COMMUNITIES "DISEMPOWERED" IN NEW BRUM MOVE
The future of two Birmingham organisations whose job is to engage citizens at grass roots level is in doubt today. Well sourced rumours suggest that Birmingham Area Neighbourhood Forum and Birmingham Community Empowerment Network are both being elbowed aside and replaced by a less independent set-up.
We understand that in the last week, Birmingham Strategic Partnership (main funder Birmingham City Council) has told both BANF and BCEN that they will lose their separate roles of organising local activists around the city.
Instead, a worker will be assigned to each constituency, under the control of BSP’s programme board - with the hierarchy headed by Joyce Warmington (of BRAP, the Birmingham Race Action Partnership) and Brian Carr (from BVSC, who are active in the volunteering sector).
This might all sound like dry stuff - and there are certainly more baffling initials in this story than in the average sudoku - but stay with it, because there’s an important issue at stake.
BANF and BCEN were initially funded (through BVSC) by central government, which recognised that communities needed an independent voice without worrying about biting the hand that fed them.
This meant they attracted individuals who were unafraid to speak their minds and stood up for themselves and the areas they represented, even if that meant courting unpopularity with councillors and officers.
Both organisations have revelled in a relatively large degree of freedom, with members, for example, helping to collect petitions in support of the Birmingham Mail’s mayoral referendum campaign.
However, as we warned in May, the government created precisely the conditions it had initially sought to avoid when at the start of this financial year it started channelling cash through Birmingham City Council.
We’re confident that none of this has any bearing on the proposed "restructuring" (heaven forbid!) but, if nothing else, it meant that BCEN staff had no job security beyond September (see the story here) .
Now it seems their fears were justified.
Both BANF and BCEN have been told they will be able to tender for work under the new regime, but even if they are successful, the new power structure makes it unlikely they’ll have the same opportunity for plain speaking.
One source told The Stirrer: "They say this is all about empowerment, but really this is disempowerment. They want us both out of the way.
"It is a way of killing two birds with one stone".
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