PMQs comes to Hall Green

In the current landscape of local government, Birmingham is being held up as a sacrificial lamb, and like other Labour controlled authorities, have faced disproportionate and swingeing reductions to their funding as a result of the government’s ideologically driven austerity programme.

The seeds of change that have been regularly voiced, particularly by Sir Albert and his infamous ‘jaws of doom’, warning us of  the end of local government as we know it have clearly been sown and are now impacting on us all at a more local level.

The main item on last night’s Hall Green Ward meeting was our budget.  A budget that had painstakingly put together over several months.  A budget that will have very real effects on people’s lives.  And a budget that will have a massive impact on all residents in Hall Green.

Putting the budget into some context, the reality of the situation is that Hall Green District must make savings of £1,098,000 for 2014/14 rising to £1.546,000 in 2015/16. This equates to a third of its controllable budget. Therefore, unsurprisingly, the budget included some very difficult proposals, based on very real choices being made between jobs and services.

So despite these choices, this is a budget that saves our library services. That saves our school crossing patrols. That still allows for a relatively large amount of community chest funding. A budget that maintains our youth service provision, our play service provision and one that will continue to support community arts.

All pretty good news for the residents of Hall Green? Well, perhaps not.

This was also a budget that was passed at the last District Committee by majority vote. Quite simply, the three Liberal Democrat Councillors for Hall Green District, all voted against it. Not only did they vote against it, they refused to attend meetings to discuss budget options; they put no other alternative proposals forward; they gave no indication as to which parts of the budget they agreed or disagreed with.

Quite simply, the three Liberal Democrat Councillors for Hall Green District, all voted against it. Not only did they vote against it, they refused to attend meetings to discuss budget options; they put no other alternative proposals forward; they gave no indication as to which parts of the budget they agreed or disagreed with. During the whole of this debate, about the most important aspect of OUR budget, the Liberal Democrat representative for Hall Green said nothing. Yes that is right . That representative failed to speak at all and failed to contribute to the debate. #Failing to stand up for us in Hall Green.

I took the opportunity at last night’s Ward meeting to ask our Liberal Democrat Councillor questions about this but it turned into a bit of a PMQs scenario with lots of huffing and puffing, lots of hot air and red faces and with my questions remaining pretty much unanswered (I clearly empathise with Ed here) and with no real clarity being given for the refusal to back this budget.

What I find even more astounding is the point blank refusal by the Liberal Democrat Councillor for Hall Green to enter into any discussions that might be deemed in any way to be ‘political’.  If ever the words ‘your government’ are spoken she retreats behind an invisible shield of ignorance.

I believe that local politics cannot just be about dog poo, dropped litter and grass verges…it must also encompass the complexities, challenges and difficulties that directly affect us all. We are real people with very real, but also very different problems.

Local issues such as littering are of course important concerns for the community and it is only right and proper that they be discussed and addressed. But problems being experienced by members of our local community, as a result of decisions made at a national level, such as the implementation of universal benefits and of course the unfair Bedroom Tax have resulted in real hardship for many of our own.

Our local politicians must be accountable to us, the electorate, and should be able to offer us an educated and reasoned argument for the decisions they take as our elected members.

But I also believe that they should be big enough to stand up and share the responsibility for the decisions taken by the political parties whose badges they wore to win our votes.

kerryKerry Jenkins, Candidate May 2014


Labour saves Hall Green Library

Great news as draft district budget is set. Needs to be agreed by Lib Dems but surely they will vote in favour if it means saving the library?

Read all about it here:

Osborne’s budget will offer cold comfort to ordinary people in Hall Green

george-osborne-image-2-306799915The Chancellor, George Osborne, has just delivered his annual budget statement to the House of Commons. It is his fourth budget since the government came into power in 2010 and, in the words of Ed Miliband, ‘one thing unites them all; things are always worse than the last time around’.

Growth has been downgraded yet again to just 0.6% this year, borrowing is up again, but despite this and the bad news that just keeps coming from the Treasury, Osborne refuses to change course. Every sign of failure he takes as a vindication; every time it is proved that the plan is not working and is hurting ordinary people, Osborne the ideologue becomes more determined to see it through. Rather than trying to make things fairer for the many, not the few, the downgraded Chancellor remains ideologically committed to giving a tax cut to the richest in society in just two weeks’ time, at the same time as ruthlessly cutting welfare and implementing the incredibly unfair and deeply flawed bedroom tax. This is a Chancellor convinced he can recover our economy by squeezing the poor and easing the burden on the rich. He is wrong.

The truth of this budget is that ordinary working people will suffer while those at the top remain untouched. The few concessions that were made, such as the scrapping of the fuel and beer duty escalators, will have negligible impact while the overall cost of living continues to rise due to inflation. The continuation of the 1% cap on public sector pay increases, well below the rate of inflation, means that many people will struggle to afford a decent standard of living over the coming years; on average, private sector wages also continue to increase at a level significantly below inflation. Raising the income tax threshold to £10,000 should be welcomed, but the Chancellor should go further by reducing the basic rate. A cut in VAT back to 17.5% would also encourage growth and give people more spending power with the money they do earn. A plan for jobs and growth, something which Labour has consistently outlined, should have been at the heart of this budget. It was notably absent.

The confirmation of the £72,000 cap on care costs is another example of Osborne’s ignorance of the needs of ordinary people. The reality is that the cap is set so high that it will make little difference to most people who are forced to pay for care for themselves or for their elderly relatives. Today George Osborne could have taken the opportunity to listen to advice from Andrew Dilnot, who wrote the Government’s report on funding social care, amongst others and implemented a considerably lower cap, but he refused.

The budget has proved once more that the government is not on the side of ordinary, hard-working people and families. A downgraded Chancellor who stubbornly sticks to his failing plan is hurting those who most need help while continuing to curry favour with those who need it least. While bankers in the City of London have never had it so good, ordinary people in Hall Green and across Birmingham suffer the consequences of the Chancellor’s failure.

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Labour and the Birmingham City Council cuts


The Council budget, set out by Sir Albert Bore this week, was comfortable for nobody. The harsh reality cannot be escaped; over £100 million cuts to services and 1,000 jobs lost is not something that anybody can take lightly, least of all the councillors responsible for taking the decisions on what to cut and what not to cut. Labour councillors, including our own Councillors Sam Burden and Barry Bowles, have made extraordinarily difficult choices with a very heavy heart.

 Yet we should not forget that the Council’s hands have been tied by the Tory-led government, making swingeing cuts to local government that fall unfairly on large Labour administrations such as Birmingham. Residents of Hall Green and others across the city are paying the price for the government’s economic failure and ideological determination to punish Labour councils. The Liberal Democrats are, of course, as responsible for these cuts as the Conservatives. The irony of Councillor Tilsley calling Labour’s budget ‘shameful’ will, I’m sure, be lost on nobody. His party is complicit in the failing economic plan pursued by the government that is damaging our country and our community.

There are those who claim that Labour should simply refuse to make the cuts; that setting an illegal budget would be a way of showing resistance to central government and ensure that Birmingham residents do not have to suffer the painful consequences of such deep cuts. Unfortunately, this is not a practical way forward for Labour to deal with the situation. Steve Bullock, mayor of Lewisham, outlined why this is the case for Progress in January. Failure to set a legal budget would mean that Eric Pickles’ DCLG apparatchiks would be responsible for delivering the cuts. As is the Tory way, their primary concern would not be making cuts as fair for possible for ordinary people as Labour are doing, but simply to save money, no matter how many jobs or valuable services were lost in the process.

Of course, this is not to say that all resistance to government cuts is futile; Bullock is fairly heavy-handed in his direct criticism of Len McCluskey, and trade unions are absolutely justified in their outrage at an economic plan that is hurting their workers and hurting the country. Nationally, Labour continues to articulate an alternative by opposing cuts to police and welfare budgets, the bedroom tax and tax cuts for the richest few while promising to reintroduce the 10p income tax rate. There is a fairer way, and everybody who is opposed to the government’s disastrous strategy should join Labour and the unions in making a case for an alternative that not only secures economic growth but is fairer on ordinary working people, rather than punishing them while unfairly prioritising rewards for those at the very top.

Our Labour Council is working hard to make things fairer for ordinary people in Birmingham despite the difficult financial situation. The Council is committed to a Living Wage of more than £7 an hour for all council employees. In Hall Green, Councillor Bowles is determined to continue campaigning for additional facilities for children and young people, an in particular will keep campaigning for a new playground  despite opposition from Liberal Democrats.

Plans such as this may seem small in the grand scheme of the national economic situation, but it shows that it is Labour, not the other parties, who is truly committed to improving people’s quality of life and delivering a fair deal for Birmingham in extremely tough times.

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City Council Budget 2013/14 Consultation

The City Council has started a process of public consultation about the budget cuts for 2013/14. There are four public meetings which are listed on the poster below.

The City Council will put forward its views on next year’s budget at these meetings. It is very important that we encourage members of the public to attend including party members.

We will all have local views to be considered but we must also get the message across loud and clear that the Tory-led government should give Birmingham a fair deal. Why should Birmingham be hit harder by cuts than other parts of the country?

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