On Tuesday 21st November, The Future Melting Pot (TFMP) attended a talk by the Mayor of West Midland Combined Authority Andy Street at St Pauls Club in Birmingham. In addition to being an invaluable networking opportunity this event was also an exciting glimpse into the future planned for the West Midlands.
Andy Street, the Mayor, declared that the West Midlands is an area which is rapidly growing economically to become one of the most important cities In Europe let alone the UK. He stated that the West Midlands is outperforming every area of the country in both GDP rises and job creation figures which is a testament to a strategic plan of targeted investment. The Mayor also attributed this success to the work of the local authorities, services, and businesses working collaboratively despite their political leanings for the common interest of a successful region. He mentioned winning the Common Wealth Games bid and the construction of HS2 (High Speed rail) as signs that the West Midlands is an area which amid a renaissance.
However, despite exciting investment in transport from HS2 and the success of many businesses within the region there are still complex issues which need addressing. Andy Street spoke about sustainable growth and how success can only be determined when improvements are felt by everyone and not just a privileged few. When pressed during questions, he mentioned that the key to happiness of a city or company is that all its members feel the benefits of its accomplishments. A divided and isolated community is not a happy one and any developments are not sustainable if built upon rocky foundations. This is a key belief that The Future Melting Pot shares as one of our purposes of existing as a community interest company is to encourage unity in communities. This includes having an economy which young developed people sustain which is why it was particularly encouraging to hear the Mayor pledge to discuss the problem of unskilled young people in the West Midlands, which is Currently at epidemic proportions. Having a skilled workforce is the first step of improving employment and the future for many young people in the area which is why helping young people gain relevant abilities is part of The Future Melting Pot’s key strategy. He also acknowledged the serious problem of young people being priced out of the housing market with a lack of affordable first homes so has pledged to create 200,00 homes to be built-in the area. This will fill the young people of the West Midlands with hope that something to work towards and help with social cohesiveness and unity as young people will be able to have a part of the developments in the area.
Another major issue the Mayor addressed was the homelessness crisis that is affecting the West Midlands. Andy Street accepted that is perhaps one of the most difficult issues that is facing the area as homelessness often a part of an interwoven mix of complex social problems. His belief is that as being homeless exacerbates other problems the first solution should always be to find them a home. Without an address, it becomes almost impossible to apply for jobs or to receive the medical help for complex health needs. The Mayor also stated that to cut homelessness you must also try to prevent people from becoming a rough sleeper. This would involve researching the circumstances which lead to people not having a place to stay and attempting to intervene before people end up on the streets. It would be a difficult task which would need a wider analysis of society and the economy while also exploring the experiences of homeless people. This type of research could be an avenue in which TFMP could look to explore as CenterPoint estimate that there are more than 150,00 young people who ask for help with being homeless in the UK every year. Being homeless not only is a welfare issues but acts as a major barrier to employment meaning it is an issue at the heart of TFMP’s progressive vision. In this dimension, collaboration in the future on this issue is possible as the Mayor and TFMP are both invested in trying to cut homelessness in the West Midlands.
The overriding theme of the talk was one of Happiness. Both in celebrating what the West Midlands has achieved and as the goal in which we should all be aiming for. Happiness requires that people are not abandoned, but that everyone has a part in the success of the area. Andy Street believes that businesses should make sure that communities are sharing in their prosperity and as a Community Interest Company this is a philosophy that is also central to what The Future Melting Pot believes in. In terms of our current campaign, #HaltHeartache, the answer might just be through happiness and promoting unity, inclusion, and social responsibility. The best way to prevent young people from reckless driving could be to encourage the community pride and responsibility that ties in with with people being happy and connected with the society in which they live.