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
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.
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
Replica bothy officially opened today
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
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.
At yesterday’s Full Council meeting there was a lot of nonsense spoken by Labour Councillors who haven’t been around five minutes, that the Conservatives didn’t invest in the rubbish collection service when we were in control.
So I thought I’d re-post this picture from April 27th 2007 when the new fleet of wagons purchased by the Conservative led Council were shown off outside the Council House.
Conservative led Council shows off the new fleet of wagons in 2007
If you look back to my blog post for that day, you will see it explains that a total of 32 new rubbish collection wagons were being purchased. They were environmentally friendly (giving out no harmful emissions), with double hoppers, sourced locally and the Council crest was put back on them – restoring our civic pride.
Labour Councillors who say we didn’t invest in the department aren’t correct and they ought to check their facts. Of course it’s true we didn’t invest in wheelie bins – but that’s because people didn’t want them!
And as for the excuse that the department is a shambles and the city streets are filthy because there isn’t the money to spend - that’s nonsense too. A record 64 million is being invested in the department (£30 million of it from the Conservative Government to maintain weekly collections). The Department is actually awash with money, the problem is, it’s being spent on wheelie bins. When Labour bleat they can’t afford play areas, school crossing patrols or a free garden waste service, remember they HAVE managed to afford 64 million for wheelie bins. It’s all a question of priorities.
Back in March, Birmingham’s Labour Councillors voted to axe 60 play areas across Birmingham – which shows how little they care about Birmingham’s children.
The Conservative alternative budget (put together under exactly the same financial constraints as the Labour budget) did not axe any play areas – instead we made our savings in areas such as Cabinet support staff, European officers, etc. etc. Ours was a balanced budget, so the excuse that there is no alternative to axing play areas (and introducing a green waste charge) won’t wash. (Especially as Labour have underspent anyway). There IS the money to keep popular front line services, IF you are prepared to cut something else, or to use the money which they haven’t actually bothered to spend.
The Benmore play area which Labour intend to close.
Now the elections are over, letters are being sent out to Ward Councillors telling them which play areas in their ward face the chop. How deceitful to wait till after Polling Day – but typical of this Labour shower. In an age of consultation overload, it’s interesting that there is no consultation on this subject. Labour have decided to axe 60 play areas, Labour politicians have agreed which ones will go, and the local Conservative Councillors just get a letter telling them about it.
In Edgbaston, Labour have targetted the play area in one of the most deprived parts of our ward – the Benmore Estate. Most residents on the estate live in flats, either low rise, or in one of the five high rise blocks. The children on the estate need somewhere to play. The mothers need somewhere where their young children can safely let off steam (and where they can sit and meet other mothers while they watch their children play). But it seems Birmingham’s nasty Labour Councillors don’t consider such things when working out their budget priorities.
When Conservative campaigner Matt Bennett and I visited yesterday, the play area was being well used by small children with their parents. Parents we spoke to were horrified at Labour’s plans to take away the play equipment which their children enjoy so much.
Immediately I received the letter telling me of the closure (which was yesterday morning even though the letter was dated June 17th), I put in a furious objection to the plan – firing the first salvo in a campaign against this nasty attack by Labour on the young children in one of the most deprived parts of our ward.
Last week saw the first Edgbaston Ward meeting of the new municipal year. Your Edgbaston Councillors like to rotate the meetings around the ward, and rotate the Chairman. So this year I took over as Edgbaston Ward Chairman, and the first meeting was held at the Church of the Redeemer.
The main item on the agenda (Queen Elizabeth Hospital Travel plan) was pulled at the last minute – not by us, I hasten to add! I am told it should be on the agenda of the next meeting in September.
However we had a lively discussion about the wheelie bin roll out in the Monument Road area, street cleansing and other related rubbish issues. A representative from the Montague Street depot (which covers this small corner of Edgbaston) was on hand to answer residents’ queries. After the meeting, the three Councillors did a walk around the Waterworks Estate to discuss with residents in more depth some of the other issues raised.