11th January 2012
Birmingham City Council have commissioned a research team from Aston University to undertake three overlapping research studies regarding issues the Council faces, namely ‘Political disengagement across the city’, ‘Measuring poverty’, and ‘White identities in outer Birmingham’.
The research which was carried out by the Aston Centre for Interdisciplinary Research into Language and Diversity (InterLanD) at Aston University found that deprivation within Birmingham is a now wider issue than purely restricted to inner city wards.
More than 200 Birmingham residents from the areas of Ladywood, Washwood Heath, Soho, Kingstanding, Shard End and Quinton were asked their views on a range of areas including why people are moving away from formal, party politics, what they think politics should actually be about and how people on the ground think about what poverty means.
Key findings from the research studies show:
The relationship between the City Centre and the outer areas is not what planners assume: residents cannot easily access central facilities instead of local ones, or necessarily want to. Local public spaces, for example, emerge as mattering far more to people than the City Centre.
Most residents’ geographical horizons are relatively small: focusing on neighbourhoods rather than wards.
Traditionally white majority outer wards are also economically deprived. While there have been plenty of studies of the central wards, with high concentrations of minority ethnic residents, which have traditionally been believed to be the most disadvantaged, the ‘deprivation map’ of the city now includes some predominantly white areas such as Kingstanding, Shard End and parts of Quinton.
Residents want to be listened to in respect of the complaints they have regarding a range of things that are everyday concerns: the frustration they feel is representative of a wider breakdown in communication between local authorities and the public they serve.
A limited understanding of political processes, with a lack of trust and confidence in political representatives.
Whilst the findings show a number of challenges for Birmingham in terms of strategic planning, they also highlight key priorities such as continuing to promote cohesion and furthering integration in the City which will positively benefit Birmingham residents.
Dr Steve Garner, Senior Lecturer in Sociology from the InterLanD Research Centre at Aston University, said: “This research has given a voice to people who do not usually get heard. As a result of InterLanD’s research, Birmingham City Council will be looking at reinvigorating local democracy and how to strengthen the equalities agenda so that communities within Birmingham recognise themselves in it.”
Cllr Alan Rudge, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Human Resources at Birmingham City Council, said: "It is important that everyone within Birmingham feels they have a role to play in the democratic process, and it is clear that a significant proportion of the population do not feel this way.
"The research we have commissioned gives us a clear picture of what some of the underlying issues are that are affecting our communities in terms of poverty, deprivation and political disengagement - and will help us create and implement the strategies which will help everyone feel they are a relevant part of the vibrant city which Birmingham can be for all."
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For further information please contact Louise Russell, Communications Officer, Aston University on 0121 204 4637 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Research commissioned by Cllr Allan Rudge (Cabinet Member for Equalities & Human Resources) and Mashuq Ally (Head of Equalities).