Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No Black members in Birmingham’s Labour Cabinet is a retrograde step

No Black members in Birmingham’s Labour Cabinet is a retrograde step

Later today at 3pm there will be a demonstration in front of Birmingham’s Council House. The demonstration has been organised by members of Birmingham’s black community, who are incensed that there are no members of the black community represented either in the new Labour Cabinet or selected as a Chair of Scrutiny or Regulatory Committee.

I intend to be at this demonstration, since I agree with the protestors.

The Birmingham Labour Party was always very quick to complain that the 10-member Cabinet of the previous Conservative-Liberal Democrat Cabinet did not represent the ethnic mix of Birmingham. They were right, but in fairness this wasn’t for want of trying. The Conservative Councillor group had no Councillors from the Black and Multi Ethnic (BME) communities and within the Liberal Democrat group we were always urging our BME Councillors to take on positions of responsibility. With only two Liberal Democrat Councillors from the black Caribbean Community, they did nominate themselves for positions and were duly voted in by the Liberal Democrat group of Councillors: Councillor Karen Hamilton was a Chair of Scrutiny, whilst Councillor Ernie Hendricks was the Birmingham lead representative on the West Midlands Police Authority. In addition to this the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat group was from the BME community.

Move forward to May 2012 and the new incoming Labour administration - one third of whose members are from the BME communities. You would think that the Labour Party would act on their complaint about the ethnic mix of the previous Cabinet. NO THEY HAVEN’T. Their eight member Cabinet contains just one member from the BME community, from the Pakistani community to be precise. There is not a single member from Birmingham black Caribbean community in either the Cabinet, as a Chair of Scrutiny or a Regulatory Committee. The only position of responsibility for a black Councillor is for Councillor Yvonne Mosquito (a very able Councillor, may I add) as Chair of Ladywood Constituency and the Birmingham lead representative on the West Midlands Police Authority

Despite the under representation of BME Councillors in the previous Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration, I do believe that our previous record in supporting Birmingham’s black community was good. Obviously, the final arbiter of our record will be the black community, but amongst our record of achievements, we did the following:
  • Brought the Handsworth Carnival – a black led community festival – back to it spiritual home in Handsworth Park
  • When through a lengthy process to identify a black-led community organisation to take on the restoration and running of the Mohammad Ali Centre in Hockley. The selected organisation should be announced in the next two months, unless of course the new Labour administration withdraws the offer.
  • Supported the creation of a new annual Reggae Festival - the Simmer Down Festival - in Handsworth Park to celebrate Birmingham’s contribution to this genre of music.
  • Protected the funding of the annual Black History Month from any cuts during these austere times.
  • Persuaded the Jamaican Olympic team to base their training camp here in Birmingham in the run up to the 2012 Olympics. There will also be cultural events linked in with their stay here, which will celebrate Birmingham’s links to Jamaica through its black community. For example there will be a Jamaican Village in Victoria Square during July.

There is much more that the Council can do to celebrate our Caribbean community’s contribution to the economy, culture and the future of our city. But this decision by the new Labour administration not to have any member of Birmingham’s black Caribbean community to be in the Cabinet or a Chair of a Scrutiny or Regulatory Committee sends out the wrong signal.


Post a Comment

<< Home