How we’re turning difficult conversations into new opportunities for all

Tackling inequality is a priority for the council, determined that vital conversations with Birmingham’s diverse communities result in meaningful change. Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Community Safety & Equalities explains.

Birmingham is a brilliantly diverse city - home to over 1m people of 187 different nationalities – but many of our citizens do not have access to the same opportunities or services as the rest of the population.

Two years ago we began some challenging and difficult conversations with communities across the city on how we can really tackle the injustices they face – and make tackling these inequalities Everyone’s Battle, Everyone’s Business.

I have been working with colleagues across Birmingham City Council, as well as a range of city partners, to help eradicate the barriers and challenges they often face be it in education, employment, health or housing.

Last month, the city council held its first Race Equity Conference – organised by colleagues in Equalities & Cohesion and the Corporate Black Workers Group – aimed at opening opportunities to our staff, showcasing the work being done to ensure our workforce really represents the communities we serve. 

Public consultation on Everyone’s Battle, Everyone’s Business showed there was much to do to enable staff from all ethnic communities could open the door to new opportunities that would help them progress their careers with the council: the lack of diversity within our senior leadership and management teams can no longer be ignored.

To nurture a future generation of leaders that will truly represent Birmingham, we worked with Operation Black Vote on a new leadership programme: It was so popular we are developing a second phase, to help bring this opportunity to as many of our staff as possible.

An Emerging Leaders Programme is also being developed to address under-representation of ethnic minorities across the council, especially at senior management levels, which is due to be launched next summer.

And this is not just about opening doors, but also ensuring employees are recognised and rewarded for the work that they do – so we have also set bold targets around eradicating Race and Gender Pay Gaps, as well as looking at new ways to help our workforce develop and progress in their careers.

A refreshed Everyone’s Battle, Everyone’s Business action plan for 2022/23 focuses on promoting race equality – through building a skilled, diverse workforce to create a culture of equity and inclusion in all that we do.

However the issues posed by racial inequality are sadly not unique to the council or indeed Birmingham.

November is Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM) which aims to raise awareness of the discrimination Muslims may face and the impact misconceptions about Muslim and Islam may have on people and communities wherever they live and work.

On Monday (14 November) I will chairing a special IAM event at the Council House which will feature a range of speakers from organisations including West Midlands Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and Green Lane Mosque.

The council is keen to widen engagement with the public on understanding and tackling Islamophobia – as this will help us support Muslim communities and inform how hate crime is tackled, to create safer spaces for all.

We must seize this opportunity to make the changes that our citizens need and deserve, because building a fairer city is everyone’s battle - and everyone’s business.

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