Dear Editor, When will the councils of the former West Midlands county wake up and smell the coffee? Time is running out before our rival cities in the rest of the UK steal yet another march on us.
I refer to the opportunity to form a conurbation-wide Local Enterprise Partnership, subject of much recent correspondence. This week, our friends and rivals in the north, Manchester, are putting the final touches to their LEP proposal. It will cover the Greater Manchester area and give a boost to this great city’s economy, already weathering the economic storm well. They are already linking their outlying towns with an extensive tram network and attracting inward investment that Birmingham can only dream of. They are not without their shortfalls and problems but on the whole they are moving in the right direction. If we are not careful, our petty in-fighting, squabbling and stubbornness will allow Manchester to extend its lead in profile and performance and we will rapidly be overtaken by Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and even Milton Keynes. If this happens sole responsibility will lie on the shoulders of our local elected leaders who are overseeing the decline of our own great metropolis.
The conurbation of Birmingham & the Black Country and its satellite towns are a single mass – people travel freely from one place to another and challenges in housing, transport and education can only be addressed on a conurbation-wide level.
We are effectively a single dynamic city, created from very different but inter-dependent parts. To form such a powerful Birmingham & Black Country LEP, Birmingham will have to realise that it is a partner in the LEP and not a divine leader – after all the population of the Black Country is higher than Birmingham’s. In return the Black Country will have to acknowledge the crucial role played by Birmingham and accept that the city centre is effectively the centre of the conurbation.
If our elected representatives set aside their differences and work together for the common good, we will collectively be able to improve the lives of all our citizens and finally fulfil our potential. And the sooner that happens, the sooner we will be able to assert ourselves and the best place to live, work, learn and play in the UK.
Matthew P Bott
Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham