Category Archives: speech

Building Great Homes, Creating Great Places

My speech from today’s launch Building Great Homes, Creating Great Places at the Local Government Association conference here in Birmingham.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and thank you for joining us for the launch of Building Great Homes, Creating Great Places.

It’s safe to say that housing is one of – if not THE – big topic of discussion here at the LGA Conference.

And, as I reflected in my welcome speech yesterday afternoon, the housing debate changed forever with the horrific Grenfell Tower tragedy just three weeks ago.

We’re under the spotlight and now, more than ever, we must re-double our efforts and work with partners to deliver the quality homes needed by a growing population.

At its most basic level, this is very simple.

This is not a debate about bricks and mortar – it’s about people, families and communities.

People want safe decent homes. They want to feel they can get onto the property ladder, they want to know their children can get onto the property ladder. In short, they want to feel that they matter.

Who can argue with that?

But the scale of the challenge is there for all to see.

Here in Birmingham we need 89,000 new homes over the next 15 years to address an acute housing shortage and meet the needs of Birmingham’s growing population.

That’s a very real and very pressing challenge, which is why, last November, I was delighted that the Government finally endorsed The Birmingham Development Plan.

Our ambitious 15-year strategy goes a long way towards addressing the city’s housing crisis, but of course having the plan is one thing, delivering is what really matters.

As the document we’ve launched today illustrates, our aims are simple but ambitious. We have a commitment to:

  • Build enough new homes of all types
  • Enable people to get and keep the housing they need and eradicate homelessness
  • Improve existing housing and its management

So how do we turn this vision into reality?

I take real pride in the fact that we’ve built more social housing since 2009 than any other local authority in the UK.

Birmingham was also the first local authority to build new homes for sale, and has built more than any other Council.

We pioneered the “buy now, pay later”, approach to the sale of new homes in 2009.

This means the Council shares with developers some of the risks of development – delays in securing planning permission, fixing bad ground conditions, buying land up front in a fragile housing market.

In 2016, we developed this approach further with InReach, so that the City Council acts as developer and takes all of the sales risk, but also captures all of the profit.

The homes are selling faster than they can be built and often well before completion.

We have established the successful Housing Birmingham Partnership, with political and agency leaders committed to working together on long term housing aims.

Our big challenge in Birmingham is of course to build new homes at scale and pace.

So part of my job is to sell opportunities in our city to major investors from home and abroad.

In addition to major overseas deals, earlier this year we sold the first ever Brummie Bond to Midlands-based Phoenix Life, raising £45 million that we will be able to use to significantly boost our housing investment plans.

The interest rate is lower than that charged by the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), which means we will pay £1.4 million less in interest over the course of the loan than would have been the case had it borrowed from the PWLB.

So the numbers stack up. But this was about more than £45 million. It was a clear vote of confidence in Birmingham City Council by the private sector.

With council budgets facing relentless austerity cuts, we must be more imaginative in identifying ways to generate funding.

This council will not raise the white flag of surrender. We’ll go out to the market and sell the huge potential of investing in homes for a young, growing population.

Later this month we will launch our new housing strategy – an action plan that will look at everything from major developments to self-build opportunities.

We’ll look at housing options for first-time buyers through to choices for older citizens.

We’ll renew our efforts to tackle homelessness and build on our successful work to bring empty properties back into use.

One thing is clear. There is no one-size fits all solution to meeting our housing demands.

BUT we have the creative approach, the partnerships and the sheer bloody determination in Birmingham to get the job done.

As I said at the beginning, the Grenfell tragedy served as a reminder that how we meet the housing challenge is one of the most pressing tasks for town halls up and down the country.

Future generations will judge us by how we respond and I know there is a collective determination across local government that we will not be found wanting.

The simple fact is that we cannot afford to fail.

Big things happening in Joseph Chamberlain’s city

My speech of welcome to the 2016 Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.

May I offer you a formal welcome to Birmingham – Europe’s youngest city, the city of a thousand trades, this week named Britain’s most enterprising city and, of course, the city of Joseph Chamberlain.

If you’re new to Birmingham, I would urge you to explore all that our city has to offer over the next 72 hours – our culture, our top-class cuisine (we have 5 Michelin starred restaurants) our baltis, our bars and, if you have time, enjoy our amazing shopping experience.

Even if you’ve been before, you will still be amazed at the changes in the last few years – for example our transformed rail gateway at New St Station, Grand Central,  and the re-appearance of trams on the city streets.

This is a city living up to its motto and constantly moving “Forward”.

Look out from this wonderful library and you will see that big things are happening in Birmingham.

From the Paradise development (just a few hundred yards down the way) to the Arena Central project which includes the new headquarters of tonight’s sponsors HSBC.

But Birmingham is about more than just the city centre. It’s a joint enterprise,  a common endeavour where we now say Every Child, Every Citizen and Every Place matters. It is, indeed, also a city that works for everyone, investing in inclusive economic growth in every part of the city. A mosaic of inclusive growth hubs.

As a successful businessman, Chamberlain in Birmingham was in many ways the father of inclusive economic growth. He realised that big social reform makes economic and business sense.

He did big, bold things in and across this city; and knew that it was making the citizens of Birmingham become the city economy’s greatest asset,  by investing in their lives, their conditions. He knew that was good business and good economics and made businesses grow.

Big things are happening in Birmingham now and Chamberlain, I hope, would have approved of our current ambition. He would also have approved of the way this city and this region is shaping its own future.

In uncertain times, you can rest assured that Birmingham is getting on with business and we won’t simply ‘adapt’ to the post-Brexit world – we’ll help shape it.

That’s the message from our business community and it is most definitely the message from the city council.

In recent weeks we’ve:

  • Announced our £1 billion Curzon Investment Plan to create 4,000 new homes and 36,000 jobs
  • Announced our ambition, as a region, to bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games – a bid with the potential to generate £390 million GVA for the local economy
  • We signed a major deal with Chinese property developers to bring up to £2Billion of capital from China to Birmingham, for housing and infrastructure. They’re coming to this city because they know they will get a great return on that investment in the youngest city in Europe. In THE city of growth in Europe.

That investment of £2billion can be made in homes and infrastructure because it makes business and economic sense. And we’ve not borrowed a penny to do that. We’ve brought the shovel-ready capital here ourselves. And with it will comes jobs, homes and skills and great life chances.

I’ve listed some of the major projects but we’re also looking after our SMEs, so I’ll say it again:

  • Birmingham was last week crowned the Most Enterprising Place in Britain.

Of course we always were, always have been. But it’s good to be steaming ahead again on national and international recognition of the fact.

Birmingham is the mother of invention, the father of enterprise, and our sons and daughters (30% of our city is under 20 years-old) will re-enterprise the world in a new cradle of creative industry, advanced manufacturing and life sciences.

This is also a creative city and many of you will have seen today’s reports suggesting Channel 4 could relocate to Birmingham. This is the natural place for the channel to thrive and we would welcome Channel 4 – just as we welcomed BBC plans to create a new base for BBC Three here.

So we’re getting on with the business of creating wealth and opportunities for people across this city region. We’re not simply waiting for an Article 50 starting gun.

And that is something I’m sure Joseph Chamberlain would have approved of.

Likewise, I have no doubt he would have welcomed Theresa May’s commitment to working with all of our ‘great regional cities’ (and none are greater than Birmingham!)

I don’t believe the former chancellor’s austerity economics has worked for this city, you’d expect me to say that, I think.  But we are where we are and here in Birmingham we will work with the Government to take forward Chamberlain’s vision of civic leadership and social and economic reform.

I have a feeling that you’ll hear a lot about Our Joe this week and quite rightly too. We’re proud of that.

But don’t for one minute think that’s because we’re obsessed with looking to the past.

Yes we can still learn much from Chamberlain’s municipal socialism (and we don’t have to whisper that word, because it’s Chamberlain) But this is a forward looking, ambitious and creative city that continues to evolve and re-invent itself.

Actions of course will speak louder than words but I firmly believe that this city and this region can and should be at the forefront of any plan to rebalance, or perhaps better put, to refound the economy. The Birmingham City Region must be crucial to the development of this nation’s Industrial Strategy.

I am assured personally that Greg Clarke knows that, has said as much himself in this city the day he was appointed to his new role.

Birmingham, its citizens, its youth, its academics, its businesses and manufacturers stand ready to serve the nation in that crucial refounding of our industrial economy.

Working with our partners and neighbours in the West Midlands Combined Authority (the biggest combined authority by far, by the way) we’ve already negotiated an unprecedented Devolution Agreement to unlock £8bn of investment into the region over the next 30 years.

Sajid – your constituency is just one-and-a-half miles from my ward of Quinton on the edge of Birmingham – and I can assure you and the Government that we will continue creating the growth that will benefit your constituents. But it must be inclusive growth. We will invest in jobs and skills and we will build much needed homes.

We will ensure the region capitalises on the game-changer that is HS2.

And, through the Combined Authority, Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect, we will continue to be an economic driver for both the UK and Europe.

But this is just the start.

Winston Churchill said Joseph Chamberlain was ‘the man who made the weather’. He was a man who led where others followed.

I like that and just over 100 years after the great man’s death, you can be sure that Chamberlain’s city is ready to once again lead from the front.

So give us the powers and we’ll deliver – not just for Birmingham and the West Midlands – but for Britain.


Speech: Remembering Srebrenica

My speech from tonight’s Remembering Srebrenica memorial event at the Council House.

Remember SrebrenicaGood evening ladies and gentlemen. We’re here this evening to remember one of the darkest chapters in European and indeed world history.

We’re here because just 21 years ago – less than 1,500 miles away – more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically massacred and buried in mass graves, simply because of their faith.

Actually, I think it’s important to state the exact number killed because these were people not numbers. So we’ve gathered here to remember every single one of the 8,372 people killed the Srebrenica massacre.

We’re also here to remember the other innocent victims of this atrocity – those who survived. The thousands of women, children and elderly people who were forcibly deported, the women who were raped and of course the families of those murdered.

But this event shouldn’t simply be about remembrance. This is also an opportunity for people from all communities, of all ages and all faiths to show that we stand united against hatred and discrimination – we choose hope over fear and division.

21 years have passed since the terrible events of July 1995 and this year Remembering Srebrenica is poignantly focusing on the theme ‘Coming of Age’.

This reflects the fact that hundreds of young Bosnian people never had the chance to do just that. They never had the chance to come of age, to fulfil their dreams and live their lives

The 8,372 victims of the Srebrenica genocide – especially the young – represent a lost generation who never had the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

Just think of that for a moment. Here we are in Europe’s youngest city – imagine thousands of our young men being robbed of the chance to grow-up, marry, have children and lead happy successful lives.

That’s a heartbreaking thing to consider and something we must never, never forget.

All that potential, all those hopes and dreams violently destroyed in just 11 days back in 1995.

That’s why we come together every year to pay our respects and to remember. And I hope that is why we will continue to come together.

Gatherings like the one here tonight and many others across Europe and around the world represent a triumph of love over hate. BUT we must not pretend that the terrible events witnessed in Srebrenica could never happen again.

Tragically, history teaches us that, if left unchecked and unchallenged, hatred and prejudice can quickly descend into persecution, violence, murder and eventually genocide.

Sadly we live in troubled times with rising extremism and increasing levels of hate crime. So it has never been more important to stand shoulder to shoulder declaring our rejection of hate and intolerance.

I’m proud of my city. I’m proud of the way our communities live, work and play together. We celebrate our differences; we respect other faiths and cultures.

Just last week, people of all different faiths, backgrounds and cultures came together to honour the victims of hatred through a peace and unity rally in Victoria Square.

Of course there will always be those who point to those differences as a reason for conflict. But anyone seeking to divide us will never succeed here in Birmingham. I say this not as a statement of blind faith but because every day across this great city I see people committed to loving and respecting their neighbours.

We must never be complacent about that. We must never take that cohesion for granted and, as a city council, we will continue to work with all partners, with faith groups, voluntary and community organisations and others to support the needs of ALL citizens in the city. We’ll work together to tackle issues of isolation, exclusion and inequality.

We can never restore those lives so violently destroyed in Bosnia 21 years ago but we can teach our children and their children that hate and division are always wrong. We can lead by example and show them that love and unity must always win.

That would be a fitting and lasting tribute to the victims of the Srebrenica massacre.