Professor Chinn’s contribution to the first meeting of the Birmingham Council’s Social Cohesion and Community Safety Oversight & Scrutiny Committee’s major inquiry was presented on this site and widely reported from different perspectives.

Today the evidence given by Dr Mashuq Ally, Assistant Director, Equalities & Human Resources, which the writer sees as complementary to Carl Chinn’s presentation, is presented on a separate page. He answered questions from elected members regarding the common language and Neil Elkes in the Post reports that Dr Ally suggested language is a barrier between Birmingham’s super-diverse communities.

Expanding on this theme he “issued a rallying cry for plain English, highlighting the council as a key offender. The use of jargon and political double-speak confuses and alienates even those for whom English is their first language”.

TWO INSIGHTFUL EXTRACTS FROM HIS EVIDENCE:

What gives you a sense of belonging – is it the street you live in, your neighbourhood, or the city as a whole?

While there has, over the last decade, been considerable policy attention to the virtues of localism; events such as the disturbances in Northern Towns in 2001 and subsequent debates around community cohesion have alerted us to the danger of ‘neighbourhood nationalisms’ that can emerge in areas where local belonging is prematurely or unevenly celebrated.  Encouraging a sense of awareness across established boundaries of belonging (i.e. community or space) to a greater whole is a more challenging and pressing concern for a city like Birmingham with its large, fragmented and diverse population.  Policy makers face the tricky task of balancing this while remaining sympathetic and supportive of identifications people have based on area, ethnicity, religion etc. that are important in inculcating a sense of self for citizens, and which often act as an important source of social and moral capital, particularly in times of austerity.

Why do people choose to live in Birmingham?

Sometimes people aren’t sufficiently empowered to exercise choice over where they live (i.e. newcomers to the city, migrants, homeless, low paid, unemployed, those reliant on benefits or ex-offenders). For many within these groups where you live is very often determined by forces outside their control; for example: housing policy or income.  For such groups it may be difficult to cultivate a sense of belonging to a particular space or community when they feel estranged from these, particularly where a sense of community has existed in those areas for a considerable length of time.  For example, housing allocation policies that disperse asylum seekers, single mothers or ex-offenders to poor traditionally all-white neighbourhoods where people now mourn the loss of values such as family, respectability and an all-white Britain.

To read this paper go to http://ourbirmingham.org/?page_id=2300

 

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