This morning I was invited to talk on Radio WM’s Adrian Goldberg Show about a threat from the ruling Labour administration to the Council’s concierge system – people who sit in the base of tower blocks, monitoring who goes in and out. This protects tenants from anti-social behaviour, and it protects the fabric of the buildings from vandalism. A valuable service you might have thought. I certainly do. Yet several people in the know have apparently contacted the Adrian Goldberg show to confirm that the concierge posts are under threat and that changes will come in on November 1st.
Regular readers of this blog will recall that is the same date that HLBs will cease to be supported – despite the fact that any decision to abolish them is not due to be made by the Council until the meeting on November 6th. So are the two things connected you may wonder.
The concierge system is not free. Tenants who benefit from it pay between £17-£23 extra for it, so will they get their money back if the concierges go? Apparently not. Mr Goldberg said the Council Press Office had told him that there was no plans to reimburse the fee as there is no plan to change “the style of service” offered. Interesting choice of words which does not say the concierges are staying! Indeed I understand that when he asked for categorical confirmation that they WERE staying, it was not forthcoming.
So who exactly would be doing the concierges’ work in the areas where the change is threatened – which according to Adrian Goldberg is South Birmingham, in particular Longbridge, Rubery, Northfield and Kings Norton wards?
If the ruling Labour administration had put someone forward to speak on the radio, they could have been asked this question. But apparently for two days in a row, no-one could be found to speak on the matter. As both the Labour Council Leader and his Deputy were absent from Monday’s Cabinet Meeting, I presume they are away, and it looks as if no-one else wanted (or was allowed) to talk about potential Council job losses in Longbridge and the surrounding area.
Mr Goldberg suggested the roles might be taken by Neighbourhood Wardens. In the current HLB consultation there is a suggestion that tenants could be trained to deal with things such as graffiti removal and identifying dangerous waste, or to be mediators in neighbourhood disputes (Page 13 of the consultation document).
Quite apart from the fact that if tenants take on these roles, they are effectively taking other people’s jobs – but on a voluntary basis; tenants I have spoken to are horrified by the suggestion of them becoming mediators between two warring factions on their estates – which could result in them being victimised by both parties. Both parties I might add who will know exactly where they live because they are all local people.
Like being a concierge, these are jobs for professional paid people – and expecting tenants to take them on on a voluntary basis, while depriving other people of paid work, is just not on in my opinion. I don’t know if this is what is planned for the concierge system, but I sincerely hope it is not. Picking up a bit of litter outside your block is one thing; acting as a heavy who stops a drug dealer coming in to the block at night to shoot up in the corridor (and it happens because I have seen it with my own eyes in flats in Edgbaston many years ago when Labour were last in charge) is a completely different matter.
The concierge system works well. Message to Labour – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
(Note: The radio programme can be accessed on the internet by going to Radio WM Adrian Goldberg. It is the show aired on August 22nd and the piece begins at 0.53 minutes.)