Nicola Richards: Midlands Update March 2017

The West Midlands region, similarly to Manchester, is also undergoing political change with the election of the first West Midlands Mayor on May 4th 2017. The West Midlands Combined Authority incorporates eighteen local authorities and four Local Enterprise Partnerships. 

The newly formed mayoral position is seen as a positive and vital player in pushing the redevelopment agenda in Birmingham, the Black Country and the wider West Midlands. With the Government’s launch of the Midlands Engine in 2016, and the already fast paced redevelopment of vital parts of the city of Birmingham, there are many opportunities the new Mayor will have to assist putting the West Midlands on the map.

Comparably to Manchester, the powers the Mayor will have will influence agenda setting for social care, transport, housing, health and eventually policing. The vibrant Jewish Community in the West Midlands, with many of their organisations focused in Birmingham, will all be affected by the decision making powers the Mayor will adopt from Whitehall.

Therefore, I am carrying out meetings with the relevant stakeholders in the community and the Representative Council of Birmingham and West Midlands Jewry to identify their desires for the communities place in the region. Their invaluable years of experience working in these local organisations will be vital to enable me to build a manifesto that recognises the excellence in the Jewish community and the ways in which the newly elected Mayor can aid this progress.

One of the key issues in Birmingham and the wider Midlands is about retaining the Jewish Youth whom often temporarily move to the area to attend University, however do not stay. The University of Birmingham has the largest Jewish Society in the UK and Birmingham’s Hillel House is the biggest and most successful Hillel in the UK. Nottingham is also home to many Jewish Students. For the West Midlands especially, the manifesto should seek to address the issue of attracting young Jewish people to live in the area.

Birmingham’s Singer’s Hill Synagogue has done wonderful work to attract new people to get involved with the Jewish Community. I look forward to continuing to work with Rabbi Jacobs who has successfully grown the numbers attending Singer’s Hill despite the general decline in the Jewish population in Birmingham.

It’s early days in my role in the Midlands, however the meetings I have so far undertaken are hugely promising. I believe that the West Midlands Mayoral position offers great opportunities for the small but very active and vibrant Jewish Community in Birmingham. The benefits of the devolution of powers to a regional level, for a community spread across the West Midlands in small numbers, are that the provisions the community wants or needs can be more easily achieved. The result being, the community as a whole in the West Midlands can be represented in one entity.

I look forward to further meetings in the West Midlands over the coming weeks and months, and I also am very much looking forward to extending my work into the East Midlands.