Vote Conservative On Thursday

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Liam Byrne’s Infamous Letter

Excellent performance by David Cameron on tonight’s Leader’s Question Time.

Good to see him highlighting the letter Birmingham MP Liam Byrne left behind on leaving office in 2010. Sheer stupidity on Mr Byrne’s part.

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Wreath Making In Edgbaston

Today Groundwork ran their second Christmas wreath making session in Edgbaston in less than a week. Last Friday they were at the Roman Way event, and today on the Waterworks Estate, where I popped along to see them this morning.

A number of residents came along to make their own Christmas wreath – and help make the estate look festive! The event was funded via Community First.

Admiring the Christmas wreaths!

Admiring the Christmas wreaths!

 

 

Kerslake Review

Today the Kerslake Review reported its independent review of the governance and organisational capabilities of Birmingham City Council.

To pick out a few points: the review states that the narrative within Birmingham and the Council needs to become more positive. I agree. It’s clearly time for Sir Albert to stop his doom and gloom narrative of recent years. The report suggests the public and businesses are crying out for a more positive vision but that instead, too often, Birmingham Council sees itself as a victim.

It states there is a blurring of roles between members and officers. I agree with that too. Since Labour returned to power in 2012, too many decisions are made by officers which previously were made by politicians. Unfortunately, in my opinion, a lot of the new Labour Councillors don’t seem to realise the power which Councillors have lost under Sir Albert (because they have only been around a couple of years).

The report says the current devolution arrangements within the city are confused and few people understand them. I tend to agree with that too. The Kerslake review’s solution is for District Committees to take on more of a Scrutiny role. This is a complete reversal of Sir Albert’s idea that District Chairmen should be semi Cabinet members. The report also suggests a drastic reduction in the number of other Scrutiny Committees. With so few Departments these days (everything’s been merged together) that would make sense.

The report suggests that all out elections should take over from Birmingham’s current “one third at a time” system. I agree with that too. The suggestion is that this should start in 2017, and that ward sizes would change – possibly to 100 wards each with just one Councillor (instead of the current 40 wards with 3 Councillors). That would mean no cover when Councillors were ill or on holiday and doesn’t seem an awfully sensible suggestion to me.

And finally, in this brief resume, the report notes that Birmingham gives a high priority to Refuse Collection and Waste Disposal – but goes on to say that the evidence suggests it is under performing in this area. Recycling rates are lower and the incidence of fly tipping amongst the highest in the country, it says. There is also considerable dis-satisfaction from residents about both the service and how the Council communicates. I agree with these comments too – and have been saying so for a long time. There was basically no recycling the last time Labour were in control (pre 2004). The Conservatives took over and introduced a massive and successful recycling roll out. Then Labour took over again in 2012, and the service has once again nose dived. The green waste charge has been a disaster – leading to angry residents, and an increase in fly tipped green waste.

And on that note, this weekend the reminders went out by email to people who signed up for the green collection last year, saying that they need to pay again. And yesterday I had the first phone call from a resident saying, “Surely I haven’t got to pay again to have my green waste collected? I thought it was just a one off payment last year to buy the bin.”

I thought it was pretty clear some people would think that. Sir Bob Kerslake was right. Birmingham does NOT communicate well with residents on the subject of waste disposal.

 

Mulled Wine In Roman Way

A winter barbecue with mulled wine was the order of the day on the Roman Way Estate last night, as the Tenant Management Organisation put on a Christmas community event.

It was good to see so many people making Christmas wreaths in the marquee, as well as enjoying the hospitality and having a good chat. And the mulled wine certainly warmed us all up!

James and Fergus with the TMO's new Acting Chair

James and Fergus with the TMO’s new Acting Chair

 

Civic Reception For The Birmingham Bears

Today Cllr James Hutchings and I joined other Birmingham Councillors at a Civic reception hosted by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham  for the Birmingham Bears cricket squad, in honour of the team winning this year’s T20 Blast Championship. The fact that the finals were played at Warwickshire’s home ground of Edgbaston was the icing on the cake!

At the reception the Lord Mayor was presented with a signed cricket bat by the Bears, which will be used to help raise money for this year’s Lord Mayor’s charity appeal.

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Christmas Cake Competition

This morning I was one of the judges at the Regional final of Anchor Housing’s Christmas cake competition.  The event was held at Edgwood Court in Edgbaston.

Cakes were entered in three categories – those made by individual residents, by staff and joint entries by the residents of Anchor care homes. Entries in the latter category were accompanied by fascinating portfolios of photos and text showing how the designs were arrived at and the making of the cakes.

The standard was extremely high and picking the winners was very hard indeed. Prizes were awarded to the top three in each category – and these cakes will now go to the National Finals to be held in Denham in two weeks time.

Many thanks to Anchor Housing for inviting me along to such a lovely event!

The judges with the winning cakes

The judges with the winning cakes