Public resources continue to be channelled to the city centre as local authority housing, education and children’s social services are neglected.
Four years ago, when market trader Carol Byrne looked around the Bull Ring Open Market (under threat at the time) and saw youngsters working there who might been amongst those who looted and broke into the city in which they live, she wondered what would happen to those unemployed young people who often don’t finish secondary education, let alone gone to University.
In January, Professor David Bailey (Aston Business School) took Birmingham Council to task over city development priorities. He cites points made in the Kerslake Report (PDF link via this page) about the huge cost of the Library of Birmingham, ‘identified as a major contribution to the Council’s spiralling debt problem’. A ‘financial noose’ has been placed round the Council’s neck by the failure of its plans to secure external sponsorship or raise enough money from land sales, which meant that it had to borrow most of the initial £188m for a building it cannot afford to run as planned.
Public resources have been diverted from providing critical social services into a city centre vanity project
Bailey referred to Kerslake’s comments on BCC pouring cash into city centre projects while residents in poor out of town neighbourhoods are left without jobs or skills, adding an overview of long term neglect of local authority housing, education and children’s social services and noting that successive blinkered leaders in Birmingham over several decades (we’d exclude Theresa Stewart) have focussed only on the glamorisation of the city centre.
The Post reports that, in a public debate on the Kerslake review of Birmingham City Council, expenditure on recurrent vanity projects was highlighted as a reason for the authority’s persistent failure to tackle the city’s high levels of deprivation and unemployment.
Professor Bailey said: “Kerslake said that many in this city do not have the skills to access the jobs created in the city centre. But it is worse than that. Over the last 25 years, we have poured a huge amount of resources into city centre glamour projects and in doing that not only ignored the outer city but diverted resources from housing, education and schools.”
The FT is publishing a series ‘Disunited Kingdom’ – but has looked no further, to date, than the relative disadvantage suffered by the well-educated young.
Carol Byrne asks a more grounded question: “When Birmingham City Centre is only for those that ‘have’ and those that ‘have not’ just stay in their ghettoes – what will become of our city that was built on trade and markets? “
She warned: “To exclude and invisibilise these marginalised groups even further will only breed more discontent and anger”.
Next: undeterred by debt, another grandiose project is presented.