Monthly Archives: February 2013

Petition against new play facilities?

Hall Green’s Lib Dem Cllr Paula Smith presented a petition to full council yesterday that appeared to exclude any mention to the fact that the proposals being opposed are for the installation of play facilities to be enjoyed by the children and young people, families and communities across the Ward.

The actual wording of the petition presented:

I the undersigned wish to keep the open green space known as Newey Goodman Estate the way it is presently and use it as a village green which it has always been intended for and has always been the case. We object to any change proposed by the council to place equipment upon our open green space. Save our village green.

There is no doubt that whoever may have signed this petition did so in good faith but who might, in retrospect, and given the real detail of the proposed play area, actually agree that the retention of green open space and the installation of a play area are not at odds. Other references referring to the space as being a ‘village green’ are also very misleading.

Please watch the webcast and let us know if you hear any words that refer to children, young people and play facilities….you will have to skip right through to 04:39:51

Hall Green BLP, alongside the Labour councillors,  will continue to campaign for additional services and provision for children and young people across the Ward.

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The growing demand for food banks

Cllr John Cotton has warned welfare reforms and the controversial ‘bedroom tax’ will hugely increase the demands on the food banks currently springing up across Birmingham.

 

A community playground for Hall Green?

In November last year, local councillors from all parties, youth workers, community groups, educational representatives of South and City College and constituency officers met at the District Convention to discuss the needs of children and young people in the wider district and in each of the Hall Green Wards. There were a series of talks from Youth and Education officers from Birmingham City Council together with input from the assistant principal of the College, the Chair of Governors from Joseph Chamberlain College and Councillor Tony Kennedy.

All councillors representing the Hall Green Ward and representatives from local community groups and youth service providers discussed how best we could engage children and young people in Hall Green and a clear consensus was reached on the need to ensure that Hall Green had adequate provision and services to meet the needs of the 7,000 children and young people across the Ward, and the need to identify more spaces and places for young people to meet.

Unfortunately, this consensus seems to have been abandoned at this months Ward meeting at which residents from a local housing estate were in attendance solely to oppose the proposals for the installation of much needed playground equipment at Newey Goodman.

The case put forward in opposition was that any installation would result in an increase of anti social behaviour and criminal activity. This is not borne out by research undertaken by the local police neighbourhood team and could not be quantified.

Despite the Liberal Democrat Councillor not adopting a position of opposition at a previous meeting at which these plans were introduced, it now appears that she has decided not to support this proposal for additional provision of services for children and young people in Hall Green.

Consultation that has been undertaken by Hall Green BLP has found real support for these proposals which would give Hall Green a brand new playground with facilities catering for both children and young people.

Currently there is only one small park in Hall Green at Marion Way and despite plans to renovate the park next month, this existing provision is far from  adequate and in comparison to surrounding Wards, it is clear that the children and young people in Hall Green Ward are being short changed and let down in terms of the services and provision available to them.

It is seemingly a natural reaction to oppose change in the first instance but the current opposition to the playground proposals for Newey Goodman appears to be based on little more than ‘nimbyism’ on the one hand and the hope of some political point scoring on the other.

As we face impending reductions in council funded provision of non statutory services across Birmingham this adds up to a very real problem for the children and young people growing up in Hall Green.

The recent launch of the mobile play service was a real step in the right direction, alongside the youth project running at Highfield Hall but these are temporary solutions and do not make up for a lack of permanent playground facilities.

We need to welcome proposals that would result in an increase in services for our children and young people. How can we sit back and refuse our children and young people such provision?

Wherever any new such provision is proposed, it is always going to be in someone’s back yard, and is always going to be opposed by a minority. We need to stand together as a community and see the bigger picture and how we ensure the very best deal for our children and young people. We have the chance of doing this now with a real opportunity to have a  ‘community playground’ in Hall Green, but in order to realise this, we need first to become a real community.

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Emotions running high at HG Ward Meeting

The meeting was chaired by Cllr Burden who informed those in attendance of the extremely sad loss of Cllr Bowles’ wife  and that therefore he would not be in attendance this evening and had tendered his apologies.

The meeting discussed a variety of issues ranging from environmental issues, to community chest applications, with approvals being given to BCC Youth Service, Scouts group and Shire Country Park Friends amongst others. The issues that generated the highest level of debate are outlined below:

The issue of wheelie bins was yet again raised and a brief discussion was held about the forthcoming consultation. The new bins are currently being piloted in Brandwood and Harborne. The full details of the consultation process were as yet unknown but Cllr Burden reported how the introduction of wheelie bins impacted on the retention of weekly collections and the replacement of the fleet due to the financial pressures being experienced. He reiterated the need for residents to fully engage with the consultation process.

Some concern was noted about the suggestion that residents would be charged an annual fee of £35 for a green service once the new bins were introduced and a number of residents suggested that this would lead to fly tipping.

The meeting welcomed Sgt Chris Rigby who gave a brief report back regarding crime statistics. It appeared that although national crime stats had fallen, burglary in Hall Green was up by 11%.

A resident reported on the worrying increase of buildings appearing in people’s gardens and was very concerned that large, brick built buildings were appearing, not as extensions to properties, but being built at the bottom of gardens across Hall Green. He gave the example of a building which had recently received planning permission and informed the meeting that this building was 9 x 7m and 12 feet high, brick built with a tiled roof and a satellite dish. It also was reported that Liberal Democrat Cllr Smith had voted in favour of this build recently.

By far the biggest debate of the evening was in relation to proposals for a playground installation at the open space on Newey Goodman. Residents in attendance from the Newey housing estate opposing the proposals argued that it would result in an increase in anti social behaviour and criminal activity. Emotions ran high from opposing stances. It was reported that in a ward with over 10,000 households, current facilities were totally inadequate, and the only playground in Hall Green was at Marion Way, where the land was unsuitable and the equipment in desperate need of replacement. If the new proposals went through,  the park at Marion Way would also be revamped. A petition with approximately 250 signatures in support of the proposals was handed in. An application for Village Green status was presented.

All things wheelie…

The City Council has recently received funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to enable the City to maintain weekly collections of residual waste.  They will soon commence a consultation process with Birmingham residents regarding the implementation of a wheeled bin waste collection service across the City.  The Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City, Councillor James McKay, has produced a short video explaining this.

A number of frequently asked questions (FAQs) have also been produced to answer common questions, please see the document at the bottom of this page.

If you have any queries regarding the proposals then please email wheeledbins@birmingham.gov.uk

Council’s austerity black hole heading towards £700m

Article first published on 4/2/13 – the Chamberlain Files – http://www.thechamberlainfiles.co.uk written by Paul Dale

Birmingham City Council can expect to lose one-third of its annual Government grant in the five-year period 2010-15 as a direct result of the Chancellor’s austerity measures.

The figure is worse than expected and has been recalculated following errors by officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government who mistakenly “double counted” the amount of income local authorities would receive from council tax.

In his 2010-15 Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne originally forecast a 28 per cent cut in grant for councils in England and Wales – an announcement greeted with outrage from town halls across the country.

That figure has now been revised upwards to 33 per cent and will increase even further by 2016-17.

Mr Osborne has made it clear that future local government cuts will be higher still, with a 10 per cent reduction expected for 2014-15 alone. Birmingham can expect to be about £350 million worse off between 2010 and 2017 than would have been the case if grant had increased in line with inflation.

With soaring demand for adult and children’s social care showing no sign of reducing, and funding pressures from other services, the council’s financial crisis is growing steadily greater. A cuts package of £600 million between 2011 and 2017 will probably grow to £650 million, or may even hit £700 million.

Although the city council has a total annual income of £3.5 billion, two-thirds of this is in the form of ring-fenced Government grants that must be passed on to schools or spent on housing.

The annual controllable budget – income over which the council has direct control – stands at £1.3 billion. It is from this area that the £600 million-plus savings will have to be identified, effectively reducing by half the amount of cash available for non-statutory services such as sports centres, community libraries, swimming pools and the youth service.

The grim scenario appears to lend credence to Birmingham city Council leader Sir Albert Bore’s warning of “the end of local government as we know it” and his acceptance that many traditional public services will simply have to be decommissioned from 2014-15.

Sir Albert has joined forces with the Labour leaders of the seven English core cities, the country’s largest local authorities, in sending a new letter to Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles warning of a “looming financial crisis” and pleading for a halt to the austerity programme.

The core cities’ second letter to Mr Pickles since December, again demanding an urgent meeting, states: “The growing pressure on services, in particular social care and other changes to the funding system mean that our real savings targets are several times greater than the cuts in grant.

“The biggest cuts in funding are still to come, with the average grant cut in 2014-15 now likely to be around 10 per cent and the Chancellor making it very clear in his Autumn Statement that cuts into the next Parliament will be significantly greater than previously expected.

“As a result the reductions in important services that will inevitably begin this year will intensify with the complete decommissioning of some services from 2014-15.”

The letter reveals that Birmingham City Council has almost no “rainy day” money to fall back on. Unallocated cash reserves stand at 1.85 per cent of the net budget, the lowest of any of the eight leading English city councils. The figure is so low that the District Auditor has advised Birmingham to urgently build a cash reserve.

The letter continues: “The spending cuts for 2013-14 are significantly greater than previously announced and the original spending power figures contain serious inaccuracies. There has been no ministerial correction in Parliament or apology for the provision of this misleading information.

“This crisis is very real and will have a significant impact on the quality of life and economic vitality of our greatest cities. But we believe it can be tackled if the Government is prepared to work with us instead of just repeating calls for efficiency savings that are already being made but will in any case be inadequate.

“Local councils have been portrayed as being opposed to change and scaremongering or holding out a begging bowl. On the contrary the Core Cities would urge the government to be more radical and bolder in making the necessary reforms to local services and how they are financed – as long as these are progressive reforms that produce better outcomes.”

 

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