises just what is at stake. For me, it was on 17 July 2014. Sue Jones tweeted me: her disabled daughter had died; thus she had a spare room; thus she had to pay the bedroom tax. “It’s been an epic nightmare,” she wrote. “Shameful and cruel.”

A cruel society is being built. Voting Labour begins the fightback | Owen Jones | Comment is free | The Guardian.