Birmingham Post Legal Column

Birmingham Post Legal Column
April 2015


This is my first article as Birmingham Law Society president, written in the midst of preparations for the country’s closest and most unpredictable general election in memory on May 7. The spotlight remains on the economy.

Once considered an economic powerhouse, Birmingham was known as the ‘city of a thousand trades’, boasting thousands of small manufacturing businesses. But as industry and engineering declined during the 70s and 80s so did Birmingham and the region’s fortunes, leaving a legacy of crumbling warehouses and industrial wasteland.

In May 2013 ‘The Economist’ featured an article headlined ‘Birmingham – How to Kill a City’ discussing the transformation to one of Britain’s least successful cities. I grew up in the region in the 70s and 80s and have some sympathy for that view immortalised by local 80s bands The Specials and UB40 in their hits ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘One In Ten’.

We live in changing times, Birmingham and the region is now emerging more strongly than elsewhere and is steadily taking shape as a new commercial and industrial powerhouse. Exports from the West Midlands have grown by 30 per cent in two years, compared to two per cent nationally; the region boasts a trade surplus with China; and more businesses were created in Birmingham last year than any city outside London – more than 16,000 in total.

We have the largest business, professional & financial services (BPFS) hub in the UK outside London, bringing £23 billion (25 per cent of GVA) into the region and employing nearly 220,000 people. This includes the largest regional legal services centre in the UK outside the capital.

Birmingham is a child of industry at the heart of which lies human ingenuity and innovation and a resilience to regain its former economic glory. As we come out of a recession there is still a lot of work to be done, but with HSBC recently announcing a move to headquarters in Birmingham, echoes can be heard clearly in the ears of businesses across Europe and beyond. This is the biggest deal of a generation for Birmingham and if the banking industry chooses to make Birmingham its home, so can any other.