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A picture of Paradise lost and a city council whose brief's too big.

Byline: KEITH GABRIEL

IT'S very likely that Coldplay's Chris Martin thinks of Paradise as being something dreamed of by a little girl, who expected the world.

Martin is wrong. I can conclusively prove his view of Paradise is both whimsical and wholly inaccurate.

Let me take you to true Paradise. Last Saturday morning, I walked with my toddler son from the car park towards the lovely Library of Birmingham.

We walked along Summer Row, travelling through the subway underneath Paradise Circus.

As we walked through the subway, I noticed we appeared to be approaching a mound. A recently deposited mound. A bad mound. I'm not sure there's such a thing as a 'good mound', but this was unquestionably A Bad Mound.

In steering my often un-steerable son away from Bad Mound, I found myself inadvertently steering him towards a pair of discarded pants.

Without relying upon closer inspection, I think it was safe to surmise that these pants had been somewhat tarnished. It was equally easy to surmise that there was some causal relationship between the Tarnished Pants and the Bad Mound.

Our journey had become the kind of endurance test that would be rejected for reasons of taste by the producers of I'm A CelebrityGet Me Out Of Here.

The feeling wasn't improved by ascending the steps towards the side entrance of Paradise Forum, past a sign for Paradise Place itself. I looked around. If this was Paradise, then it's only fair to describe the car park stairwell on Pershore Street as nirvana.

This isn't me getting all 'Fraser Nelson' about Birmingham (Nelson had recently written a contentious piece for The Telegraph about Brum's failings) but when Axl Rose squealed about Paradise City, it was where the grass was green and the girls were pretty - not where the walls are green and the subway's shamefully in need of a clean.

My walk to Paradise Forum was a grubby experience, and not one to have to endure with my son.

In Nelson's piece, which enraged many, including Sir Albert Bore, he referred to Birmingham as being 'too big to function properly'. After walking through Paradise Lost that Saturday morning, I did actually start to ponder for the first time, 'is Birmingham too big to function properly?' I appreciate it's crackers to use cruddy Calvin Kleins as the justification for changing the entire constitution of a council. But here goes anyway Keeping a city of Birmingham's size in good nick is tough. Even the city centre itself sprawls.

So, presumably, it's extremely difficult to be responsive to the changing environment of such a massive space, especially when your council is a dense, cumbersome beast.

So let's be frank: those offending pants were probably a poignant (and, indeed, pungent) remnant of the previous evening's frivolities.

The subway leading to Paradise Forum is a well-used gateway to the city centre. Those pants should've been cleaned away by 10am on a Saturday morning. Perhaps Birmingham is too big to deal with a pair of dirty pants? Thinking outside the box(ers): would smaller boroughs within Birmingham, with their different demographics and demands, be allowed to benefit from being able to opt out of the Service Birmingham IT contract? Would they encourage greater entrepreneurialism, or quicker access to services for individuals, families and businesses? Would they provide more visible accountability and leadership at a local level? Would the autonomy of smaller boroughs provide some mitigation from another potential 'equal pay'-style catastrophe? Certainly Sutton Coldfield campaigners believe breaking away would work for them, and have suggested it would work for other areas of Birmingham too.

That's not to say I wholeheartedly side with the Sutton Coldfield campaigners.

Nor do I accept Fraser Nelson's overly negative opinion on Birmingham. And I don't fully agree with Sir Albert's suggestion the city has already effectively devolved its municipal services through the district committees - as I don't think they're necessarily that effective.

What I do accept is that before encountering the unacceptable undies, I hadn't really considered the notion of seeing Birmingham City Council broken up.

Now I don't think it's such a pants idea.

Keith Gabriel is a Birminghambased PR account manager

Perhaps Birmingham is too big to deal with a pair of dirty pants?

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A nasty surprise in a subway could be symptomatic of a council that is too big to get to grips with the small stuff>
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Title Annotation:News; Opinion, Columns
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 5, 2013
Words:732
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