Monday, 31 March 2008

Keith, Zaker Choudry, Penny Wagg & Sue.

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Sue & friends

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Keith gets his award

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Gemma Cartwright

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Another interesting day yesterday. During the morning it was business as usual, Keith and Ken Wood were out leafleting and getting a petition signed then in the afternoon we went to Villa Park for an awards presentation put on by the Rover Community Action Trust. This was set up after the collapse of MG/Rover by Gemma Cartwright with Government money. Gemma has worked her socks off since then and this was an event to acknowledge the work that a lot of organisations have contributed. The photos show Gemma receiving a gift from the Lord Mayor and Keith Receiving an award on behalf of South West Birmingham Community Association. There was also the unveiling of a new bus that Rcat have purchased for use in the community. While we were at Villa Park Sue could not resist posing with her hero, Gareth Barry.
A funny thing happened before we got to the event, we went into the Holte Suite by mistake. There was a big "Mega-Mela" show going on with a lot of the employment agencies there a crowds of people. We had a look round and met Cllr Tanveer Choudry who was there with his lads. Whilst we were walking around 3 young men entered through a fire exit, suddenly another young man ran up and punched one of them, some more lads piled in and it turned into Mega-Melee. Security forced them outside but streams of youths continued to join in. Eventually it calmed down and the fire exit was shut. We tried to leave by the front entrance but there was a large crowd outside trying to force their way back in and Security locked the doors. We eventually got out by a side door and found our way to the Trinity Suite. The Lord Mayor was only allowed in on sufferance as he is a well known Bluenose but he and Sandra really enjoyed themselves.


The Longbridge Kickz team just missed out on a semi-final place at Star City on Saturday. They were just pipped by a very strong Aston Villa side.
Sue came back frozen to the bones but a long hot bath and she was ready for a trip to Sutton Coldfield to a Vesey branch fundraiser. An excellent evening, Cllr John Beadman is a terrific host and his wife Mal and her helpers put on a wonderful meal. Andrew Mitchell MP gave a rousing speech and Keith also won a raffle prize.


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Saturday, 29 March 2008

In the mire.

Its been an interesting morning, Keith was on his way out to an Advice Centre when he got a phone call from the sister of a couple who were in dire straits, no not the group. He went to see them to find a sewer pipe had collapsed and their drive and garden was submerged in ..well to be polite, effluent. Luckily Mitie had got there first, there was a tanker pumping the stuff away, a crew using a remote camera to locate the blockage and a supervisor from Mitie overseeing things. The elderly couple had luckily used a flood prevention device to block the front door and the Mitie supervisor had barricaded the front door to further protect their home. They had been supplied with a portaloo which will be changed everyday and despite everything were quite cheerful and showing some of that old fashioned Stoicism which some younger residents might like to learn.
A crew is on the way with a digger to replace the sewer pipe and a clean up has started.
Afterwards Keith went to a table-top sale at the Frogmill Centre and then to Rednal to finish off the last few roads with our latest leaflet.
Sue has gone to Star City to take a look at another Kickz project. You will remember this takes youngsters off the streets and teaches them football and social skills. Very few people yet realise how good this scheme is or how big it is going to be but it is growing all the time. It seems Sue may be on the pitch at the Blues v Liverpool match to receive the cheque from the police for the continuation scheme next year. Its about time they had some talent at St. Andrews!

Friday, 28 March 2008


This morning Keith chaired the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on Vulnerable Children.
It covered a wide range of subjects, fostering, recruitment & retention of Social Workers, financial monitoring and performance monitoring. Some of it became quite technical. John Hemming MP is a member and brings a lot of national experience to the table. The meeting lasted 3 hours and even then we had to put off a discussion about whether people who smoke should become foster parents. If anyone has any views please feel free to express them.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

First scalp

We've been over in Kings Norton this evening helping Geoff Sutton to increase his majority. We have heard that Gary Sambrook has claimed his first scalp in Kingstanding. It seems that Cathleen Grundy has been deselected, 5 weeks before the election. We would like to think the Labour Party has panicked over the impact Gary is having there but there may be an additional reason for her getting the old heave-ho. She was thought of as a possible leader of the Labour group, it seems she thought so as well and rumour has it she was canvassing support for a challenge to Albert. She can't have been that clever or she would have waited until after her nomination papers went in. Some people recall the fate of others who have either challenged or appeared to be capable of challenging Albert, where are they now?


The events at the Bugle Horn become a little clearer. The young man, named locally as Andy, was attending a wake yesterday afternoon. An argument broke out and spilled out onto the street. Apparently Andy stepped in to seperate two people and was stabbed for his trouble. Another example of someone suffering for doing the right thing. Andy's parents still live on the estate and our condolences go out to them.
Right outside the pub there is a domehawk camera installed, paid for by Longbridge Ward Committee. We have bought 3.1/2 of these cameras in conjunction with Northfield Ward who have paid for 1.1/2. Hopefully the images downloaded by the police will lead to a swift arrest.

More bad news

A group of us were out last night, leafleting and getting a petition signed. Afterwards we went back to the Cock Inn for a drink only to hear that there had been a murder at another local pub the Bugle Horn. Rumour has it that trouble started inside, spilled out into the road and someone was stabbed to death.
This is an estate pub that never enjoyed a good reputation. It had been closed for some time, much to the delight of local residents. Suddenly it reopened, apparently once a premises license is granted it carries on, even if the pub closes the owners can reopen with different management without reference to the Licensing Committee.
So we have another needless and pointless death with the police committed to a costly investigation. Keith was once told by a member of the West Midlands Police Authority that a murder inquiry usually cost about £1m a time. Coupled to this is the result of a successful investigation, another young man locked up at the taxpayers expense, and for what?

Sunday, 23 March 2008


We see that this nanny government is worried about some of us older citizens going off abroad and doing things we would not usually do at home. Putting aside the fact that that is one of the reasons for going away here is Keith's view. As someone who has drank, sometimes to excess, on 3 continents and one sub-continent, and intends to add to the list of continents this year, and has indulged in scuba diving and paragliding......MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS!!!!!
We heard, with some dismay, the news that the cabinet have decided to ditch that fine Brummie product the Jaguar in favour of a Japanese model. What a kick in the teeth for British industry and Brummie workers, especially when they are facing difficult times. But what do we hear from the chairman of the all party motoring group, our own sensitive MP Mr Richard Burden? Nothing, nada, silencio. Its not as if he has a government position to worry about but when it comes to fighting for local jobs, not a word. Can anyone tell us what he is for please.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Easter break

Today we are braving the elements and driving to Kings Lynn to visit our son, daughter-in-law and their 2 new cats. If the snow does come we may try and blog some photos from there. Happy Easter everyone.

Tree planting

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More tree planting

This morning we had a very pleasant surprise. A team from the Parks Department turned up to plant 2 Cherry trees on the verge in front of our house. There used to be a massive Oak tree there but it had to be removed after a branch split off and fell onto our neighbours wall. Tests showed that it was diseased and it had to go.
The policy in Birmingham is that when a tree is removed another one is planted but we are lucky and have 2. They should be in bloom soon and we look forward to the display. Got a couple of pics but you will have to understand that it was blowing a gale so we look a bit windswept.

Graffiti grafters

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Busy nights

We had meetings every night last week. Monday was New Frankley in Birmingham Parish Council, Tuesday was Northfield Constituency Committee, Wednesday the Longbridge Ward Committee and on Thursday a split, Sue went to the Frankley Police Liaison meeting whilst Keith chaired the Northfield Conservative Constituency Association AGM. All went quite well. no real ructions at any of them but all useful. The AGM is always a well attended affair and it is usually a chance for some members to pass comment on the running of the Association. Keith's answer is to invite them to take a greater role in its affairs. What do you think the response to that is?
On Tuesday morning we were at Frankley Centre for a graffiti cleaning day. There were some of our Neighbourhood Workers and some people from the Youth Offending Team there. Unfortunately none of the young offenders managed to get their backs off their beds.
Keith has been looking at restorative justice lately but if this is an example it does not look good. The guys who run the scheme pitched in, they have a power washer which they tow by car and it could get to places our own larger truck cannot. We were also joined by some lads from Frankley Community High School who came out and helped. They seemed to really get into it and enjoyed the experience. They also enjoyed the chips that Keith bought them as well. We can't show a pic of the lads but here is one of the other people involved.

Saturday job

Last Saturday a few people turned out to help us distribute our latest leaflet. We finished the last leaflet early so we decided to put out another one while we wait for the election address. 27 people turned up and we put out 4.500 leaflets on the morning. We have shown just the few remaining in the pub at about 2.30. Hard work should always be followed by a good social event.

Flying Squad

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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Cigarettes n' whisky n' wild, wild, wimmen!

Older readers will recognise the song. It is about wild living dragging a man down. The budget seems a bit of a contradiction, the government introduced 24 hr drinking which has resulted in an increase in binge drinking and alcohol fuelled violence and now wants to try to tax it out of existence. They seemed to think we would adopt the continental mode of sitting outside cafes sipping an aperitif. We are of course of Anglo-Saxon stock and they were notorious for drinking themselves unconscious and then starting again. But then this government does tend to ignore the lessons of history.
This has been a varied week. On Monday Keith attended the Cabinet to talk about the Birmingham Children's Plan. This is good news for all our kids but just needs a tiny bit of fine-tuning.
On Tuesday there was a meeting of Northfield Community Safety Partnership. There were some excellent figures on the reduction of crime. We still maintain that low level anti-social behaviour is the main concern of residents and needs the 2 pronged approach of cracking down on the yobs and providing more facilities for youngsters. That evening we went to the Meadows school for a meeting with residents of School Close who are suffering from anti-social behaviour. The police were there in strength and hopefully we can get something done and give them some peace. Our Labour Councillor turned up and showed his ignorance of the problems. He also put his new leaflet on all the seats but only about 2 were picked up. It is quite a poor leaflet but then he hasn't put one out for over 4 years and he has to introduce himself to the thousands of people who have never heard of him.
On Wednesday Keith caught an early train to London for an LGA conference on Children's Services which looked at the latest research, methodology and legislation affecting the services for children with disabilities in the near future. A really interesting day but why are conference halls so hot? Back on a hot train to a hot Council House for an update on the Local Area Agreement. This seems to have had the difficult and surprising affect of annoying Councillors from all parties. Ructions ahead.
Sue was at the Fostering Panel for most of the day. This involves the most incredible amount of reading for days beforehand on some really complex cases but Sue does enjoy it. She was also at the LAA meeting and we took the opportunity to go for a curry afterwards at a local place in Alvechurch Road. An excellent restaurant called Thania Spice, we can recommend it.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Julie looking very 60s in her Afghan

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Still at it

It may be the weekend but we are still working hard.
This morning Keith was at a meeting of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital Foundation Trust Members Council whilst Sue was invited to the opening of the new stand at Kings Norton Rugby Club, which just happens to be in Bromsgrove. Julie Kirkbride MP performed the opening, Cllr Roger the Leader of Bromsgrove District Council was also there. Julie has been a huge help to us in the past and we see Roger frequently at the Joint meetings with Northfield and Longbridge Councillors. Keith was supposed to join Sue but the meeting went on until after 2pm by which time the ceremonies were over. Still, good luck to the club. They have been here for 25 years and our son remembers playing there for the Old Salts.
On Wednesday evening Keith did a round of local police stations in his role as a Custody Visitor. He has been doing this for about 5 years and has just had his term extended by a further 3 years. The custody suite at Bournville Lane was packed and they started to divert new detainees to other stations. It seemed that Mr Blair's "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" soundbite was just that.
We are now being contacted by parents who are worried because their child has not got their first choice of school. We have 2 very good schools in the area. Colmers is excellent but one parent told me that she sent her son to Frankley and not Colmers because of bullying. Another wanted to get her child in to Colmers and not Frankley because of , yes, you guessed it....bullying.
Frankley has improved immensely over the last few years but it can be difficult to lose a bad reputation. We will keep working with the school to make it even better and make sure everyone knows about it.
On Friday there was another sad occasion with the funeral of Hon Alderman Don Wilson.
We met him for the first time at a Mayoral dinner. He was always immaculately dressed and a marvellous raconteur. He spent a lifetime devoted to public duty and his sudden passing was a shock for us all. Our condolences to Dereen.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Here we go again.

An interesting couple of days. On Monday we were on the Bristol Road South standing on the central reservation for a photo shoot. Sue managed to get there between 2 Advice Desks. Our local Labour Councillor was supposed to do the second one but didn't turn up. Sue went along just in case, just as well really. The central reservation has been cleared of overgrown shrubs and we actually found some nice trees in there. The area was a magnet for litter and rats were nesting in there. John Scott who is chairman of the Loynells Rd Residents Association asked us to get the work done. All we did was find some money for it from the Great Park Section 106 funds.
On Tuesday Keith went to Northfield fire station for the launch of Northfield Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP) which is offering cost price/free cavity wall insulation and loft insulation in Northfield. It is free to over 60s and people on benefit, we think, check for details. John Lines was there to do the launch along with some rather keen photographers. Luckily one of them was Nick from the Bromsgrove Standard who took the photos on Monday.
Sue was at the Town Hall for the launch of the Extra Care Village charity appeal. There are plans to build one at Egghill and talks about one at Cofton Hackett on the former MG/Rover site there.
Later we met up at Forestdale School for the handover of the project to the Landscape practise Group and Thomas Vale who will firm up the quote. It looks at about £500K. The project has grown like Topsy and finding the money will be hard work but we believe so much in the Park that we are determined to succeed.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

A welcome break

On Saturday Keith had an advice desk at Frankley. People were queuing when he got there and kept coming. He was supposed to finish at 11am but it was after 11.30am when he finished. He and Sue had planned to go over to Tyburn to help out Derek Johnson but phoned to say they were too late. Derek was quite happy because so many people had turned up that he had run out of leaflets so we were not missed. That afternoon we went to watch Mosley RUFC play London Welsh. The wind made things difficult and LW ran out 13-6 winners. It was a good afternoon except for the result and a chance to relax and talk about something else other than politics. Good news for the Bluenoses there but a bitter disappointment for Keith when the Gunners equalised in the 93rd minute.
You may not realise it but the Labour Party are in town for their Spring Conference. It is ironic but fully deserved that this non event has been completely wiped off the front pages and TV screens by the frenzy about Prince Harry firstly being in Afghanistan and then flying home. This am the papers are full of him. Talk about a good day to bury Broon news. It seems there is some justice in the world after all. What goes around really does come around.

The art of taking photos.

On Friday we broke off from leafleting to support the Friends of Balaams Wood in a tree planting on the Meadow. This is paid for by a grant from Trees for Life and involved the planting of 15 young oaks on the edge of the Meadow which lies between Balaams Wood and Ormond Road.
As politicians this is an opportunity for a photo as we don't actually plant the trees, no, honestly, there was a team of guys to do that. We don't get our hands dirty, we may sometimes but not in public.
In the first photo you can see our sensitive MP doing his famous impression of a letter box and leaning on a spade. The two local residents with him may seem a bit intimidated but he is harmless really.
The next two photos show Sue and Keith with Penny Moore, a great local stalwart and driving force behind the Friends. As you can see we look as if we are doing something and are enjoying it. Here is another tip, always dress for the occasion. A suit is an essential item for many formal occasions but NOT a tree-planting, it just looks false and set up, but then again....

How not to do it

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Getting stuck in

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