wenty five years a go, a few intrepid people formed a ‘Building a Better Balsall Heath’ campaign. The leading lights included representatives from a Mosque, Anglican and Methodist churches, and a voluntary organisation. They were joined by a Trades Unionist and half a dozen residents.
Together, they made progress in changing the image of the area, forming and representing the local voice to ‘the powers that be’, helping organise a mid -summer carnival, starting & contributing to a community newspaper.
They achieved a number of successes and eventually decided to become a Company Limited by Guarantee and to be called the Balsall Heath Neighbourhood Forum.
In 1992 the first elections to the Forum’s executive were held. Today, out of a population of 15,000 with 9,000 of voting age, some 1,000 are members and 600 take part in the vote. There are 12 resident elected members, 6 residents who represent voluntary and faith organisations and 4 who are co-opted.
In 1992, there were no employees. All the efforts of the Forum were voluntary. But, so much needed to be done – rubbish and graffiti moved, crime reduced, more people involved and supported – that it was decided to raise the funds to recruit and manage staff. Today, the voluntary elected committee employs 20 people.
The Forum now both represents the local voice to the public and private sectors and undertakes a variety of tasks with the help of its staff and an array of volunteers. It is rearranging the way Balsall Heath is managed and governed. It is enabling more and more local people to improve the quality of local life.