Transforming Place: Birmingham’s new approach to neighbourhood working

Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum

Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum

Transforming Place is Birmingham’s new neighbourhood strategy. It sets out eight key building blocks to help support and develop neighbourhood working across the city:

  • Neighbourhood working to be locally designed and delivered
  • Joined-up  and better coordinated services
  • Building social capital and supporting resident-led activity
  • Bringing communities together
  • Identifying and harnessing neighbourhood assets to benefit local communities
  • Embedding neighbourhood working through city council districts
  • Integrating a neighbourhood focus in city-wide plans and strategies
  • Sharing learning and information across neighbourhoods

This framework has been shaped by the views of residents, community groups and professionals put forward during last year’s summer of dialogue about a new approach to neighbourhoods.

The document sets out how we aim to design and deliver services and engage with citizens to collectively work together to build strong cohesive neighbourhoods against the backdrop of unprecedented funding cuts.

In his foreword to the framework, Cllr John Cotton, cabinet member for social cohesion and equalities, says:

“Facing up to these challenges requires a new approach, one in which the city council works alongside residents, local organisations and service providers – marshalling scarce resources, breaking down silos and making more creative use of the assets and skills we have in our neighbourhoods. That’s how we will ensure that our neighbourhoods become stronger, more resilient places, where people can come together to improve things and have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.”

Make a pledge

The city council wants to work in collaboration with residents, local groups, voluntary, community and faith organisations, the public and private sector to improve opportunities at a local level. This is a new approach in which new kinds of relationships will be forged and new approaches co-designed with others.

If you want to help to transform a neighbourhood, please get in touch. Maybe your group wants to become a Place of Welcome or you would like to volunteer your expertise and time to a local project? Maybe you are already running a local project and want to join our neighbourhood network? Or perhaps you work for an organisation which can provide neighbourhood management support locally?

You can make pledges of support by completing and returning a Make a Pledge form, downloadable here:

Transforming Place pledge form – individuals

Transforming Place pledge form – organisations


Get on board for a brighter future in Shard End

bus cartoonIf you’re unemployed, looking to improve your skills or thinking of starting your own business, then advice and support is on hand. The jobs and skills bus will be parking up in various locations in Shard End Ward during March and April with trained advisers on board to help local people get into work, training or even start their own business.

A range of organisations will be represented on the bus, including Birmingham Adult Education Service, Phoenix Training, Kingsbury Training, Department for Work and Pensions, Birmingham City Council traineeship scheme, Prospects Services and the National Careers Service, The Pump and Business in the Community.

The jobs and skills bus will be popping up in the Shard End area as follows:

Wednesday 26th March 2014

10.00 am to 2.00 pm

Heathway Shopping Centre (opposite the Heathway Pub)

Wednesday 2nd April 2014

10.00 to 2.00 pm

LIDL car park, Mackadown  Lane B33 0NG

Wednesday 9th April 2014

10.00 to 2.00 pm

Frontage of Madoc & Rhodes, 151 Lea Village B33 9SJ

The jobs and skills bus is part of a bigger initiative called Our Place! to improve the lives of residents living in Glebe Farm, Kitts Green, Lea Village, Shard End and Tile Cross.

The Our Place! approach puts the local community at the heart of decision-making and brings everyone together – residents, voluntary and community organisations, businesses, public sector workers and city councillors – to tackle local issues and make the area a better place to live. An important strand of this work is addressing unemployment and lack of skills in the area.

Cllr John Cotton, Shard End Ward Councillor and Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion and Equalities, said:

“Too many people are being held back by inequalities in education and employment, preventing them from reaching their full potential and making the most of their talents.

“The jobs and skills bus is designed to bring opportunities out into the neighbourhoods of Shard End, Kitts Green, Tile Cross, Lea Village and the Glebe.  So, if you live locally, are unemployed or want to improve your skills, coming along to the bus could be an important first step in getting access to employment, training or other advice.”

Birmingham Fair Money


Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Not-for-profit lenders in Birmingham are joining together under the brand “Birmingham Fair Money” to promote their services to residents who might otherwise resort to borrowing from the growing number of payday lenders and pawnbrokers in and around the city.

The lenders that have joined the scheme so far are Citysave, MONEYLINE, and Advance Credit Union Ltd (the new name for North Birmingham Community Credit Union).

The city council is very supportive of this initiative and is funding a cabin which will be placed prominently in High Street in Birmingham from 1st October to 24th December 2013 to provide a pop up loans shop.

Citysave is looking for volunteers to help keep the pop up shop open for as many hours as possible, including evenings and weekends.

Angela Clements, chief executive officer of Citysave, said:

“As the number of payday lenders, log book loans providers and pawnbrokers continues to grow in and around Birmingham, there is an urgent need for us to do something to challenge the predation on our local residents, who are ending up trapped in revolving high cost credit arrangements, paying very high fees and interest.

“These businesses are extracting millions from our local economy and destabilizing individual households across our city, with lending that is highly promoted. Reports from many leading debt advisers make it clear that the sector has considerable issues with irresponsible lending as well as sales incentives for staff to ‘sell up’.

“Citysave is keen to not only try to provide an alternative to high cost lending, but to re-finance those who are trapped in this type of debt. All the stakeholders in Birmingham Fair Money are responsible lenders and, where we can’t lend, we work closely with other agencies for the wider benefit of the applicant.”

Councillor John Cotton, the city’s cabinet member for social cohesion and equalities, has been personally involved and supportive of this initiative. He said:

“Fairbrum is a citywide movement, focused on building a fairer and more inclusive city. We know that Birmingham has tremendous strengths – its youthful population, its rich heritage and diversity, its spirit of innovation and enterprise – but there are also some real challenges.

“Inequalities, deprivation and poverty still hold many of our fellow citizens back. That’s what Fairbrum wants to change. Birmingham Fair Money is part of this campaign, promoting the services of not-for-profit personal loans organisations in our city.

“At this moment, we have high-cost lenders trading in Birmingham who lend at interest rates of well over 1000 per cent. If you then ad on the late payment and roll-over fees they charge, these loans inflate very quickly. The result is rapid and brutal. Many of these companies’ clients are trapped in a spiral of unfair debt from which it is difficult to escape.

“It’s vital that we promote a sustainable, fair alternative and, as a membership organisation, credit unions such as Citysave are leading the way in tackling some of the most unacceptable elements of the high cost lending sector, offering an alternative.

“The Birmingham Fair Money brand helps to identify those lenders who are not-for-profit and who should give you a fair deal.”

If you are able to support this initiative by volunteering a few hours a week to help run the pop up shop, please contact Angela by email to

Why the gap between rich and poor matters

Richard WilkinsonOne of the country’s leading “fairness gurus” will be speaking at the Birmingham social inclusion summit on Wednesday 10th July.

Professor Richard Wilkinson is co-author of “The Spirit Level – why more equal societies almost always do better” and a founder of The Equality Trust which works to reduce income inequality in order to improve the quality of life in the UK.

In his keynote speech Professor Wilkinson will be setting out his evidence to show that people in more equal societies live longer, have better mental health, better chances for a good education regardless of their background, that community life is stronger where the income gap is narrower and that when inequality is reduced people trust each other more, there is less violence and rates of imprisonment are lower.

The summit, Sharing Best Practice in Europe, is being funded by the Eurocities’ Cities for Active Inclusion Network (part of the EU PROGRESS programme) and its programme also includes speakers from Barcelona, Rotterdam and Stockholm who will be giving presentations on active inclusion initiatives in practice.

Over 150 delegates from the public, voluntary, community, faith and private sectors across the city are expected to attend the summit at Austin Court, which is being co-chaired by The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham and Cllr John Cotton, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for social cohesion and equalities.

Some of the innovative work by local organisations in Birmingham contributing to build a social inclusion “movement for change” will be showcased in a display at the event.

The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Professor Richard Wilkinson to Birmingham and to have the opportunity to hear him present his evidence on whey equal societies almost always do better.

“Many people may feel intuitively that the world ought to be a fairer place, but what Professor Wilkinson’s research shows is that there is a direct correlation between income inequality and a whole host of indicators.

“Birmingham’s social inclusion process, Giving Hope Changing Lives, is based on having a better understanding of the causes and effects of social exclusion and what works in tackling these issues.

“Hearing Professor Wilkinson present his evidence and discussing his work with him will help us increase our understanding of the effects of inequality and, in turn, make us better able to provide the support needed to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our city.”

Cllr John Cotton, cabinet member for social cohesion and equalitis, said: “Inequality and deprivation doesn’t just hurt certain individuals or neighbourhoods, it also damages our city as a whole. Unless we challenge the causes of poverty and disadvantage, we are sabotaging Birmingham’s economic future. Harsh experience here in our city shows us that Professor Wilkinson’s analysis is absolutely spot on.

“But we are focused on taking action to turn this around. Our social inclusion process has been leading the way, taking practical steps to tackle unemployment, challenge the causes of child poverty, poor health and educational achievements.

“This summit is an opportunity to take stock, learn from others across Europe and plan the next steps in our attack on inequality in our city.”

Cllr John Cotton reflects on where we are and what we have to do

Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion and Equalities summed up what we heard at today’s social inclusion summit.

These notes are paraphrased from his speech.

Important to note that the journey doesn’t end today. It’s time to pause, reflect, then take decisions on what to do next practically based on what we’ve learned.

Changing that map of poverty and disadvantage is difficult in good economic times. Even more difficult in recession.

“But to tolerate inequality, low income, educational underachievement – is tantamount to social sabotage.”

Closing the gap of inequality is our aim. Everything we do should be judged  against that aim.

The “doing to” society approach hasn’t worked. It hasn’t changed that map.

Communities need to take control of their own areas. This doesn’t mean communities left on their own with no support – but led by people in communities with support from local authority where it’s required.

We often approach problems asking “what’s wrong with this community?” Wouldn’t it be great to approach problems by asking “What’s right with this community?”

What does being a citizen of Birmingham mean? Let’s have a citywide debate about the values a citizen of Birmingham has – continue the discussion this Fair Brum process has already started.

Recommendations from Fair Brum process will be integral to social cohesion strategy – a city of Birmingham strategy, not a council strategy.