Friday, 28 September 2007



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There's an awful lot of coffee in.......

Macmillan Nurses were holding a coffee morning on Friday in an attempt to be the biggest one ever held.
Sue, Keith and Ken Wood went along to the Reaside Centre and Keith went on to the Council House for the Lord Mayor's event.
Tomorrow we are off to Blackpool for the Conference. There are 10 of us going from Longbridge, in fact we are taking over an hotel. Paul Dale has provided we bloggers with our own room so we should be able to keep you up to date.
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Tuesday saw Keith at the Co-ordinating Committee call-in on the Single Status report. This is a legal minefield and extremely complicated. If only Albert had sorted it out years ago it would not be so bad now. Of course Labour have always been in hock to the unions so it was never very likely. Sue was working for the BMA up at Keele University.
On Wednesday Sue had an early start at the Licensing Committee. Keith was at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital to get his hip sorted out. It looks likely that an op is on the cards in the next few months.
Afterwards he was at Education Committee where a few remarks about sex education were considered interesting enough for a quote in the Mail. Later that evening Keith was at the Frankley HLB for a short time before going to a board meeting of SWBCA which is having trouble with funding.
Sue went along to the AGM of INVOLVE. This used to be called Northfield Youth Forum but has to have one of these strange titles that seem to be fashionable at the moment. Afterwards she had a meeting with the head of Colmers Farm School about a project they want her help with. Watch this space.
On Thursday we both went along for a special assembly at Rednal Hill Infants school where Keith is a Governor. The assembly was in honour of Mrs Betts who has been the dinner supervisor for 29 years and is retiring.Quite an achievement and an example of dedication by someone who quite obviously loved her work and the school.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Routine day

Keith was in his office most of the day. A quick visit to the Cabinet Committee where Paul Dale & David Bell were in attendance.
The Post on Saturday had a good front page story about the Scrutiny Committee meeting on Friday concentrating on the U.S. recruitment item. It seemed quite favourable.
Sue has been working on casework all day and has seen a few good results.
Keith is off to Sutton Coldfield this evening for a meeting of Birmingham Conservative Board. I wonder if an early election is on the agenda?

Friday, 21 September 2007

What a day

A seemingly innocuous item on the agenda at the Vulnerable Children's Scrutiny Committee sent the press into a bit of a frenzy today. It concerned the recruitment and retention of Social Workers.
We have been doing some innovative work on recruitment as there is a national shortage of Social Workers. This includes recruiting the undergraduates from Birmingham Uni by paying their last years fees but the thing that really got them going was the information that we have a team in New York interviewing experienced
social workers for permanent posts here in B'ham. The Mail sent a reporter to the committee and the Post wanted a telephone interview. The Post wanted to know how many people went to NY, where they stayed, how much it cost etc etc. I am sure they would like to run it as a "Council Jolly" story but the fact is the 3 officers flew out Sunday and return this evening having secured 14 people with wide experience which will greatly help the experience profile of the workforce in what is the most important area of the Council's work, the safety of our children.
The BBC also got into the act on the same story. This was someone from the "Inside out" programme so you may have to endure Keith on the telly. He admits to having an ideal face for radio so please do not adjust your set.
Back at the committee after a long meeting we saw a DVD produced by children with disabilities via the Children's Society concerning a Charter for disabled children. Keith hopes to show this to full Council and possibly the schools. It is an excellent and moving production and if you get the chance to see it please do.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

The end of spin? don't Panesar it.

Both of us went to a lunchtime seminar on the new Local Area Agreement which is being formulated for next year. Typical New Labour-speak with lots of buzz words and catch phrases signifying nothing. First it was said that the pot of money for the Strategic Partnership would increase, then it emerged that some of the money would be existing funds along with existing responsibilities then it was said next years government grant would be very tight. In English Gordon Brown will announce more money but it will in fact be less. Spin anyone?
Later that evening we had the Longbridge Ward Committee. Our Labour Councillor was again conspicuous by his absence but the MP managed to turn up.
It was a brief but pleasant meeting including presentations to the contestants in the Frankley Garden competition. As the meeting was notable for the swiftness of proceedings Keith, as chairman, opened up the meeting for comments and complaints and a few points were sorted out to every-ones satisfaction.
Tomorrow morning we are off to help out in Brandwood before a series of meetings taking up most of the day and evening.

Noses to the grindstone

Yesterday was a normal work-day. No visits to anywhere or from the Lord Mayor.
Keith had meetings during the morning with Scrutiny office staff in his new office. Yes, now he is a Committee Chairman he gets his own office. It is one of 3 made out of one office but is lucky in that he does not have to share with a deputy chairman as Jon Hunt already has his own office. This means a little more room which is at a premium in the Council House.
He also had a meeting with Cllr Les Lawrence about the realignment of Youth Services with Connexions and the Youth Offending Team coming on board and combining to offer more integrated services hopefully backed up by the government's plans for a youth centre for every ward. We don't know if this money will show up but if it does we will be ready to spend it.
That evening saw us all at the Constituency Committee. Only half of the Labour members turned up along with the MP but made a valiant effort to make mischief about the budget. Thanks yet again due to government efficiency savings demands this will be a very challenging year but as in the past we will be working very hard to overcome the disadvantages.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Hats off to Oddingley Hall.

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Another day, another visit from the Lord Mayor.

On friday Sue was at the latest meeting of the Children, Young People and Families theme group. Each group has a Councillor representative and attendees from all the services and agencies concerned with that theme. This is a means of getting better partnership working between us all. It does seem to be working well in Northfield and we hope it continues when we find out what is to replace NRF.
Keith was at the Co-ordinating Committee meeting but sneaked off early to see the Lord Mayor cutting the first sod, no that is not a knife attack on Albert, at the site of the new Oddingley Hall on the Wychall Estate. This brand new community hall , complete with changing rooms for the sports field, will be managed by South West Birmingham Community Association of which Keith is a director.
We are away this weekend in our campervan down near Evesham. Lets hope the weather stays fine.
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The "Youth Aware" meeting was a strange affair. We usually go to these events and find a committee with a good idea which needed funding. This one had the idea and the funding but needed some more people on the committee to share the load. These days to qualify for funding you must have a shed load of policies and procedures in place. Really every committee should have at least 4 lawyers on it to make sense of government legislation. Is this necessary to protect the funds or to make work for even more quango's? Your comments are welcome.

Over the weekend we were again out and about in Brandwood. A lot of people are turning up to help out and there is a danger we will get ahead of ourselves but we know Neville is in full control and doing an excellent job. We were also out in Longbridge delivering Bulky Rubbish leaflets, another service this council provides.

On Monday Keith attended the Cabinet meeting to support a report calling for a change in the way Children's Services are delivered. This is part of the Business Transformation process and should help to overcome some of the anomalies caused by using different computer systems for different procedures and will help improve outcomes all down the line .

The evening saw us at the Conservative Group meeting where we discussed the next days events.

On Tuesday morning Keith joined Cllrs Adrian Delaney (Weoley) and Barbara Wood (Kings Norton) at a meeting of Northfield Community Safety Partnership. Some good news about the reduction in crime in the Constituency, it looks as though the work done by Sue and Keith on the Great Park has been a great success. We can only hope new plans will help even more.

At Council we must have had one of the poorest showings by an opposition for many years. Mike made a "State of the City" speech with which Sir Albert Bore simply agreed to and "Cuddly" Ian Ward made a half hearted attempt to defend the Post Office, and his own Government, over the proposal to close another 2,500 post offices. Only 28 of his colleagues backed him whilst a few managed to be conveniently absent for the vote.

On Wednesday Sue and Keith attended the Memorial Service to Ken Hardeman. A grand setting and a beautiful service was attended by a host of people from Birmingham and beyond. A sad and untimely loss to us all.

Thursday morning Keith met up with our Estate Assistant on The Roundabout to sort out some problems reported by residents. A quick visit lasted over an hour as residents kept stopping us for a chat, a moan and even some thanks. It is amazing how often we help out with a complaint, often brought to us by several people, and afterwards no one says a word. Still we are used to that. That afternoon saw a very high turnout for the opening of the Northfield Town Centre Shop. This is a one stop centre to access all the services, not only the Council but police, fire employment, Commusave and several others.

The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress arrived to loud applause. He is pictured here and there is also a pic of a group of Chinese students who are studying Government at Bournville College. A very friendly group who are anxious to learn about democratic government.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Gardens, offices and Brandwood.

On Sunday Sue & Keith went to Kings Heath Park for Gardener's Weekend. this is one of the city's most successful events. Luckily it wasn't as hot as previous years which made it so much easier to get around and spend money.
This has been a week for catching up after the holiday.
On Monday Keith spent most of the day in his new office answering several hundred e-mails and going over reports for the committee meeting. The table supplied for the room was too small for the number of people who come to pre-agenda meetings etc so a larger one has to be located. All the furniture is second hand by the way, or should that be "pre-used"? This is all part of Cllr Ian Dow's efforts to keep costs down. A stance which we fully support. As long as the furniture is in decent shape why should we spend tax payers money on new stuff?
Monday evening saw us at the Longbridge Ward Advisory Board. This is where decisions are made on spending of NRF. There was general agreement on all the issues and the meeting went well. Now we, that is the 3 Ward Councillors, have to formally agree the bids at Ward Committee, then they are assessed to death by officers, constituency performance board and in some cases the Cabinet Member and hopefully some of them will actually take place before next April.
Tuesday morning we attended a meeting of the Great Park Business Group. There was a lot of good news about the continuing fall in crime figures for the park. From being the worst in Birmingham the car parks have gone to being among the best with car crime falling off the scale. The businesses have also seen their trade increase sharply since the security measures were put in place and it is hoped they can be increased soon. A Business Watch scheme is to be put in place which will see trouble makers banned from all the businesses on Great Park and it is hoped this will continue the success in attracting families back to the area.
That evening a group of us went over to Brandwood for a canvassing exercise. This was extremely positive and we remain confident in retaining the seat.
Wednesday saw Keith again in the Council House for a pre-agenda meeting for his committee.
There is a really heavy workload for this year, not least because of the Government's "Care Matters" white paper. This will undoubtedly lead to more responsibilities for us but without the money to carry them out. Same old same old.
Today Sue has gone to Keele University to do some recruitment work for the BMA. She still keeps her hand in by doing a little bit of work for them.
Keith is again going over the mountain of reports for his committee but has promised to attend a meting of "Youth Aware" at Hampstead House to see if he can help in any way.