Today, I develop my argument that far from being a broken country, we have a spirit in Britain that is strong. In today's Sunday Times I argue that sometimes it is when times are tough that you often see some-one’s true nature.

A huge 'well done' to the Jamie Reynolds, Ali Reece and the team at Birmingham's Christmas Crisis who I went to see at Great Hampton Row this morning. Teams of vounteers have been working round the clock to give some of Birmingham's homeless somewhere warm to sleep, hot food, some Christmas prezzies and some seasonal cheer. There were, quite frankly, an incredibly inspiring lot who have puts in hours and hours of work for others.

One of the best things about this time of year is the way the generations come together. I've not visited many communities where people don't want young and old to come together more often in the kind of partnership that we feel we've lost. Where we can grow mutual respect - and teach each other what we know. So, to help the Cabinet Office is today launching a £3 million fund to help recruit 20,000 volunteers to join projects that bring young and old together.

Liam Byrne MP recently met with representatives of West Midlands Fire Service to discuss their plans to change station locations across the West Midlands.

They met as part of the public consultation for the Fire Service Annual Service Plan 2009 – 2010. The consultation is open till January.

The MP for Hodge Hill welcomes the plan for a new fire station in Shard End, but is concerned that the fire service plans to close the station in Ward End and relocate it to Stechford.

Something truly impressive is going on in Glebe Farm. This place means a lot to me. Before I got elected I ran my first campaign here back in 2004 against drug-dealing. Crime has proved tough to crack.

We had the pivilige showing the Guardian round Hodge Hill on Friday, ahead of our week's report on aspiration. I wanted them to see some of the work in places like International school where an inspirational head is re-inventing the idea of how a school sits as a hub in the centre of a community, offering a whole host of new services - like post-16 training, IT facilities for silver surfers, and family learning classes.

Investing in aspiration is one of the most important priorities for the next phase of new Labour. This week, I'll publish a major report looking at how aspiration differs across deprived communities. The truth is our low income neighbourhoods have very different horizons. But some low income, largely white working class places have 10pc fewer kids wanting to stay on at school than the national average. Look out for the report later this week.

Last Friday took me to Alston school for a chat with the school council and a school gate surgery. I like it here because we're at the heart of the Norton estate, named after Lord Norton, the last lord of the manor of Saltley - a place with a good 800 years of history. Once again, I was struck by how our children are united in what they want to see; less crime, more police and more for kids to do where they feel safe. I was inspired to see the sheer number of instruments in the school hall.

Friday saw me spend a lot of time down Cotterills way. Its a place of some history. Not long after this part of the world was incorporated into the city boundaries, some of the first council homes were up, on Cotterills Lane in 1920, based on a design pioneered by the Cadburys.

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