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Housing and the economy head Labour’s Birmingham council election pledges

Housing and the economy head Labour’s Birmingham council election pledges

🕔25.Apr 2016

The Labour party is putting economic regeneration and housing at the top of its policy pledges for next month’s Birmingham city council elections, promising to build 2,000 new council houses by 2020 and invest £600 million in maintaining the stock.

In a manifesto called The Positive Offer 2016, Labour praises the city centre office and retail boom and promises to create thousands of jobs and homes around the new HS2 station at Curzon Street, at the former LDV site at Washwood Heath, and the city centre wholesale markets site.

Labour has run Birmingham since 2012 when the party took over from a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. Quinton councillor John Clancy replaced Sir Albert Bore as leader last December and the manifesto contains a direct reference to his campaign by stressing that the “Birmingham building boom” must not stop at the city centre, and should spread out to the suburbs.

The manifesto, to be launched today by shadow local government secretary Andy Burnham, is unusual in that it does not contain a single reference to a Labour councillor, and not even Cllr Clancy rates a mention or a picture.

There is only one picture of a person, a generic shot of a nurse attending a patient, and the main photograph at the front of the document is of the glitzy entrance to the refurbished New Street Station.

The document begins with a reminder of Birmingham’s recent economic boom:

We’re now home to 34,000 companies and 700 international firms – and last year we were the most entrepreneurial city in Britain outside London: 14,000 new businesses opened their doors in 2015 – and in 2014-15 we won a record 48 inward investment projects – creating over 2,000 new jobs.

We’ve overseen 1.8 million square feet of office space coming on line in the next year with huge projects transforming our city: the New Street Gateway now opened with the stunning Grand Central Shopping Centre; a new metro-link from Snow Hill to New Street opening in May; the new Park Regis hotel at Five Ways; the refurbished Mailbox; and the re-building of Paradise Circus now underway.

And we’ve made sure new chances are fairly shared – with a drive to tackle the scourge of youth unemployment and low pay: we’ve created 3,267 job starts for people aged 16-24 – of which 2,591 are apprenticeships.

We’ve created the Birmingham Youth Promise: guaranteeing young people education, employment, training or work experience within four months of leaving school, college or employment.

We now deliver the highest proportion of council run schools with Ofsted ‘outstanding’. And in 2013, Birmingham had the best performance of any core city at GCSE.

The manifesto highlights Labour party claims that the Conservative Government’s austerity drive has targeted Birmingham unfairly. “The Tory Government has got it in for Birmingham”, the document states.

There’s also a claim that Conservative city councillors want to cut £10 million from children’s services and that the group’s 2016-17 budget proposals involved “privatising the entire children’s services department”.

The claim brought a swift rebuke from Tory group leader Robert Alden, who accused Labour of “deliberately misrepresenting our budget amendment”.

Cllr Alden said the Conservatives were proposing to make efficiencies and put additional money into children’s services. He added: “That is not a cut. It is not surprising to see a tired and out of touch administration resort to misrepresenting us when their manifesto for Birmingham is dirty streets, fortnightly refuse collections and building on parks.”

The Labour manifesto highlights 10 policy promises, starting with a pledge to build thousands of homes for sale or to rent. There’s also a promise that new shops, offices and commercial buildings will be built by local labour.

The party says it will provide an extra £11.7 million over two years to improve children’s safeguarding services, and will “drive through the creation of a new Birmingham Apprenticeship and Internship Agency along with delivery of the new HS2 Training College to create thousands more apprenticeships for local young people”.

The manifesto contains a clear commitment to maintain community libraries across the city, turning the buildings into local community hubs, cafes and resource centres.

On the thorny issue of refuse collection, Labour sets out to defend its record:

  • We’ve invested £60m in modernising the waste collection service, tightened up enforcement and introduced a zero tolerance policy on fly-tipping, with an unprecedented number of prosecutions.
  • A new and more effective street cleaning operation to target priority hotspots working alongside local residents.
  • Ward Litter Plans for every area with cleaning schedules targeted on the local hotspots.
  • Upgraded rubbish collections with 34 new refuse truck drivers to improve reliability of collections crews dedicated to their local patch.

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