Neighbourhoods to be funded rather than communities

Birmingham City Council urged to rethink community funding  By Birmingham Mail

29 Jan 2013 09:09

A report from the social cohesion committee, warns white working class areas may feel ethnic groups have been given better treatment. Birmingham City Council has been urged to rethink its social funding policy because some white working class communities may feel ethnic groups have been receiving preferential treatment.

That was a key recommendation of the council report into creating a Brummie identity and encouraging closer cooperation between the people from 187 different countries who have made Birmingham their home.

Yesterday, the Mail revealed that the report, called Birmingham: The World’s Meeting Place, recommended a Brummie history week, more local history teaching in schools and exchanges between people from different parts of the city to foster that shared identity.

But the report also found that there was tension between groups – with white working classes in suburbs like Kingstanding, Northfield and Shard End in particular feeling that inner-city black and minority ethnic groups were favoured when it came to council funding and resources.

East Europeans, including recent arrivals from Poland, Latvia and Slovakia, also claimed they felt like ‘ghosts’ and have little encouragement to become engaged in their communities.

The report, from the social cohesion committee, also reveals that some community groups are self-appointed and do not necessarily represent the people they claim to.

The committee, chaired by Coun Waseem Zaffar (Lab, East Handsworth and Lozells), is now urging the city council to stop supporting particular ethnic or demographic groups and focus on neighbourhoods, supporting projects and organisations to all in their area.

So instead of supporting Irish, Pakistani or Sikh groups for example they will look at backing projects in Digbeth, Lozells or Alum Rock.

It said that a problem was that the council waited to be approached by groups and considered their request for help – so better organised groups were helped.

The report said: “It is this point that has perhaps caused some concern and, whilst not intentional, may have reinforced the perception that specific groups receive more attention and support from the city council than others.

“We would question whether there is any better way of supporting and engaging communities, for example by supporting groups based on neighbourhood or locality, rather than a specific community. This would encompass everyone within an area.”

The report has been welcomed by the council’s Labour leadership. Cabinet member for social cohesion Councillor John Cotton said that the proposal had also been highlighted in the Bishop of Birmingham-led Social Inclusion report and would be adopted.

He added: “A strong sense of identity, shared values and a commitment to reciprocal rights and responsibilities is essential to tackling inequality.”