Working with business to help Birmingham thrive
I’ve talked a lot in my first few weeks as city council leader about Birmingham becoming a ‘step-up’ city. I want every individual, every community and every organisation to play a part in the next exciting chapter for a city that must evolve to thrive.
My call to action is aimed at everyone – not least the business community – and I’ve already had productive talks with business leaders about our shared ambitions for the city. More than ever before, this city has to become a joint enterprise, a common endeavour.
We must be a city that shines regionally, nationally and internationally and to do that, we must attract jobs, we must create jobs and we must give people across the city new opportunities.
The transformation of our city centre has been impressive but I now aim to work with businesses and business leaders to plan for growth in all 40 wards.
The challenge of course is to ensure our people, especially our younger people, are ready and able to take advantage of those new opportunities.
That’s why 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 residents cannot get the jobs because of their poor skills level. The jobs are taken by those from outside the city. Those who live here without the skills are left with a sense of exclusion.
Birmingham still has the highest level of adults with no qualifications and the lowest number of adults with high level qualifications.
That must change if we’re going to punch our weight as a city and to make that transformation we need a concerted effort from all partners: the city council, our schools and colleges and from our businesses.
The other important thing to note is that we cannot afford to stand in isolation. A resurgent Birmingham can be strong but a resurgent Midlands can be even stronger.
I’m a northerner by birth but I grow weary of the constant buzz around the ‘northern powerhouse’. I’m confident the Midlands engine can roar like a Jaguar.
Yes Manchester and its neighbours have been ahead of the game when it comes to working together for a common aim but the West Midlands Combined Authority is coming up on the rails. But we can match Manchester and overtake it.
I’m happy to talk specifics in the New Year but for now I’ll end with this: 2016 can be a big year for Birmingham and I aim to be one of many leaders fighting for our city. I hope and believe I’ll be able to fight for our city alongside our business community too.
This blog first appeared in the Birmingham Post on 31 December 2015.