The StirrerThe Stirrer

news that matters, campaigns that count

for Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond



Barbara Panvel pays tribute to a local inner city pioneer, and offers a way forward for some of our most hard-up communities.

Our regime does not work in the interests of most people. We need politicians who will listen to the views and ideas of those on the ground, who are living with the situation - and then act on their findings.

Adrian Cadbury, though primarily a businessman who formerly headed Cadbury's, has shown the way to anyone truly hoping to serve the people who elected her or him.

In Aston/Newtown, a few years ago, he chaired and was closely involved with the Aston Commission - no doubt inspired by his work with the Birmingham Settlement in Newtown. It was set up to listen to those living in the area who had become disillusioned with the political system, feeling that there was no point in turning out to vote for people who made promises which were never kept.

They were asked what should be done to make Aston Newtown a better place in which to live. Several issues were raised and action was taken. One problem expressed was that people in the area were unable to get bank loans to start or improve businesses because they had no form of security to offer. Sir Adrian, Pat Conaty and others, with considerable difficulty, set up the Aston Reinvestment Trust [ART] the first in the country. This is a revolving fund: when loans are repaid the money can help another business. Profit is reinvested in the company. Over the years it has created or retained nearly 2000 jobs in the city.

Its work could be extended - we need such a facility in every struggling area - but a change of awareness is needed before more can be done to create new enterprises, strengthen the local economy and generate new businesses. All will have to be aware that consumers are also producers - of food, goods, services and the future generation.

Instead of the consumer/producer's money flying abroad, it should be circulating to strengthen its neighbour's employment security in the local and regional economy, to check rising unemployment and so to reduce the amount of depression and crime.

Locally owned enterprises also need to play their part: Samuel Groves' company producing bake and cookware could opt to pack these in boxes and cartons made nearby at Bayliss Ormerod, protect their vehicles with ExpressLock products made nearby and choose security doors and shutters from Fitzpatrick Doors in Tyseley. Quality and delivery should improve as defects could be reported and design improvements suggested face to face - away with unanswered emails and tortuous telephone answering systems.

Urban households would have to look further afield in the region - until shops dedicated to local products arrive. They can choose from a very wide range of regional produce, including potatoes and crisps from Leominster, cider made near Stratford, milk from Hockley Heath, chutneys and pickles from Pershore, fruit from Evesham, wine near Stourbridge, speciality cheeses from Earlswood, real ale brewed in Sedgeley and Brownhills, lamb from Hereford, perry from Hereford, beef from Cleobury Mortimer, handmade sweets from West Bromwich and vegetables from Holt Heath.

Sometimes it will cost a little more - sometimes not - but it will bring added benefits in terms of common purpose, hope, health, opportunity and increased security,

On a larger scale this would mean our own industries reviving - regardless of currency fluctuations - because firms would no longer be dependent on exports. They would be the gilt on the gingerbread.

If this change of awareness is acted on, our water and energy utilities - and foreign policy - should eventually return to English ownership and control. The next generation would live in a more hopeful, healthy, interesting and secure country.

Leave a comment or raise new issues on The Stirrer message board.

©2006 The Stirrer