At the recent Social Inclusion Summit there was a clear sense of eagerness, one could almost say enthusiasm, to put the commitments and recommendations of the Green Paper into action, along with a strong mandate from those present to proceed on to the creation of the White Paper and the Action Plan.
However, despite the enthusiasm there was also at times a frisson of uncertainty, and an underlying sense of bewilderment as to how we could make the recommendations a reality.
There is no doubt that it is a challenge, a real challenge. The task from now on is to come up with solutions to the problems that have been so clearly articulated.
Now, one response to this could be to become despondent and overawed by
the clear enormity of the task, and ostrich-like bury one’s head in the sand.
Another would be to try and run head-long at it and, like some super-hero, set out to save the world.
Another is to keep working hard to find solutions, setting up the conditions to bring about the necessary change, and working through each obstacle as it arises.
It is this last method that seems most likely to succeed and I have a quiet confidence that the people of Birmingham can bring this about.
Let me tell you a story…
Amid the storms that lashed the country on Thursday night (22.11.12), leaning at a very steep angle to the universe, I made my way to my bus-stop against a fierce, relentless wind. Rain was bouncing of my clothing and the cold was lacerating my face as if I was being flayed by a razor-sharp icicle.
I could see the bus I was after in the distance but, as I drew closer, it uped its platform and drove off. I was now first in the queue; soaked, cold and miserable. Time passed. Eventually a bus from a rival company arrived. Sadly, my pass was not valid and I was reluctant to pay the top up fee which would enable me to use this service.
Suddenly an inspector approached informing the now swelling crowd that the bus was now loading further down the stop. I informed him that I could not travel on that bus as my pass was not valid. He said, “Come on. It’s cold and wet. Just get on. I’ll sort it.” Flustered, I repeated my rather limp excuse about the wrong pass but he was insistent. “It’s freezing cold, just get on the bus and go.”
He escorted me down to the waiting bus, where three or four other passengers with the wrong passes were hanging around. Extending his beneficence he ushered all of us onto the bus, repeating his desire to get us out of the cold.
He then spoke to the driver and using some discretionary fund he had access to, waived the additional fees. We climbed on board and a few moments later, sitting in the warm, soothing comfort of the dry bus, we set off.
Here we have a clear example of the Brummie spirit! We know Birmingham is a welcoming city, and I am sure there are many of you who, like me, have had a strong, vital, direct experience of how caring, compassionate and generous a city it is too.
It is because it is full of people like this bus-inspector, who is willing to use his discretionary power for good, that gives me the confidence to believe that we can make the commitments and recommendations of the Green Paper, and the emerging Action Plan and White Paper, work!