Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Labour destroys 30 years of work in the arts, sports and culture in Birmingham

Labour destroys 30 years of work in Birmingham's arts, sports and culture

The new Labour administration has today announced the new way that Birmingham City Council will run. The all powerful Cabinet Committee has been completely reconstructed, with previously centralised powers devolved down to District Committees. This was announced today at the Council Business Management Committee as part of the Annual Review of the City Council's Constitution

The new structure of the Cabinet is particularly problematic, since I believe is has laid the seeds of financial disaster for the Council within 12 months.......but that is worth another article.

What I want to focus on is the decision to get rid of the position of Cabinet for Leisure, Sport and Culture and leave 95% of the positions previous responsibility to absolutely no one. Yes, you read that right, Birmingham, for the first time in well over 30 years will no longer have a political champion for art, sport or culture in the Council.

The only responsibilities from the previous position that will be given to another Cabinet are described in the report as follows “Leisure, sports, arts and culture buildings and services - Effective management of these assets includingmanagement of grants.” This tiny part of the duties of previous Cabinet position will now be shared between two Cabinet members, namely the Deputy Leader and the new Cabinet Member for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement. And you know what happens when responsibility is shared? No one takes responsibility.

So there you have it. Since the 1970s Birmingham has been building its reputation as both a sporting and cultural city, and all that have been wiped away within 5 days of the new Labour administration taking power.

As the last Cabinet member for Leisure, Sport and Culture I was regularly banging the drum on the importance of the arts and sport in Birmingham. While others saw art and sport and ‘fun activities’ I argued that these needed to be seen as part of a regeneration package for Birmingham. If we are going to attract the creative industry into Birmingham, then we need to reverse the brain drain from Birmingham - arts, culture and sport have a major part to play to keep skilled workers and graduates in this city. If we are going to attract company’s regional and national headquarters to Birmingham, then those companies need to be confident that they’ll be able to attract the best employees to their headquarters – again the city’s arts, culture and sports community have a major part to play here in attracting those employees.

The previous Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that ran Birmingham from 2004 to 2012, has a record on the arts and sports to be proud of:

  • £5.8million investment in the rebuilding of the Midland Art Centre
  • £12million investment in the rebuilding of Harborne pool
  • £12million investment in a new stand at Alexander Stadium, which has in turn allowed Alexander Stadium to become the headquarters of UK Athletics and to host the UK heat of the global Diamond League athletics event.
  • £100k investment to keep the Aegon Classic at the Priory, which in turn unlocked a £5million investment in the Priory.....in the years to come this will enable the Priory to host higher standard tennis competitions.
  • £20million loan to Warwickshire Cricket club, to enable a £32million investment in the ground. This will ensure top class international cricket to be hosted here in years to come.
  • The creation of the Birmingham Half Marathon in 2008, which has grown to 15,000 competitors in 4 years – it is now part of the Great British Run series.
  • Successful hosting of a number of major championships such as the European Indoor Athletics Championships in 2007, World Half Marathon Championships in 2009, the World Trampoline and Tumbling, and Double Mini Trampoline Championships in 2011 and the World BMX Championships in 2012.  The city will also host the USA and Jamaican Olympic track and field teams at training camps in July 2012.
  • The creation of the Film Birmingham office which is increasingly attracting TV and film productions to Birmingham, including BBC1’s Hustle, BBC1’s Survivors and the film Toast.
  • In the coming year we were about to create the Music Birmingham office to help nurture and promote Birmingham’s music scene.
  • Protection of funding for the Arts Champion programme, which brings arts into the hard-to-reach communities of Birmingham
  • Freezing for 2 years any further reductions in funding for the numerous art organisations in Birmingham that receive funding from the Council. The 2 year freeze will enable the art organisations to adjust to the new funding regime, plus give the Council time to identify new sources of funding.
  • Initial concept of the Museum Quarter next to Millennium Point – this will include a Museum of Photography in the former Curzon Street station building; Ikon 2 – a national importance museum of contemporary arts, plus a home for a international importance modern art collection, which is presently looking for a new home.
  • Initial concepts of the converting of the former Birmingham Municipal Bank building on Broad Street/Centenary Square into a major cultural building

All the above achieved by having a Cabinet member who could champion the importance of arts, sports and culture in the Cabinet. We were moving forward with the creation of the Music Birmingham office, the creation of the Museum of Photography; the conversion of the former Municipal Bank on Broad Street into a major cultural centre. All of this now ripped up and chucked in the bin by a Labour administration only 5 days old. Well done!


At 1:03 AM, Blogger NB said...

Sorry to hear this Martin, you have played a big role in bringing out the best of Brum. I hope you remain in this field in some way and continue to bang the drum for Brum, it is most appreciated by many. Nick


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