Now, the end is near... I’ll state my case, of which I’m cer­tain

Birmingham Post - - ADVERTISING FEATURE: KING EDWARD VI HANDSWORTH GRA -

off many as­sets and its dire sit­u­a­tion was ex­ac­er­bated by the equal pay de­ba­cle which sucked more than £1 bil­lion from the city bank ac­count.

There has been a big fail­ure on hous­ing from all sides and all lev­els of Govern­ment, which is only now be­gin­ning to be ad­dressed.

As jour­nal­ists we glory in our bat­tles with the po­lit­i­cal big­wigs, tak­ing the lead­ers down a notch or two, de­flat­ing a few egos, ex­pos­ing hypocrisy and wrong­do­ing and even win­ning a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion bat­tle with bu­reau­crats.

The move from news­pa­per jour­nal­ism to the on­line arena has shown us more than ever what our read­ers en­joy and will take the time to read.

So there is less fo­cus on the politi­cians – who’s got what job, which back­bencher is tipped for fu­ture lead­er­ship, who is be­ing dis­loyal. Party spats mat­ter lit­tle. Whether a lo­cal coun­cil­lor is a Cor­bynista or a Brex­i­teer is of no con­cern to many. It is what they are do­ing and how it im­pacts on lives that mat­ters.

The read­ers want to know where the 1,000 homes will be built, how much they will be charged for driv­ing into the city cen­tre and park­ing when they get there, where schools are open­ing and clos­ing, when the new tram line will be fin­ished and why they are wait­ing so long for a coun­cil house.

And like me, they love plan­ning sto­ries. It is one of the few coun­cil com­mit­tees which makes gen­uine de­ci­sions, where those de­ci­sions are not taken on party lines and of­fer a vis­i­ble dif­fer­ence to the city’s land­scape.

There are also sto­ries which need to be told and there will still be cor­re­spon­dents, in­clud­ing a new clutch of lo­cal democ­racy re­porters shared with the BBC, plough­ing through the coun­cil’s ac­counts, analysing the multi-mil­lion pound con­tracts and hold­ing de­ci­sion mak­ers to ac­count.

Per­son­ally, it is the sto­ries which make a dif­fer­ence which linger in the mem­ory.

It was our cov­er­age, fol­low­ing an ap­proach by three taxi drivers, of the poorly sign­posted city cen­tre bus lanes in 2013 which led to more than 40,000 fines be­ing can­celled and ap­peals be­ing won.

It was a scan­dal that par­ents vis­it­ing the Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal day af­ter day were sud­denly del­uged with mul­ti­ple fines to­talling hun­dreds of pounds and that it took so long for the coun­cil to ad­mit its er­ror.

I am also proud that at a time of ris­ing anti-im­mi­grant sen­ti­ment, the Post’s sis­ter pa­per, the Birm­ing­ham Mail, de­cided to cam­paign for the city to take in its share of refugees from the war-torn hell hole of Syria. Pres­sure was ap­plied, com­mu­ni­ties mo­ti­vated and coun­cil lead­ers lis­tened. Fifty duly ar­rived.

To see vol­un­teers and char­i­ties rally round to help them set­tle was in­spir­ing. I met one of the fam­i­lies and was happy to pass on their thanks to the city for its warm wel­come.

I also re­call the case, raised by the Birm­ing­ham Cit­i­zens cam­paign group, of the sin­gle mum and her chil­dren made home­less af­ter flee­ing an abu­sive part­ner.

A des­per­ate short­age of hous­ing left her stranded in a bud­get ho­tel in Stoke-on-Trent, com­mut­ing daily down the M6 to get her chil­dren to school and her­self to work.

Our cov­er­age led to ac­tion be­ing taken and she was moved back to the city.

Un­for­tu­nately there re­main many in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions but there is ev­i­dence ac­tion is be­ing taken.

It has been a joy and priv­i­lege to write for the Birm­ing­ham Post & Mail and to have a front row seat as the city changes and grows.

But now it’s time for some­one else to take on that role.

As jour­nal­ists we glory in our bat­tles with the po­lit­i­cal big­wigs, tak­ing the lead­ers down a notch or two

> Birm­ing­ham Post & Mail po­lit­i­cal guru Neil Elkes (sec­ond from right) con­tribut­ing to the Adam Boul­ton TV pro­gramme dur­ing the 2017 gen­eral elec­tion

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