Words & pics by Ed King
Campaigning for the Local Elections kicked off in Kingstanding over the Easter weekend, with Labour candidate Naz Rasheed pulling out all the stops at a public rally on fighting crime and the importance of youth engagement.
Held outside The Grapevine convenience store and off licence on Hawthorn Road, where the first bleed control kit was installed in Kingstanding in October 2020, Ms Rasheed introduced speeches from Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward, Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil, Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton – alongside several local campaigners and members of the community.
The event was organised to show the Labour candidate’s focus on tackling issues over youth crime, street and gang violence, and supporting youth services in Kingstanding.
Bringing some of the city’s top politicians and crime fighters to Kingstanding, the message was clear – if elected on 5 May, Labour’s Naz Rasheed is committed to: “get youth violence off our streets.”
“After 5 May I will be forming a task force with local schools, churches, and other local organisations for a better and safer Kingstanding for us, our children, and future generations.
“Today has brought community leaders, politicians, and the public together; it has shown we can work together to rebuild youth services and community policing.
Then citing the old proverb about family and community, Ms Rasheed surmised: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Council Leader Ian Ward was the first speaker at the youth crime rally, putting his support behind the Kingstanding Labour candidates and reiterating the £1m cash injection from Birmingham City Council and the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to hire more youth workers and challenge youth violence.
Cllr Ward told the crowd: “Over the last ten years of austerity… we (Birmingham City Council) have been unable to increase the number of youth workers we have working across the city.
“But this financial year, we have managed to find £1m which we’ve set aside to employ more youth workers across Birmingham – working alongside the Police and Crime Commissioner.
“The PCC has been running a scheme employing resources along the routes that schoolchildren use to walk to and from school, and we’re going to use the £1m and the youth workers we’re going to employ to supplement that scheme and directly focus on the issue of knife crime across the city.”
Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil began his speech by supporting the Council’s “choice” to put extra money into youth services, then adding “a bit of optimism” and celebrating the city’s young people and what they can go on to achieve.
He continued: “We’re (Police and Crime Commissioner’s office) using what little resources we have to really prioritise preventative activities – to get young people into education, into skills and jobs, but also recognising the mental health challenges as well.
“It’s not just about saying ‘come on, pull your socks up and work harder’ it’s about recognising the difficult circumstances they (young people) have.
“It’s why Simon Foster, the elected Police and Crime Commissioner, has committed to an extra 450 police officers back in the community – not to take a heavy handed approach, but to build relationships with the people here doing proper community work and to problem solve our way out of it.”
Recently elected Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton also gave a passionate speech about the importance of “working with partners… if we are going to drive change” and the failings of the Conservative councillors in Kingstanding.
After her speech, Paulette Hamilton further told Erdington Local:
“Kingstanding is a really important part of Erdington. What I can say to the residents of Kingstanding is ‘we have heard you’. There aren’t enough resources given to the area around the (Kingstanding) circle, we’ve got no centres for young people that I know of in Kingstanding. The churches have tried to do what they can, but they can’t do it in isolation.
“We need more work going on with early intervention and early prevention; we need work going on across our schools; we need work going on across our colleges and universities to ensure that we don’t lose young people along the way.”
Paulette Hamilton added: “£1m (spread across the city) is not a lot of money, but it shows me there is a commitment (from Birmingham City Council) and that we have to work from that commitment to ensure we have a clear policy and what that means for areas like Kingstanding.
“As a local MP I have to be clear on what the (community) partners are doing, on what young people are saying they are lacking and what they want, and whether the polices are there to support this and to challenge that at a government level.
“But we can’t just run ahead; we need to listen to the community and from there make the changes.”
Problems around youth crime are a nationwide concern, with the West Midlands recording a considerable rise in incidents of serious violence amongst young people since coronavirus restrictions were lifted.
In May 2021 alone, as school and colleges reopened their classrooms, reports of youth violence went up by over 30% across the region.
Last May, the high profile killing of schoolboy Dea John Reid took place on College Road in Kingstanding – a revenge attack that culminated in the fatal stabbing, following violent altercations between two groups of young people earlier in the day.
Local Elections will be held across the UK on Thursday, 5 May. The Labour candidates for Kingstanding (Erdington) are Naz Rasheed and Des Hughes.
For more on the Labour candidates for Kingstanding visit www.facebook.com/KingstandingLabour