Category Archives: speech

Time to rebalance the London-centric UK economy

My speech at last night’s Centre for Cities event.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen

May I offer you a warm welcome to Birmingham – one of Europe’s youngest cities and, of course, home to the UK’s largest local authority.

You come to Birmingham at an exciting time. This young, diverse, creative city is going through a dramatic period of transformation at the moment.

In fact you could argue that we’ve entered a golden decade that will define Birmingham and the wider region for generations to come.

We’re building homes, attracting investment, creating jobs, building the infrastructure for HS2, hoping to get the nod as the new home of Channel 4 and preparing to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

I’m proud of Birmingham. I was born here, I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve seen the city change almost beyond recognition from the Birmingham of my childhood.

This city is currently buzzing with the noise of regeneration and we have many reasons for optimism.

  • The Good Cities Growth index rated us as the most improved in the UK in 2017 and we continue to attract new investment and new homes.
  • In recent years, Birmingham has seen the fastest growth in business numbers in the country.
  • With an economy worth £24.8bn, this city has a growth rate of 19.2% in the last five years and is one of the largest growing city economies in the UK.
  • Last year we were once again the most entrepreneurial city in Britain outside London as 12,108 new businesses opened their doors in 2017.
  • And Birmingham is ranked as having the highest quality of life of any English city outside the capital, by the global Mercer Quality of Living Report 2018.

Of course, I don’t have to sell Birmingham to the people in this room. You must like the city because you keep coming back!

In increasingly uncertain times, this great city and the wider region stand ready to play a pivotal role in the UK economy whatever happens with Brexit.

Through the West Midlands Combined Authority, we are working very closely with the West Midlands Mayor Andy Street to get the best possible deal for the people of this city and this region.

Our collaborative work on the Local Industrial Strategy is a prime example. As the Combined Authority’s portfolio lead for economic growth, I’m working closely with the Mayor to grow our regional economy in a way that can bring greater prosperity to all our communities.

Like cities and city regions up and down the UK, Birmingham and the West Midlands will be more important than ever if and when we leave the European Union.

But of course we must be given the tools to play that key role and we must be given a greater stake in the

I’m sure I won’t be the only person over the next four days to talk about the importance of rebalancing the UK economy.

We’ve been talking about it for years, but spending in this country remains stubbornly London-centric.

It surely cannot be right, for example, that transport investment stands at almost £1,000 per head for London, but just over £300 for Birmingham and the West Midlands.

Yes the regions miss out, but so does the UK economy as a whole.

We stand ready to play our part.

Invest is us and we’ll deliver – not just for Birmingham and the West Midlands – but for Britain.

LGA Conference welcome: Local government matters more than ever

Cllr Ian Ward delivering LGA Conference welcome speech

My speech welcoming the 2018 LGA Conference to Birmingham.

May I offer you, the Secretary of State and all our delegates a formal welcome to Birmingham – one of Europe’s youngest cities and, of course, home to the UK’s largest local authority.

I hope the next few days in our city prove to be enjoyable, enlightening and fruitful as many of the leading figures in local government come together to inspire and be inspired.

You come to Birmingham at an exciting time – we’ve even given you Blue Skies… but more of that later.

This young, diverse, creative city is going through a dramatic period of transformation at the moment.

In fact you could argue that we’ve entered a golden decade that will define Birmingham and the wider region for generations to come.

We’re building homes, attracting investment, creating jobs, building the infrastructure for HS2 and preparing to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Birmingham is a city that is buzzing with the noise of regeneration and we have many reasons for optimism.

But of course like every town, city and county represented here this week, we have our challenges.

And sadly, at a time of continued cuts, those challenges are what get most of the attention, as the coverage of local government focusses on what we are no longer able to do.

The cuts and the bad news get the headlines, while the good work goes largely ignored.

This is not a glamourous sector, but councils up and down the country are providing essential support and services.

We’re the safety net; the very frontline of the welfare state and we’re currently needed more than ever before by the millions of people we serve.

Local government might not tug at the heartstrings like the NHS, the police or the fire service, but we are no less important.

And one thing that everyone in this room knows is that local government matters.

Of course, the to-do list for councils across the country is a daunting one, but I know that there are dedicated teams of committed professionals from councils up and down the country that are rising to the challenge on a daily basis.

Local government is blessed with creative, resourceful and tireless officers and councillors who, just like their NHS counterparts, are there to support people from the cradle to the grave.

Over the last eight years, we have continued to deliver vital services and support in the face of unprecedented cuts – in Birmingham for example our budget has been slashed by over £650 million a year as a result of Government grant cuts and rising costs.

That same period has seen demand for many of our services grow. The housing crisis, bridging the skills gap, ever-rising demands for adult social care and preparing for a post-Brexit economy are just a few of the challenges faced by our sector.

The Secretary of State will hear a lot about those challenges at this conference, but he will also hear, and hopefully acknowledge, how this sector is getting on with the job and working harder than ever to improve outcomes for the people who rely on us.

That’s certainly what we’re doing here in Birmingham.

As I said earlier, this is one of Europe’s youngest cities; with almost half of the population aged under 30 and 30 per cent of people are under 20.

And, while that presents us with many challenges, just think about all the possibilities – the enormous potential of our young people.

This city is a conveyor belt of talent and our task as a city council is to work with partners – from the Government and the business sector through to community organisations – so we can create the right environment for our young people to shine.

So, how do we harness that huge potential?

How do we convince the next generation that Birmingham is a place where they can develop and thrive; where talent is nurtured and young people are given every opportunity to succeed?

  • We do what councils have always done and what councils throughout the UK are doing every day – in spite of austerity.
  • We build the houses needed by a growing population.
  • We work with business to attract the investment that will create the jobs and opportunities that our young people deserve.
  • We work with our schools, colleges and universities to ensure that young people are being equipped with the skills needed to take advantage of those opportunities.
  • And we provide the platform to showcase the talent, creativity and energy of the next generation.

To give you an example, I’d like to close by showing you how the young people of this city showcased their talents to a global audience of over 1 billion people earlier this year.

As I hope you’re all aware, Birmingham is preparing to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and in April, after Australia’s Gold Coast hosted the 21st edition of the Games, they passed the Commonwealth Games flag onto this city.

That put Birmingham firmly in the spotlight as the talented young people you’re about to see were given a chance to show what this city has to offer and fantastically rose to the challenge.

They made the city proud and reminded me that, despite the challenges and the pressures, working in local government continues to be a rewarding and worthwhile experience.

We’re here to work for and with our citizens, so let me show you how Birmingham did just that.

 

In 2022 we would like to invite people from across the world to our city to see the Games and you will all be very, very welcome.

In the meantime, have a great conference. Thank you and enjoy the city.

Speech: Homelessness Prevention Strategy launch

My speech at the launch of the Birmingham Homelessness Prevention Strategy

Download the strategy here: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/2531/birmingham_homelessness_prevention_strategy_2017.pdf

 

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for joining us here for the launch of the Birmingham Homelessness Prevention Strategy.

You can tell a lot about a city from the way it unites to protect its most vulnerable.

So we can take great pride in the fact that so many partners are coming together to tackle and prevent homelessness.

It’s doesn’t surprise me that Birmingham continues to be a city that helps those in need. Compassion is in our collective DNA. This is a city that stands up for victims; a city that unites to counter injustice and inequality.

And, while compassion and good intentions will only get us so far, what is clear from this strategy is that together we also have the vision, the skills and the sheer determination to tackle an issue that has disastrous consequences for far too many Birmingham citizens.

And I’m not just talking about the very visible rough sleeping crisis.

The sad truth is that Birmingham also has a high number of families who are homeless or in temporary accommodation. And, as we’ve seen in other UK towns and cities, those figures have risen dramatically over the last eight years.

Behind that rise we find far too many individual tales of heartbreak and hardship, we find far too many children living in temporary accommodation often badly affecting their education and we find far too many lives irrevocably damaged.

We cannot and will not sit back as a city and allow that to continue.

Homelessness ruins lives and this strategy acknowledges that we need to do more to recognise the impact that the trauma of homelessness can have on physical and mental health of both adults and children.

Homeless households experience severe health inequalities, and a lower life expectancy than the general population.

Shockingly we know that the impact begins at birth, with homeless children more likely to be born at a low birth weight and miss their immunisations.

Homeless children are three times more likely to experience poor mental health; the impact of which is long lasting.

And even after they have a new home, children who experience homelessness remain vulnerable to family breakdown, domestic abuse, mental ill health, and learning and development difficulties.

At whatever stage in life you are at, homelessness destroys potential.

Which is why the key to this strategy is that vital word: PREVENTION.

Our new focus is on preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place and supporting those who are homeless to build a more positive future in good health, sustainable accommodation and long lasting employment.

To succeed, we must help people secure homes that they can afford and maintain, which is why in the recent local elections we promised to build more affordable homes and homes for social rent.

Saying it is the easy part but we must not underestimate the scale of the challenge.

With the population predicted to rise by 150,000 by 2031, Birmingham needs 89,000 new homes to meet the needs of the city’s population over the next 13 years.

I promise that Birmingham City Council will play its part. Since 2012, we’ve built more affordable homes than any other council in the country and we will continue to build much needed affordable homes through Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust.

But, as the strategy we’re launching today makes clear, we need a range of safe, decent, affordable housing options, both shared and self-contained, in the private, social and third sectors.

We all have a part to play and, though this is a huge challenge, I firmly believe we can work together to drive the systemic change required to deliver this strategy and achieve our collective vision for Birmingham.

Last week we launched our Domestic Abuse Prevention Strategy – an issue often closely linked to homelessness – and I said then that we must ask ourselves what sort of a city we want to live in.

What sort of Birmingham do we want our young people to grow up in?

And, what value do we place on respecting and protecting the most vulnerable in our city?

Those questions are equally applicable as we address the issue of homelessness.

If we look around Birmingham in 2018, this is a city undergoing a dramatic and exciting transformation.

The cranes on our skyline, the building sites and the sheer scale of new developments mean that this is a city on the up.

Our challenge now is to ensure that everyone gets an opportunity to share in that success.

And, at the very least, we should strive to be a city where everyone has a roof over their head and place to call home.

That’s why I’m delighted that so many of the City’s partners and stakeholders have come together to deliver the strategy we’re launching today.

Let’s make it happen.