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Barbara’s Blog

BRIDGING THE GAP

29-01-2009

The forgotten communities in our midst are overlooked by conventional economics observes Barabra Panvel.

After working for many years in three of the city’s ‘social priority areas’ I agree with what blogger Dancing Mabel and our editor have written on the Stirrer’s message board about poor white communities.

They now have neighbours from other countries – but these people, unlike their white counterparts, are valued by local and national politicians as ‘vote banks’ and protected from media slights by political correctness.

In ‘Mind the Gap’, Ferdinand Mount contrasts the concern felt for those he calls ‘Downers' in Victorian times and through the first half of the 20th century with the limited compassion, philanthropy and curiosity shown by donors, gap year students and tourists, which ‘seem more meritorious the more air miles are clocked up’.

If that level of concern existed for unemployed people in Birmingham the 'raft of real opportunities', which Dancing Mabel rightly says are needed, would have been put in place before huge amounts were spent on the city centre.

150 years ago, Thomas Attwood - the city’s first MP - saw the post-war effects of poverty and disadvantage, which had broken the sense of community and ‘antagonized an affectionate people’. He spent his life trying to repair the damage and re-establish prosperity.

Thomas Attwood

This year’s Attwood award will go to Kirsty Davies, of Smethwick’s Professional Polishing Services, who acts in the same spirit and was angered by the Chamber of Commerce’s promotion of offshoring to local manufacturers.

“With what they are proposing, they will take work away from the West Midlands and once you do that then you will never get it back . . . It may be old fashioned but I think firms have a moral duty to protect their employees and exporting manufacturing abroad is no way to do that," she said.

Jon Walker in The Birmingham Post has written that ‘the challenge to politicians is to construct a successful and stable economy’ and there is no lack of good planning.

Though Mount's radical proposals would be a step too far for politicians, the approach advocated by the Green New Deal offers constructive work, providing the jobs which would give purpose to skills and training schemes.

As the much-lauded financial sector continues to crumble, the only convincing alternative plan is to build this ‘real’ economy in which people find work – and respect - in supplying the basic needs of all for food, energy and goods.

However, Jon Walker’s challenge is even more formidable, because it is to build a successful and stable economy that does not rely on credit . . .

The proposals of economists who are addressing that challenge will be summarised next week.

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