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'No complacency' over tackling ethnic issues.

Byline: Neil Connor Community Affairs Reporter neil_connor@mrn.co.uk

The deaths of teenagers Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis have pushed the question of tackling deprivation and race issues in Birmingham to the top of the city's agenda, council leader Sir Albert Bore said yesterday.

Sir Albert said the tragic New Year shootings had to lead to renewed efforts to solving some of the problems which were most affecting disadvantaged communities.

He also warned that there was 'no room for complacency' in tackling ethnic issues as Birmingham prepares to become Europe's first white minority city in 2012.

Sir Albert and the city council's chief executive Lin Homer were among the speakers at the Birmingham Race Summit, an event supported by The Birmingham Post, which saw more than 150 delegates debate issues surrounding race, racism and cultural diversity.

The event, at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, was organised by the Birmingham Race Action Partnership, an agency which tackles discrimination and disadvantage. It was the first race conference of its type to be staged in the city.

Referring to the Aston shootings, Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) said: 'At the beginning of the year, we in Birmingham witnessed the tragic deaths of Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis.

'We must ensure that out of the tragedy of their deaths comes a renewed effort to address all the underlying problems that may detrimentally impact on the city's diverse communities - alienation, racism, inequality, poverty and disadvantage.

'At the same time we must not forget to celebrate the achievements of minority ethnic communities in the city.

'At the start of the academic year, 30,000 four and five-yearolds started at primary schools in Birmingham, the majority of whom were non-white.

'Take those figures forward 10-20 years and you get a sense of where Birmingham's diversity is going.

'I am determined that the city will not lose its way, and that Birmingham will take its rightful place as one of the most successful diverse, multi-cultural cities in the world.

'Clearly, there is no room for complacency. The disturbances in some northern towns and cities last summer and the events in Aston are a stark reminder of what can go wrong.'

Other high-profile speakers at the event included Bob Clarke, from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Commission, Lee Jasper, policy director for the Mayor of London, and Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England in Birmingham.

Ms Homer, who has been the council's chief executive since October, said when she was first appointed to the position in July she wanted to continue the local authority's equality agenda.

The city's top council official yesterday referred to her time at Reading Borough Council, where she worked before moving on to Hertfordshire County Council in 1984, and then Suffolk County Council.

She said: 'When I started in local government 27 years ago I was identified by our monitoring unit. It was anonymous but everyone knew it was me when one female showed up in their figures. 'People said how good it was that the organisation had a senior female officer but I think that spotlight puts people off.

'They do not see that they are one or two role models for the organisation. But when you start to get more of a mixture in an organisation then people will start to get less shy.'

CAPTION(S):

Delegates at the Race Summit held at the Rep Theatre in Birmingham; Speakers Bob Clarke, from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Commission; Lee Jasper, policy director for the Mayor of London, and Birmingham city council's chief executive Lin Homer
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 29, 2003
Words:594
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