Councillor Chaman Lal, a member of the British-Indian community, has become Birmingham’s first British-Indian Lord Mayor. The local councillors of Birmingham, a city in the West Midlands region of England, selected Mr Lal to represent the city as its first citizen.
Mr Lal, hailing from the Ravidassia community of British Sikhs, was born in the village of Pakhowal in Hoshiarpur, India, before relocating to the UK. He has been actively serving as a local councillor for numerous years and was re-elected as Councillor for the Soho and Jewellery Quarter Ward in the recent local elections.
Expressing his pride, Mr Lal stated in his acceptance speech during a mayoral ceremony last week, “It is a very proud moment for me and our family, as a son of an army officer born in India, but made in Birmingham. I am an adopted Brummie, and I never thought that one day I would become the Lord Mayor of my adopted city. I would like to thank my fellow councillors for electing me as their first citizen and of our great city, which happens to be the highest civic role entrusted to a serving councillor.”
According to information provided by the Birmingham City Council, Chaman Lal’s father, Sardar Harnam Singh Banga, had a notable background as a British Indian army officer who actively participated in the Italian campaign during World War II. After the war, Mr Lal’s father immigrated to England in 1954 and settled in Birmingham, where he held various job positions, including several years of employment with British Steel.
In 1964, Chaman Lal arrived in England along with his mother, Sardarni Jai Kaur, to reunite with his father. Since then, he has been residing in Birmingham. Chaman Lal attended Wattville Secondary Modern School and continued his education by attending evening classes at Sandwell and Matthew Boulton Colleges.
According to the Birmingham City Council, Chaman Lal has a strong belief in lifelong learning, which motivated him to pursue further academic studies in economics and law through part-time degree courses at the local Polytechnic.
He also attained qualifications as an electronics engineer and began his professional journey as an apprentice with an electronics company. Demonstrating exceptional progress, he eventually became the company’s youngest chief engineer in the service department and later earned a promotion to the position of manager of the service department.
In addition to his engineering career, Mr Lal ventured into entrepreneurship by establishing his own electronics business along with other ventures. In 1971, he married Vidya Wati, and the couple has been blessed with three daughters and two sons.
Chaman Lal’s involvement in politics commenced in 1989 when he joined the Labour Party. Since then, he actively participated in numerous social justice campaigns aimed at challenging inequality and discrimination.
Over the past 29 years, Mr Lal has contributed significantly to the local council’s committees, serving in various capacities. He held the role of a cabinet advisor for major transport projects and, more recently, served as the Chair of the Sustainability and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The local council highlighted that Chaman Lal has dedicated many years of service to the West Midlands Transport Authority, showcasing his strong commitment to enhancing public transportation. In his role as Chair of the Transport Scrutiny Committee, he took the lead in several Task and Finish Groups.
One notable achievement was providing recommendations for implementing the most effective e-ticketing solution for the West Midlands Public Transport Authority (WMPTA). As a result of these recommendations, the contactless travel system (Swift Card) was introduced in the West Midlands area.
Furthermore, his policy reviews have yielded positive outcomes, such as the expansion of late-night and early-morning bus services. These enhancements aimed to cater to the requirements of the night economy and early morning workers, ensuring improved accessibility. Beyond his political engagements, Mr Lal maintains a range of interests, including cricket, live music, and performing arts.