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Council under fire after failing to create Birmingham History Week

One year on after pledge to set up educational project, there's still no sign of it being organised

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Universities and historians had pledged to support Birmingham History Week

Senior councillors have been accused of complete apathy after it emerged nothing has been done to set up a Birmingham History Week more than 12 months after it was promised.

A backbench watchdog committee has slammed the Labour cabinet after being told there has been no progress on pledges to establish both the special history week or draw up a local history curriculum package for schools.

It was the standout proposal of last year’s social cohesion scrutiny committee report Birmingham: Where the World Meets, in which councillors asked ‘what is a Brummie?’. It also suggested schools twin with others in the city and offer pupil exchanges and visits.

Together the proposals were designed to foster a sense of a shared city identity among children – many of who come from diverse ethnic, national, class and cultural backgrounds.

The committee heard the cabinet has also failed to lift a finger to set up regular food and crafts markets in the city centre – designed to create a new social meeting place for residents and visitors.

Committee chairman Waseem Zaffar (Lab, Lozells and East Handsworth) said: “This was a high-profile report and the Brummie History Week was the one piece of work that people ask me about.

“I am very disappointed that this hasn’t been acted on. We had offers of support from universities, and people like Professor Carl Chinn who were willing to give freely of their time.”

Fellow committee member Coun Gareth Moore (Cons, Erdington) added: “This was the most important recommendation, that we celebrate Birmingham’s very rich and diverse history.

"This is something I am very passionate about. But a few months on no progress has been made.”

The committee was told that the council is going to hand responsibility for History Week over to the news schools group, the Birmingham Education Partnership, which was launched last week.

Cabinet member for social cohesion Coun John Cotton (Lab, Shard End) said: “There are other issues around education and children’s services which have been given a priority.”

He added that it would be pursued along with plans to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and death of Joseph Chamberlain.

He was also challenged over his view that budget cuts had prevented a food market being set up in the city centre – as the council has the outdoor market already in place and available on certain days.

Coun Eva Philips (Lab, Brandwood) said: “It was a bureaucratic knot with the town centre management, not a financial issue. This is a really important opportunity to showcase the best of the city.”

Coun Cotton promised to look again at the market issue, adding: “We will see what we can do if it is a bureaucratic issue rather than a financial one.”

 
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