Police & Crime Commissioner By-Election

Campaigning in the sunshine in Erdington High Street this morning for the Police and Crime Commission by-election. The by-election has been called following the sad death of the former PCC Bob Jones. The Conservative candidate at the by-election is Les Jones.

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Labour Councillors Break Ranks

What a ridiculous situation Birmingham’s Labour Councillors have got themselves in!

In a budget the size of some small countries’ budgets, the saving of £2.5 million to scrap the free garden waste collection is chicken feed. However the bad publicity this decision has given the Labour Group is monumental.

But still lead the Leadership plough on with it. Backbenchers and Labour MPs are more panicky though. The press talked of crisis meetings in the run up to the local elections. One Cabinet Member lost his seat and another almost did. The Labour Group Secretary was also beaten.

Then we had from the ridiculous scenario of Labour MPs and Councillors tweeting pictures of themselves outside Lifford Lane watching the queues of people waiting to get rid of their garden waste.

Yes, it made sense for the Cabinet Member and officers to visit the site to work out ways to improve the situation. But when you have MPs and Councillors who have NO executive powers to do anything about it, all jumping on the bandwagon and using it as a photo opportunity, then it smacks of them desperately wanting to be SEEN to be trying to do something, rather than actually solving the problem.

Now, this weekend, the Birmingham Mail carries a story of three Bordesley Green Labour Councillors, including the current Lord Mayor (isn’t he supposed to steer well clear of controversy?), helping to load green waste into skips which residents (completely fed up at the Council’s failure to rid their area of a mountain of green waste) shelled out £600 for. I hope the residents realise those same Labour Councillors voted FOR a green waste charge, and AGAINST a Conservative amendment which would have kept free garden waste collections in Bordesley Green and the rest of Birmingham. What hypocrites they look!

Meanwhile the last Council meeting saw the left wing argument put forward that the free garden waste collection was wrong because single mothers in maisonettes without a garden, were subsiding people in mansions with gardens. This outdated socialist argument completely ignores the fact that Council Tax is based on the size and amenities of your property – so those with a garden pay more than those without. And those with what Labour call a mansion, pay considerably more.

Besides which, if you follow that argument through, you could say that those without children are subsiding those who do by contributing to schools, those who can’t read or don’t want to borrow books are subsiding those who use libraries, etc. etc. etc. Tax doesn’t work like that. We all have to pay according to our income, purchases and property size, and the money goes into a central pot.

I shall wait with interest to see what happens next time there’s a vote on the garden tax in the chamber. Will those Councillors who clearly aren’t happy with the way the issue is playing out in Birmingham have the courage of their convictions and vote against it? Or will they cave in, do what their leadership tells them and make themselves look even more ridiculous and hypocritical?

Meanwhile there’s no denying that when the Lord Mayor,  who traditionally remains steadfastly non-political, makes a decision to so publicly back residents who have been let down by the Labour Council, that sends out quite a significant message to the residents of Birmingham.

 

 

Celebrating A Successful Campaign

Today Edgbaston Conservatives and residents were celebrating a successful campaign, led by local Conservative campaigner and Edgbaston resident Matt Bennett, to keep the Benmore Play area open.

Thank you to everyone on the Benmore Estate who signed our petition to keep the play area, after the Labour Council spitefully announced its closure in June. In the face of such determined opposition, the Labour Council has now back tracked and informed the local Conservative Councillors that the play area will not be closing after all. And a good thing too – it was a mad idea to ever suggest it should go.

Here to stay - the Benmore Play Area.

Here to stay – the Benmore Play Area.

 

 

Benmore Play Area Saved!

I am delighted to report that the Conservative campaign to save the Benmore play area has been successful.

A few weeks ago, Conservative Councillors were sent letters telling us the play area was closing. I immediately objected strongly to the Department, and local Conservative campaigner Matt Bennett organised a petition against the closure. Cllr Hutchings raised the matter at Full Council, and it was also discussed at the District meeting this week.

At the end of last week, new letters went out informing us that the Labour Council hadn’t really been telling us the play area was closing, it was actually a consultation and they wanted our opinions. (I can assure you that the first letter I received was definitely NOT a consultation letter and it WAS telling me the play area was closing. Councillors across the city can confirm this as 23 play areas across the city were ear-marked for closure so lots of Councillors received the same letters.)

By this week, the Labour U-turn was complete. They have decided to shelve their plans to close the 23 play areas they had ear-marked for the axe – despite previously saying that they had to close them as there was no money.

It’s great news for Edgbaston that the play area is saved. But it just proves that if money can be found to stop one unpopular policy, it could have been found to axe the garden tax as well – if Labour had wanted to. But they don’t.

Matt at the play area

Matt at the play area

 

This And That

Interesting to discover that at the same time as 23 play areas across the city are being axed by Labour, in Handsworth Wood Ward they’re having a new one built. Having heard this rumour, I asked about it at today’s Districts & Public Engagement Scrutiny Committee, where it was confirmed.

We were told it’s being built by Section 106 money (which confirms what I’d heard). Fair enough. But I’m curious to know where the money to maintain it in the future will be coming from. Councillors were told the reason play areas were closing was because of the costs of maintaining them, so it seems rather strange to be allowing a new one to be built. If there’s money available to maintain a new play area, why isn’t there money available to maintain the current one in Edgbaston which Labour want to shut?

Secondly I was surprised to hear that Labour have rejected Cllr Yvonne Mosquito as their candidate for the Police & Crime Commissioner by-election.  Yvonne is the current Deputy, so you would have thought she would be the obvious choice to be the Labour candidate for the top job now, following the sudden and unexpected death of Bob Jones. Not so apparently. Labour have gone for an elderly man, who apparently has confirmed he will also have Yvonne of his Deputy.

That’s big of him! I suspect Yvonne has far more experience of the job than he does. Apart from having been the Deputy, she’s a former member of the Police Authority, and she’s currently the Interim Police & Crime Commissioner. The clear message from Labour in the West Midlands appears to be that the woman can be Deputy, but when it comes to the top job, they want a man.

 

Unveiling The Bothy

This morning I was invited to the opening of the replica bothy at the Guinea Gardens allotment site in Edgbaston.

Back in the 1880s, every one of the gardens had a brick built bothy and many of the garden holders would stay over at weekends or even for a holiday. Most of the buildings were demolished in the 1950s or 60s, but one remained – only to be damaged in an explosion reputedly caused by a tramp who was living in it.

For years the Guinea Gardens committee have been wanting to rebuild the damaged bothy. Finally, for various reasons, it was decided it was easier to leave the ruins as they are, and build a replica bothy  close by. Today the new bothy was officially opened and it looks absolutely wonderful. The project was partly funded by Edgbaston Ward Committee’s Community Chest. The building will be used for eduational visits, committee meetings etc.

The original 19th century bothy in ruins

The original 19th century bothy in ruins

Replica bothy officially opened today

Replica bothy officially opened today

Campaign To Keep The Sir Harry’s Post Office As It Is

As well as campaigning to save the Benmore Play Area, this week the Edgbaston Councillors and Campaigner Matt Bennett have been working to keep the Sir Harry’s Rd Post Office, situated in Hollies Croft, exactly as it is now.

The Post Office is the only one left in the ward after successive cuts to the network under the previous Labour Government. However now the Post Office want to change it to one of their “local” branches.

Deirdre & Matt by the Sir Harry's Post Office

Deirdre & Matt by the Sir Harry’s Post Office

This would mean the purpose built Post Office area at the back of the shop would close, and transactions would be carried out near the front counter.

The Edgbaston Councillors think this is less safe for the staff and less safe for customers who are picking up money. Currently they can put their money safely away at the back of the shop. This would no longer be the case if the Post Office have their way.

Some transactions (such as travel money and travel insurance) would also no longer be possible at the Sir Harry’s Road Post Office if the changes go ahead.

The Edgbaston Conservative team have been busy leafletting residents in the area telling them about the Post Office’s proposals and giving details of how to comment.