Northfield’s District Convention


Montage Northfield District Convention. websiteI had the privilege of giving the closing speech of Northfield’s District Convention on Saturday. It had been a very successful event with a good attendance from community groups and organisations across the area.

With the theme of “Making a Difference in your Community” the Convention heard thought provoking contributions from Paul Slatter of the Chamberlain Forum and Barbara Labrosse, Resident Engagement Officer of Trident Housing. Some of the most valuable parts of the day, however were the five workshops, focussing on Libraries, Young People, Housing, Jobs and Skills, and Neighbourhood Working. It was there that the voices of community groups and individuals working in the Northfield area were heard most clearly. Representing local people in a Parliament, I thought it was important that I was around to hear the discussions that took place in those workshops in the report backs that followed.

Hopefully the City Council will produce a comprehensive write-up of the Convention before too long. In the meantime, though, you can get a flavour of some of the things that were said on the day via the social media wall that you can see here: .Thanks to B31 Voices for putting that all together.

In perceptive opening remarks to the day, Labour Councillor and district Chair, Brett O’Reilly observed that “politicians are only as strong and the people behind them.” He is right, that is why it is not only important that events like the District Convention take place. But that we constantly look at new ways to enable local people to have a voice in shaping the future of our communities.

Sometimes politicians find this challenging. It should be. But that underlines its importance. It is for similar reasons that at national level I think it was wrong for the Conservative-led government to have forced through what has become known as the Gagging Law to intimidate charities and voluntary organisations from speaking out on issues of concern. Unfortunately, that same kind of high-handed attitude has been evident in calls by Conservatives in this area who have attacked charities which dare to speak out. I wrote more about why I think the Tories are wrong to try to gag charities in September here:

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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