Friday, 29 June 2007

This bloody computer

Our apologies to everyone. We recently had to buy a new computer which has now gone belly up. It is now in the shop being fixed and we have just been able to access the site from another pc.Its been a busy period since our last post and we will try to bring you up to date over this weekend.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Brighter futures for children.

Today Keith was at the ICC for a conference about the Council's work on Brighter futures for children. This is a way to drastically improve the future of our city's children by looking at evidence based strategies for improving outcomes, alot of it goes over my head but by focusing on outcomes and working back to the investment needed it is thought that childrens services can improve the lives of all our children. Evidence is gathered by Dartington PI and the results fed into the work. By having fully integrated childrens services it is believed that we can overcome a lot of the problems we have with some children.It is ongoing work and has a long way to go yet.
First off was a workshop on the Safeguarding Board followed by a presentation on disabled services. At the end of this we saw a dvd made by disabled children that was a real eye-opener. I wish I could put it up on this site for you, it would change a lot of peoples view of disablement.
After lunch it was back to the main hall for presentations by Tony Howell and a professor from Dartington PI followed by a question and answer session with them plus Cheryl Hopkins,Councillor Les Lawrence and Sandy Stone who represents the PCTs.
Some heavy stuff but really interesting.
This evening Sue has gone to a Governor's meeting at Colmers Junior School. Keith is cooking, or rather he is waiting for the ping!

Nose to the grind stone.

Keith attended a meeting at the Council House today to discuss a draft report on Neighbourhood Offices. This is a carry over from the last municipal year when he sat on the Local services committee.
Later that evening it was off to Kings Norton for the Northfield Constituency Committee. As it was the first one of the year it was mostly procedural stuff concerning budgets, governance etc. It was a little bit controversial as both Labour Councillors feel that they should have positions on governing bodies regardless of the difference in numbers between Conservative and Labour Councillors. Having lost lost seats steadily over the years I suppose they feel a little bit embattled but if they want more places on these bodies they have to take more seats. If the people of Northfield vote Conservative who are we to force Labour Councillors on them. If they continue to lose seats at this rate we would have to import Labour Councillors.
Our MP was also trying his best to stir things as well, he complained about our meetings being on evenings when he is unable to attend but we are no different to many Labour run Constituencies who also have Labour MPs. With the money they make these days I am sure he can afford to send someone along to represent him, in fact he already does.
He also complained that there was not enough consultation about the redevelopment of the Frankley Centre despite most people on Frankley feeling consulted to death and crying out for action. In this he was aided and abetted by one of the Parish Councillors whose political affiliations are well known. It looks like being a long election campaign.
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Monday, 18 June 2007

Sue into the Blue(s)

Sue went along to BCFC today to discuss a youth project with their charitable arm that we are trying to get off the ground in Longbridge. It involves players and coaches coming along and taking training sessions with local youngsters. The government put up cash and we have to find some to go along with it. We have already contacted the major companies in the area but if anyone out there has some spare cash please feel free to contact us.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

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Gone fishin'

This am Keith was at Lloyd House for refresher training as a Custody Visitor. He has been doing this for about 5 years. It involves visiting custody blocks and ensuring that everything is OK. It is a scheme that came about after the Scarman Report which identified the need for members of a community to visit a police station at times on tension so that other people could be told that all was well inside. It has now developed into a regular scheme. The visitors arrive unannounced in the block and speak privately with anyone in custody who wants to speak to them.
Afterwards to Rowheath Pavilion for a presentation by Get-Hooked-on -Fishing, a scheme which helps dis-affected youngsters by offering them the chance to learn to fish and go fishing provided they get up and go to school. Sue was already there as was Coun Tim Huxtable just back from his honeymoon and looking very well on it. I wonder how long he will keep that great big grin on his face. GHOF is a great scheme which has helped over 2000 kids to get back into full time education and get their lives back on track. We give them 10k a year of NRF and it is well worth it. Nick Owen made the presentations and in the usual fashion we managed to get a pic for you. We politicians do love to name-drop.

Funeral in Somerset

On Friday we went to Taunton for the cremation. It went as well as you can expect for these things. The Vicar managed to call Sue Sarah which may have been a Freudian slip as the funeral director is in fact a young woman named Sarah. He is also a Londoner which makes him sound strange amongst all those West country burrs. I should talk!
We went back to one of Sue's cousins afterwards. A chance to catch up with family and friends and all the gossip. It seems that at our age we only see some members of the family at funerals.
Back in 2 weeks time for the internment of the ashes.

Storms and floods.

Thursday pm saw us driving down the M5 in order to attend Sue's Mom's funeral the next day in Taunton. We got just past Gloucester and ran into the most tremendous downpour. It came on in seconds and everyone had to brake to about 20 mph as you couldn't see the cars in front. We drove like this for about 10 minutes with all lights on until it cleared. We carried on to just outside Bridgwater where we were staying overnight and the weather was fine. We heard the next day about the flooding in Brum, particularly in Aston & Witton. Keith lived in Aston for 20years and never heard of the Tame flooding before. It is quite a long way below the road level opposite the Yew Tree Pub and we can only imagine the amount of rainfall needed for it to rise so much so quickly. This shows up the need to make sure we all have the proper insurance.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Working links visit

On Thursday morning we paid a visit to Working Links in New Street. This is an organisation contracted to provide "Welfare to work" services for the government. We became involved through Jason who is the operations manager there but is also a Longbridge resident. We met him when we put out a welcome letter to new residents of a development which was suffering a lot of anti-social behaviour. The planners, god bless em, had insisted that a children's play ground was installed in the grounds of a complex designed for young professionals. The number of young children living there was almost nil and the only people attracted to the playground were older teenagers who were very dominant and caused lots of problems for the residents. Luckily our letter gave them someone to contact and we worked with local police and the ASB team to sort it out. Councillors often complain that the use of Section 106 money should be directed by local Councillors rather than planners as we are the ones who are in contact with local people and have a much better idea of local conditions. This playground cost about 90k and is virtually useless. we could have spent that money in a way that would have really benefited our youngsters without causing all these problems. Still, we keep on keeping on.
Last night we held our first Longbridge Ward Committee of this Municipal year. Nothing too controversial but I did have to announce that we are losing our Ward Support Officer Veronica Coleman. Veronica has been promoted to a job in Emergency Planning. As she is a Major in the TA her military experience will stand her in good stead. She has been one of the most effective and hard-working officers we have encountered, often going above and beyond for the good of Longbridge and she will be a hard act to follow. Our best wishes go with her.

Today we are off to Somerset for Sue's mom's funeral. More on Saturday.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007


Sue had a meeting with the local police Inspector during the morning. We have a very good relationship with them. We help out with some funding foe specialist equipment, cameras and things like a target-hardening scheme. This involves handing out door/window locks to vulnerable residents and gating schemes which cut off escape routes for ne'er-do-wells. They, the police that is, respond by paying attention to hotspots which we point out to them usually after calls from residents.
We have also been able to help on the Great Park. This was the worst car park in B'ham but since we cajoled the businesses into contributing towards security staff crime rates, particularly car crime, has dropped to almost zero. Cameras should follow but there is one business that does not want to know. No names but your car is at risk when you shop for groceries.

That evening Keith attended a board meeting of South West Birmingham Community Association of which he is a director. That led him into attend a meeting today at 4pm of the Community Support Board. At 7pm Keith is at at Holte School in Aston as part of the Special Education Needs review. With any luck he can get away by 9pm to meet up with some friends for a chinese meal. Hopefully without getting indigestion

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Civic Service

Later we went to St. Martins in the Bull Ring for the annual Civic Service. We were very warm so I don't know how the Lord Mayor felt in his full regalia, including Tricorne hat.
It was a lovely service and I enjoyed it as church is the only place I am allowed to sing.
If you heard me sing you would know why.
Back to the Council House afterwards for refreshments. There was a really good turn out and you can see Sandra and Randal are really enjoying themselves.
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Andrew & Monica's engagement party.

Today we attended the engagement party for Dr Andrew Hardie and Monica Horley in Bournville.
Andrew is a GP in Longbridge and stood this year in Selly Oak. Monica is a psychiatric nurse at Winson Green Prison. A terrific day made complete by a small steel band. Here are some pics of the event.

musings on shopping.

Yesterday Sue and I went for our usual Saturday visit to Northfield. Sue went into Dorothy Perkins while I waited outside. I refuse to go in because the same thing always happens. I get bored waiting for Sue to decide she doesn't want anything and usually go off into a bit of a reverie or daydream, not really aware of my surroundings. All of a sudden I come to and I always find myself staring at the women's underwear whilst nubile young ladies look at me like the local pervert. Does this happen to other men or is it just me?

Saturday, 9 June 2007

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Catch up

Time to catch up I think.
Wednesday was my first meeting with other Scrutiny chairs at a meeting of the Co-ordinating committee. This is the committee that looks at the work the various committees are undertaking and makes sure there is no duplication of effort and also suggests work that should be undertaken.
I took the opportunity to pop down New Street to the Blood Donation Centre and give up half an armful. I had to take a break since last October as our trip to India in November meant I could not donate for 6 months after my return as India is a Malaria risk country. If anyone wants do do something to help others please think about blood donation, it requires little time or effort and you get free biscuits as well.
On Thursday I took a Ward day to catch up on casework. Housing queries make up most of the work with ASB not far behind. We had some travellers move onto the Egghill estate on Sunday but were gone by Wednesday. Unfortunately they only moved onto Cofton Park. It's the piles of rubbish they leave behind that costs us money to move, especially if they are involved in tar-maccing. I would not recommend anyone to use their services, if their price seems cheap there is a reason for that, they do a cheap job and you have no recourse against them. I believe they will move off quite quickly. There are a lot of jobs in Worcestershire coming up and they will want to move down there.
Thursday evening saw me at a meeting of the South Birmingham Young Homeless Project who do a lot of good work with young people who are in danger of becoming homeless or are homeless. Like all organisations they spend a lot of their time chasing funding but I was recently able to help out with their lease with BCC.
Straight from there to another meeting at Longbridge Technology Park with the Development Consultation Group. This is made up of local residents and organisations who have been advising on issues for some years. There is always a robust exchange of views and some diverse opinion at these meetings and this was no exception. This was the first meeting held in the new Innovation Building. The first of many to be built on the site, it already has some occupants and more moving in.
On Friday we had to drive down to Somerset to complete formalities and arrangements for the funeral next week. First we drove to Bridgewater to clear out the room in the residential home where Sylvia had lived for the last 3 years. Sydenham House is an excellent home with dedicated staff who work extremely hard for the oldsters in their care and we are grateful to them for the care they give. On then to Taunton to register the death. I was waiting for Sue to park the car and got chatting to a lady who turned out to be a Councillor, luckily a Conservative one. She was telling us that they had recently lost control over the issue of stock transfer. The Labour Party campaigned against it locally whilst knowing full well that if the County Council gets it's wish for the county to become a Unitary Authority local control of housing will be lost anyway. And people say the Lib-Dems are devious.
We then had to pick up Sue's brother, drive to Bridgewater to the funeral directors and the solicitors. We dropped Mike off back at Taunton and hit the M5 northwards. Luckily and clear journey back, dropped in to see some friends on the way and settled for fish and chips at about 9pm. A long day.
Today we are trying to catch up with gardening and housework. Tomorrow we are going to an engagement party and then off to the Civic Service at St Martins with the Lord Mayor.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Sad news

Sad news yesterday, Sue's Mom died suddenly following a heart attack. She was aged 87 and living in a home in Bridgewater, Somerset. She felt unwell and a doctor sent her to hospital where it happened. She was very frail and for the last couple of years had been quite looking forward to the end. Her faith saw her expect to be reunited with Sue's dad Stan. Sylvie had made all the arrangements for her funeral so besides going down on Friday to collect Death Certificates for the Funeral Directors it was a matter of phoning relatives and friends with the news.

The Council meeting was a long drawn-out but rather lanquid affair. The chamber was very warm and the opposition quite feeble. Even Sir Albert cleared off half way through and they got even worse.
I got in with a question about a leaflet put out by Labour in Weoley Castle accusing the Conservative councillors of spending money on clearing litter, fly-tipping and grafitti. This got quite a laugh and the Labour councillor for Weoley interrupted which left me with an open goal.I duly smashed the ball home but refrained from pulling my shirt over my head and running around the chamber.

I'm sorry if I do not sound too broken up about my Mother-in-law but she was a very difficult woman and even her own family said this was a release for her. She was very frail with several ailments and she really was looking forward to the end.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Tea in the sun

We attended a garden party yesterday afternoon at the Copperfield Hotel in Selly Oak for a fund-raiser for the branch. A very pleasant event with old and new friends enjoying an excellent spread and some good conversation. Not all about politics but with Nigel Dawkins there then it would be the main subject. It was a beautiful afternoon, I always say the sun shines on the righteous but Sue always counters with "the devil looks after his own". I've no idea what she means.
Off to group meeting tonight. A large group of us usually end up in the Green Man in Harborne so if anyone is skulking around outside trying to get a photo please come in. There are sometime up to 20 of us there, councillors and party members. We will gladly buy you a half and pose for a photo.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Welcome Lord Mayor

On Saturday we welcomed the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Randal Brew OBE and the Lady Mayoress Mrs Sandra Brew to the re-opening of the Reaside Community Centre on Frankley.
This hall had suffered some neglect over the years and we were asked to join the committee in order to get some things done. For instance a leaky roof had caused part of the ceiling in the foyer to collapse. This ruined the carpet and exposed some asbestos. It was the first thing people saw as they entered the hall and put them right off.
We managed to get the repairs sorted and found funding for a new carpet and a replacement kitchen. Sue dragooned all kinds of people in to clean and paint the place.
On the day we had arranged to borrow a load of Hydrangeas in pots to hide some grotty looking spots but due to a mix-up at Cofton Park Nursery they had not arrived. Sue and I got there early, put them in the backs of our cars and took them over. These plants and some bunting made the old place look really good.
We invited quite a few organisations to set up in the main hall and did a table top sale in the other. There were dog-training demonstrations, basketball training and bike coding, courtesy of Steven Trefor-Jones who has probably coded 90% of the bikes on Frankley.
Richard Burden MP and Councillor Steve Bedser put in an appearance and members of the New Frankley in Birmingham Parish Council turned out in support. Yes, on Frankley we have the only Parish Council in Birmingham and we work closely with them to improve things for the local residents. More on that another time.
As Lord Mayor Randal Brew is excellent. He is so relaxed and he and Sandra appear to really enjoy their roles. I knew Mike Sharpe would be a hard act to follow but Randal has fitted into his duties so smoothly. I think we are lucky in our recent choices of Lord Mayor.

A funeral in Kings Lynn

We've had a few eventful days.
Thursday saw us driving to Kings Lynn where our Son Alan lives with his wife Karen. He is a Sergeant in the RAF, Karen is a Housing Officer in Kings Lynn. Her father died suddenly last week aged 72. Although he had had heart problems in recent years an operation had sorted it out and he seemed in good form. One day he took a nap in his chair and just didn't wake up.
The service took place at the local crematorium and the sheer numbers of people attending was amazing. The chapel seats 200 but it was standing room only. Gordon lived in a very small village and was active in a great number of the local clubs and societies, he could never turn down a plea for help and held positions in all of them. Usually he was the secretary, a position involving most of the work but little glory.
The service was also attended by Henry Billingham MP, Lord Leicester, another lord and a Lady Angela, quite a turn-out for an ordinary man whose occupation was a painter & decorator. He had a side-line in supplying waiting staff for functions for the great halls in Norfolk and got to know a lot of the big-wigs over the years and obviously made an impression.