Speech to Full Council 1 Dec 2015
Thankyou, fellow councillors, fellow civic leaders and thankyou Birmingham for allowing me this great honour – to lead the Council of this Great World City.
I want to start by paying tribute and thanks to my predecessor Sir Albert Bore.
Sir Albert will be remembered deep into our history in this city as one of its finest servants. He has shaped its politics, its physical and economic landscape and given his life to this city. We thank you Sir Albert for your tireless service.
Albert the Builder
In his terms as leader, in his leadership of the Economic Development Committee before he has without doubt left a legacy, an lasting imprint upon this city of which he can be proud, the Labour Party can be proud and this city council can be proud. We can all see much of what he leaves behind. He built great things.
But, you know, while we often associate Sir Albert with economic development and in physical buildings, he has built much more than that.
The Living Wage
It may come to pass that what most in this city will remember him for is something else. The proudest moment of my political career was not 3 minutes ago when I took on this leadership role.
It was when, led by Sir Albert, I voted for the Living Wage in this city. That is building, too.
That has built hope, has built security, has built honour in this city and we should never forget that in addition to all the physical building and economic building
In this city he built the Living Wage.
I want to lead a city where Every Child, Every Citizen and Every Place matters. And where every business matters too, not just some. Too often that has not been the case. Sometimes we have concentrated too much on building in the city centre and investing in businesses and jobs there.
We must now concentrate on investing in all of the city’s 40 wards with as much enthusiasm and money as we have in its centre. That means investing in businesses and jobs across the city and in the skills needed for them. We also need to start building massively more new housing.
Innovate in Capital Spend
I want to do this by being much more clever and innovative at how money comes into our city and region. We may have to look to growing city-region capital spend to fight poverty, rather than revenue. And then to build our revenues from the uplift in economic growth.
We need a Birmingham Municipal Bank and a Regional Investment Bank. We should issue Brummie Bonds and Housing Bonds, and set up Real Estate Investment Trusts to use our assets better to help bring in new money to invest.
Housing – Let’s Build
Building Housing here and now should be this Labour Council’s first priority.
In March this year we learned that 6,500 houses the planning committee had given planning permission for, only about 500 had actually been started. We need to remedy this straight away.
We must look to other places who have already been innovative in bringing in massive investment to build and refit social housing. Greater Manchester stands out.
Housing – Housing Investment Bonds
I have proposed for 4 years that we need to innovate in creating and using new municipal investment products to enable Local government Pension funds to divert 100s of millions of pounds of investment into building housing in this city.
Sixteen of the biggest 60 housing associations have now issued own-name public housing bonds. It’s time for local councils to do the same. And time for Birmingham too.
We need to work across the region to build the financial products and instruments that make it easier for the wealth of the region to stay invested in the region. We need to wrok hard to do this and to make it much easier for Local Government Pension Funds in particular to invest in housing, infrastructure and jobs across this city region.
FE and Skills Here
The Skills Agenda in this city is crucial to our growth and the fight against poverty. The jobs this city creates have a relatively minor impact on the city, if those who live here cannot take the jobs because of their poor skills level.
The jobs are instead taken by those from outside the city, who travel into it and out of it.
And those who live here without the skills end up with a sense of exclusion. Kerslake referred to this as them being “Locked out” and it creating a sense of distrust and division and harming social cohesion. He has a point.
The Skills Sector System
We have to see the skills sector as a system, an Eco-system if you like. There is simply not enough of an overview of the skills system in the city.
Compared to other cities Birmingham still has the highest level of adults with NO qualifications
And the lowest number of adults with high level qualifications
We’ve lost so many semi-skilled and unskilled jobs over the last 20 years that we have poverty built into the economic system.
Most of the Jobs coming down the line in the health sector, professional and financial sector will require Level 4 (post a-level) qualifications.
We need a fundamental rethink in this city about the apprenticeship system. There are too many in Customer Care and Business Administration.
Not enough in manufacturing, building, advanced manufacturing and, yes, in financial and professional sectors.
And a house building, infrastructure and business investment programme is an opportunity to skill up young and old alike, in real apprenticeships of lasting value
Building Houses and Homes Builds Hope. It can help to build our economy too.
Lead, not Run
I don’t want to run this city, I want to lead this city. That means instead of the council doing things to the city, it needs to start doing things with the city.
It needs now to look to the city’s citizens, businesses, charities, other partners and its young people and to help us with finding the answers to the many financial and other challenges we now face.
Fighting Poverty and Building Economic Security and building sustainable wealth in this city is a joint enterprise. The council can’t do it. The city itself must do it together.
A government can fight poverty, a council can fight poverty, a charity can fight poverty. But businesses fight poverty too, and we should not forget that.
A step-up City
This city has tremendous challenges ahead. This City council will not be the one with the answers to these challenges, all of us in this city will together be able to find the answers.
We need to become a step-up city.
I ask all of the citizens, its young people, its businesses, its charities and social enterprises: all of this city’s folk.
What can you do for this city? Can you step-up yourselves to meet the challenges and help the council, your representatives in this chamber as we remodel and re-imagine what we can do? All of us can in some way, great or small become civic leaders. You don’t have to become an elected politician to become a civic leader.
Working With Businesses
I want to work in particular with businesses across this city great and small and in all 40 wards. They are part of civic society and I’d like to invite them too to step up, to become once more part of our civic leadership. And help build a city where as a result of common endeavour we build an economy and a security which helps businesses grow better as a result.
I hope you will join us in particular as we look towards starting the journey of becoming a Free School Meals City.
Dire & Grave Choices
The choices we have to make in the immediate future are dire and grave and depressing, not least for those who rely on our services most – the young, the vulnerable, the old.
Look Up from despair
So we must sometimes look up from the despair and do what we can to build hope. We’re one of the youngest cities in Europe – we have great potential.
We must have a long term economic plan that starts to look at building our Revenues. It means working through the economic growth of the city and its region, working together with other local government leaders and other partners across the region.
The Midlands Engine can roar like a jaguar. Let’s do what we have to do in the immediate future that’s hope-less and dire.
But more than that let’s build a new economy, a new deal for the people and businesses of the West Midlands.
And that starts with new, fresh leadership.
Let’s feed our children.
Let’s build homes, let’s build skills, let’s build a new economy.
Let’s become a Step-Up City where everyone who can, can be part of building the solution.
Let’s build hope.