From Cllr Olly Armstrong, Labour Councillor for Northfield ward.
One Year In
It has been just over a year since I was elected as your local councillor in Northfield Ward.
It has been a year of engaging community meetings, fixing Northfield’s problems from streetlights to flooded roads, to broken bollards and fly tipped waste and making Northfield’s voice heard at the Council House. I’ve only grown prouder by the day to call this ward our home.
I’ve met with so many of you in coffee shops, church halls and community centres.
I’ve heard your thoughts at packed out and passionate ward forum meetings, had days in court on Northfield’s behalf. We (more updates on this in the coming weeks) challenged a large-scale build on the North Worcestershire Golf Course and the eviction of a young care-leaver and member of our community – whilst different, they’re equally important. I know that every problem of every size matter to someone and as your councillor – it matters to me too.
A year of enjoying getting to know so many of you, as well as a year of frustration and shared despair that so many of our friends, family and neighbours in Northfield are struggling. They’re struggling to feed their kids, heat their homes, cope and survive under this current Government’s deliberate austerity. Northfield deserves so much more than the cuts it’s faced and the hardship its people are in. As ever, I am here to do my best to help you however I can and signpost you to others to help when I can’t.
It has also been a year of phone calls, emails, ward forums and face to face meetings to discuss clean air and the Clean Air Zone (or Clean Air City as I would personally prefer!)
If you’ve joined me at a one of my regular ward meetings, invited me to your community event, or simply followed my campaign since I decided to stand in December 2017 then you will know: There is one political issue that I passionately believe interlinks all other policy, action and intent. It intrinsically intertwines all our futures, whatever our background: Climate Breakdown.
I’m thrilled to say that on Tuesday 11th June Birmingham City Council passed a motion declaring a Climate Emergency. Our city needs to shape all future policy and action with the question “how does this decision impact/support the local community AND is it responsible considering the threat poses climate breakdown to our city?”
A Local Response to Climate Breakdown
Our area has a long and proud heritage of craftship, innovation and manufacturing. A history of making, building and constructing practical things: cars and places and communities. I believe we should be at the forefront of an equally innovative future: placing the industrial and skilled ‘maker’ jobs at the heart of our response to Climate Breakdown. I believe by making Northfield a green Industrial heartland we can rejuvenate our skilled communities and sustain them for a better future?. Historically, we’ve led the way as an industrial area, now let’s lead the way to a green industrial future and sustain our skilled communities for years to come.
Join The Conversation, Get Involved
If you would like to hear a bit more about my thoughts on it, you can find my speech from the most recent full council meeting below.
What are your thoughts on how we respond to climate breakdown in a just, fair, rapid way? Let me know.
As ever, do get in touch if I can ever be of any help or you need some advice. Or do join us at one of my regular local ward forum meetings(details always updated here on b31voices and on my social media)
To finish; thank you for a wonderful first 12 months as your local Councillor. I look forward to another year ahead of conversation, change and community; with positive change by, for and with the people of Northfield.
Olly Armstrong, Climate Emergency Motion Speech, Birmingham City Council, 11th June 2019:
There will be many decisions made over the years in this room. Good decisions. Bad decisions. Mediocre decisions and amazing life changing decisions. That no one will remember. That is the nature of local government. You seek to do your best for those you represent, and it often goes unnoticed. And that is ok.
But this decision today, and how we act in response, will ring through the ages
If we do nothing, our children will still love us, because that is the nature of children. But I’m not sure they will forgive us.
If we say all the right words but do not act; this city will not forgive us. But, if we get this right, it will be remembered.
If your house was on fire and the fire fighters turned up and shouted “Please! Won’t somebody do something?” We would be both bemused and furious. We would expect them to do all they could with their training, skills and capacity to rescue anything precious. Most importantly, rescue the young, the old, the struggling: to save the humans. To pull the people out from the fire.
We have a 10-year warning of impending climate catastrophe. We need a 3, 4 and 5 year emergency response plan and a 10, 20, 30 and 40 year transformative vision that is, in the words of my favourite turtle Michael Angelo; radical to its core.
A plan to prioritise people and communities, to connect this city by bus, tram, train, bike, foot. A clean air city that is easy, safe and fun to travel over by wheelchair, pushchair, foot, bike, for all ages, for those with sight and mobility impairment. We should seek to rewild this city’s spaces wherever we can and to be a city that leads on carbon zero homes, buildings and highways.
Now this is a cross party motion. Rightly so; there will be no cross-party politics if all humans are dead of hunger, thirst and heat.
I believe Labour will best offer a just response for the poorest, most vulnerable, for the working class, for the many. Not just a green future for the richest few but a green future for all – with wellbeing at its beating heart.
Today’s motion, decision and subsequent actions will define us all. Our political futures will be set by how we seek a just, decent, brave, wise and urgent response to climate breakdown
We have a choice to make. So, choose well