The MP leading an inquiry into the riots which tore through UK cities earlier this month has told the people of Handsworth “we are listening”.
Chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz made his pledge to an open meeting of more than 100 community activists and promised to report back before Christmas.
He was special guest at a day-long community conference looking at the causes and responses to the riots.
The Leicester MP has invited community representatives to address his committee in Parliament on September 15.
“The committee is holding an inquiry into the reasons, the police response, the networks which encouraged people to come onto the streets and will produce a report for Government and Parliament. I am hear to listen to you.”
The meeting heard that the report will include strict recommendations for Government, police forces and local authorities.
Mr Vaz added that he had been impressed by Birmingham’s response to the riots, including clean up campaigns and the peace rallies.
He said: “I have high respect for what you have done, the way you came together in unity and peace.
“I have every sympathy with those who lost loved ones, were injured, or saw their shops and livelihoods destroyed.
“By Christmas I will have a report for you which will form the basis from which Government and Parliament can forward.”
The meeting, at City College Handsworth Campus in Soho Road, was at times heated and angry as people claimed that Government cuts and lack of jobs for young people had created the conditions for the riots.
A panel of six Labour MPs, Mr Vaz, former Government ministers Vernon Coker and Caroline Flint, and Birmingham representatives Khalid Mahmood (Perry Barr), Shabana Mahmood (Ladywood) and Richard Burden (Northfield) were also given a hard time for joining in the condemnation of the rioters and looters - rather than sticking up for vulnerable neighbourhoods.
The largest applause was for National Union of Teachers official Stuart Richardson, an anti-cuts campaigner, who said: “There seems to have been a lack of recognition from politicians that this has anything to do with deprivation. It wasn’t Surrey, Dorset, Chelsea or Sutton Coldfield which saw riots. They took place in the poorest parts of the country, areas which became poorer under the last Labour Government.”
While former police officer Zahir Malik, a friend of the families of the three men killed in Winson Green, blamed police cuts for their deaths.
He said: “West Midlands Police were there as quickly as possible. But there should have been officers present prior to that happening. This is the first sign of the cutbacks.”
Another resident Camile Ade-John claimed that African-Caribbean communities were feeling singled out and blamed for the violence and living in fear of a backlash.
Mr Vaz replied that he had not heard any mention of a racial element in his discussions with police. “We have to distinguish the evidence from rumours,” he said.
But Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood warned that there is still tension and a lack of trust between police and certain communities which needs to be addressed.
“I have heard people saying they felt compelled to defend their own businesses because police were not there. But we now know that officers were otherwise occupied and having shots fired at them. When these things are explained the relationship does improve.”