Plea to Birmingham City Council amid fears that ‘streets are not safe for children’

A demonstration on road safety by Better Streets for Birmingham
-Credit: (Image: Handout)

Birmingham City Council has been urged to rethink a controversial decision amid fears that the city’s streets “are not safe for children”. Cllr John Cotton, leader of the council, recently unveiled his new top team and one divisive change was the merging of the environment and transport briefs.

The decision to axe the separate transport and highways brief as part of the cabinet reshuffle has attracted criticism from road safety activists who are deeply concerned about deaths and injuries on the city’s roads. According to a recent council consultation, 25 people are killed each year on Birmingham’s roads while 400 people suffer serious injuries - figures which were called “devastating and unacceptable.”

One petition, calling on the council to reinstate the transport cabinet member role, has now attracted 188 signatures as of Wednesday, June 5. Rachel Segal Hamilton, who started the petition, wrote: “If the council is serious about road safety, they need to give this issue the resource it requires.

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“In a wider brief covering transport and environment, [deaths on Birmingham's roads] are just a single bullet point in a list of priorities.”

"The people of Birmingham deserve better,” she continued. “We deserve to live in a city where we can travel without fear for our lives or the lives of our children.”

She added it was for this reason she called on the council to reinstate the transport cabinet member role with immediate effect. One worried parent who signed the petition said: "I cannot allow my son on my road because of the ridiculous way some people drive in the town.

“The streets are not safe for children." "Road safety is a complex subject and needs skilled attention,” another argued.

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Rachel Segal Hamilton acknowledged that under previous Cabinet Members for Transport, the council had shown “impressive vision and commitment” to improving road safety. “In its 2024 Road Safety Harm Reduction Strategy consultation, Birmingham City Council proposed ways to move towards eliminating road deaths altogether through improvements to street design and layout and better enforcement,” she continued.

“This is a step in the right direction, but vision is not enough.”

Birmingham City Council's response

A spokesperson for the council said the local authority was aware of the petition and that it will be submitted for presentation to the council in due course. “Also, as was made clear to full council the other week, the Birmingham Transport Plan has not changed, the officers delivering that work have not changed and nor has the council’s determination to see that through,” they added.

Echoing the same thoughts on the Transport Plan at a meeting of the city council last month, Cllr John Cotton said: “As someone who has spent a lifetime relying on buses and trains to get around Birmingham, you have my word on that". He continued that the changes “better focus” cabinet responsibilities with the council’s improvement and recovery plan.

“The improvement and transformation of the council must be absolutely the sole focus as we move through this municipal year,” he said. Cllr Liz Clements, who was previously responsible for the separate transport and highways brief on the cabinet, added: “I held the transport portfolio for the last two years with huge enjoyment.

“I will be continuing to campaign on these issues and watching whether we are actually delivering on the principles of the Birmingham Transport Plan. We now, as Labour-led Birmingham City Council, have an unprecedented opportunity to transform public transport in Birmingham with the election of Richard Parker.”

Birmingham City Council leader John Cotton (left)
Birmingham City Council leader John Cotton (left) -Credit:Birmingham Live

Cllr Majid Mahmood is the cabinet member now responsible for both environment and transport. The council unveiled its path to recovery after finding itself in an alarming financial position, which is the result of Birmingham-specific issues, such as an equal pay fiasco and the disastrous implementation of a new IT and finance system, as well as the rising demand for services and funding cuts.

Council leader John Cotton previously condemned the Conservative government and argued councils across the country face a perfect storm of smaller budgets and higher costs while Tory politicians, such as Rishi Sunak, have criticised the mistakes made by the Labour council administration.

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