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Style Council sets out its stall.

Byline: Paul Dale Chief Reporter

A partnership of leading business figures set to take over responsibility for managing Birmingham city centre has unveiled its policy priorities.

At the top of the list for the City Centre Board are pledges to provide cleaner streets and to make the central area a more attractive and safer place to work, shop and live in.

There is also a promise to develop better customer care training for city centre workers who come into contact with members of the public.

The board will have 14 members and operate at 'arm's length' from the city council, although suggestions that Birmingham should copy Coventry, Manchester and Glasgow by forming an entirely separate city centre company have been rejected.

Senior city councillor Mike Leddy, chairman of the shadow board, said the intention was to establish Birmingham as a 'style capital' to rival the West End of London within a few years.

Currently meeting in shadow form, the board will move to permanent headquarters on the sixth floor of the Rotunda. Members are drawing up plans to recruit a city centre director, to be paid by the council, who will head the operation.

Coun Leddy (Lab Perry Barr) added: 'We have produced a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of Birmingham city centre. With all the new squares and pedestrian zones it is unrecognisable compared to the city centre of ten years ago.'

Charles Smith, of the professional services lobby group Birmingham Forward, a member of the shadow board, said the next year would usher in exciting changes for the city centre.

'It's being run by the council at the moment and they have done a very good job, but its a bit janitorial. What we are about is taking it on to a higher plane,' said Mr Smith.

'Birmingham is competing against the likes of Barcelona and Madrid and the view is that we need to make our city centre a top quality destination.

'This is a big change for Birmingham. You have all the major players involved, a critical mass of people with shared aspirations. We have got to attract people to Birmingham and keep them coming back. We have got to show people that this is the place to be.'

David Pywell, Birmingham City Council's director of transportation, said the aim was to develop a shared vision of management of the city centre. There was also a commitment to achieve more efficient and cost-effective services provided by the city council and the private sector.

'Progress now needs to be made in recruiting the city centre director who will be employed by the city council but will report to and receive instructions from the board,' said Mr Pywell.

Other objectives for the board include:

Developing a strategy to co-ordinate city centre events and visitor services

Increase the number of residents and visitors using city centre facilities

Support the promotion of quality buildings and public spaces

Promote the vitality and viability of city centre shopping, leisure and culture.

Board members are expected to take up their formal duties in the summer, following the appointment of a city centre director. The partnership will be funded partly by the city council and partly by private sector sponsorship.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 27, 2001
Words:536
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