On the 4th June 2018, in partnership with BT and Public Policy Projects we hosted the inaugural Chamberlain Lecture which was given by Lord Heseltine at the stunning BT Tower.
Our vision is for this lecture to become an annual event where we can come together to reflect on the achievements of local government and the local public sector as a whole over the years and look ahead to where the sector is going, all the while grounded in our shared history and ethos of public service – which we believe was embodied by Joseph Chamberlain.
Without doubt, Joseph Chamberlain was an influential political figure of enormous standing and while we may not all agree on all that he stood for and campaigned on it is in recognition of his contribution to local government that our lecture is in his name.
Chamberlain was committed to social reform; on becoming Mayor of Birmingham he forcibly purchased the Birmingham Gas Light and Coke Company and the Birmingham and Staffordshire Gas Light Company on behalf of the council. The purchase generated enough by way of profit to enable the council to buy out the local water companies in 1875, a decision driven by Chamberlain’s belief that residents deserved better than the contaminated water supply that had previously served the town.
The revenue returned to the Council allowed Chamberlain to not only ensure the price of gas kept falling but to continue his reforms – building Corporation Street to relieve traffic congestion and let in light and air into that densely populated area, investing in new housing to replace the slums as well as new sewers, libraries, swimming pools, a new museum and a new art gallery.
Everyone present with us tonight, either directly or indirectly, contributes towards the betterment of our local public sector and we feel sure Chamberlain’s response to criticism of his Radical Programme will resonate:
If we fail, let us try again and again until we succeed
We were delighted to see so many attend, for those who were unable to join us you can catch up on the Lecture which is being broadcast by the BBC Parliament channel on the 9th June at 10pm. A highlights video of the night will be following shortly.