A place rife with criminal activity, immoral corporations, corrupt officials. It's the largest city in England outside of London.
The city is divided into the cloistered inner city which is tightly regulated and controlled, and the unregulated slums rife with violence and danger - and opportunity.
The Inner City Edit
The inner city of Birmingham is rigidly controlled by the Peace Bureau, with surveillance and Peace Officers including gyros and drones observing every public area. Any sort of disturbance (including shouting, accidents, loud disagreements) will rapidly be met by Peace Officers who will pacify and direct those involved to re-education.
Information is controlled in the inner city, sources of information (phone, internet, books, entertainment) are gated and only sources deemed acceptable by the authorities are allowed. This results in a thriving black market in forbidden media, and the hardware to access it on since all hardware is also regulated so legal hardware will only read Trusted sources.
University education is laid on for free for anyone who wants it (and people are actively encouraged), but it only follows a tightly controlled curriculum so that passing grades require agreeing with everything the government approves of.
Employment is also controlled, with all jobs centrally managed by Jobcentres in order that everyone has a "fair" chance at all jobs. This results in needing to advertise jobs based on approved criteria, and to be given jobs only on those same criteria.
Public protests are permitted as long as they are peaceful and do not upset anyone. The moment they cause any sort of dissent or unrest, Peace Officers will be sent in to close down the protest for being "provocative" or "offensive" and help the protesters into re-education.
The security zone starts with a perimeter wall, blocking the view of the slums from the inner city residents. Between the wall and the slums is a no-mans-land in order to keep any disturbance or noise from entering the inner city. Peace Officers observe the security zone at all times and control any entrance or exit.
Anyone trying to leave the inner city will need to go through a psychological assessment "for their protection", which will typically involve deep scrutiny into their personal life and reasons for leaving and almost always end with a strong recommendation that they change their mind or be taken in to help protect them against such reckless behaviour.
The Slums Edit
The outer city is broadly uncontrolled by the authorities, resulting in all sorts of localised petty "governments". Local dictatorships rise under the gangs or corporations who happen to be in power. Some areas are places of free trade and free speech and protected from violence and theft by local militia. While others are communes that eschew materialism instead focusing on each providing what they can and taking only what they need to the community. Some areas are completely uncontrolled, left in relative peace and freedom until a roving gangs or organised crime decide there is something they want.
Owing to the lack of control and regulation, almost anything can be found in the slums. If you want it, someone will provide it. The street will find a use for everything.
The Peace Bureau has only minimal control. They do not have foot patrols, as that makes their officers too easy of a target. All patrols are with patrol cars that will typically only intervene in relatively petty crimes as they lack the resources to genuinely protect the whole of the slums from serious threats. The only exceptions come when the authorities are incentivised with bribes or blackmail from someone powerful enough for them to care about, at which point the Applied Peace Force may be deployed even including airborn units for rapid response times.
Sometimes people leave the ivory tower to join the slums, when they are able to escape the constant oversight of the authorities. Owing to the information control in the inner city, these people rarely have any idea what they are getting into - and so rarely survive more than a week. Those that survive find the things they learned in the ivory tower do little to help them survive in the slums.
Except for government agents, very few people can ever return to the inner city once they have seen the reality of the slums.