Birmingham City Council has pulled off a bit of a coup.
They have enticed Professor Michael Parkinson to lead a new team pulling together a 10 year vision for the future of the city centre. His credentials are impeccable, from the Government’s recent State of the English Cities report to leading the Economic and Social Research Council’s CITIES project.
The council’s website tells us: “The team’s task is to draw up a 10 year strategy for development within the ring road which will enable Birmingham to take its rightful place as a globally competitive city”.
Whoa, wait a second…. Th
The council appears to be saying two things. First, acknowledging that Birmingham is not yet a globally competitive city (which may well be supported by Professor Parkinson’s opening task of benchmarking Brum against the best in the world) and also expressing belief that it is the city centre which will drive Birmingham’s progress towards that goal.
Coherent planning for the city centre makes sense as does bringing in extra leadership to craft and deliver that vision. But it is only three years since devolution and localisation was rolled out on the line that it is time for the neighbourhoods. Already councillors are urging the leadership to make it clearer that this is the future.
So which is the chicken, which the egg and does Birmingham have the capacity to lead on both fronts simultaneously?
Will we see a shift of attention from neighbourhoods back to the centre – or will Michael Parkinson also sharpen the focus on how neighbourhoods support that global ambition? Or maybe there is one other question – has someone told the council leadership that it is the centre that really, really counts? If that is the case tell us.