By Cllr John Cotton, Birmingham City Council

The events of this most challenging of years have again exposed the extent to which inequalities affect the lives of citizens and communities across Birmingham – and just how much we have to do to put this right.

As the largest local authority in Europe, serving a diverse community of over one million people, we cannot and will not stand idly by in the face of the inequalities affecting our fellow citizens.

In September I presented a report, Everyone’s Business, Everyone’s Battle: Tackling Inequalities in Birmingham, to the Council’s Cabinet, which set out our initial plans and started a conversation with communities across our city about how we build a more equal and inclusive city. We are absolutely clear – real change is delivered when we put people’s experiences and views at the heart of what we do.

So in order to actively address those issues, we are going to be bold and open to having uncomfortable conversations to understand the underlying causes of persistent inequality.

That’s why I’m taking part and encouraging people to join in a special webinar, (booking link below) hosted by BVSC to discuss these very issues - on Monday 30 November, 4pm to 5.30pm.

We live in one of Britain’s most diverse cities and yet opportunities for too many of our citizens continue to be limited as a result of their race, class, gender, economic circumstances or a combination of these factors.

This injustice and inequality have never been acceptable to us. Yet it’s clear that, despite our best intentions, progress is not happening quickly enough.

I know this won’t be easy, but that must not stop us doubling down on our efforts to see change happen. If we want real change to happen, we need everyone to play their part, to make it their business.

The Leader of the Council, Ian Ward, and all of my Cabinet colleagues are committed to this – as are interim Chief Executive Chris Naylor and his senior team.

As one of Birmingham’s major employers, we must lead by example and take practical, meaningful action that makes a difference. This means we will be:

  • Ensuring our workforce reflects the communities we serve, working with our staff, managers, trade unions and independent equalities and HR experts to become a beacon for equal opportunities.

  • Working to introduce a “Rooney rule” for shortlists to address the current, visible imbalance in gender and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation across the authority and ensuring all council interview panels are similarly representative.
  • Challenging and removing barriers to advancement within the council, in order to address the serious lack of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation at senior level.

To further those pledges we are determined to help nurture our future leaders, and we recently announced we have joined forces with Operation Black Vote, to launch a new Civic Leadership programme with a diverse cohort of 15 participants.

We are expanding our Equalities and Cohesion team, who have the in-house expertise and leadership to deliver on our mission to tackle inequality right across our city.

This will ensure we properly understand what we need to do to support those who have been among the hardest hit by Covid-19. We will look to set up similar reviews for other Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.

Tackling inequalities is everyone’s battle and everyone’s business. I’m determined that our great city seizes this opportunity to make the changes that our citizens and communities need and deserve.

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Cllr John Cotton is the Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities at Birmingham City Council.