Thursday, 31 July 2008

Long Hours But Very Rewarding

Over the last 2 weeks Keith and Ken have certainly been burning the late night oil. Both were asked to form part of an interview panel handling interviews for 7 senior positions. Over 4 nights some 18 interviews took place and as a result Keith and Ken did not leave the Council House till gone 10:00 pm on any of the days. As well as officers from the City, other members of the interview panel included representatives from both the Labour Group and Liberal Group and it was good to see all parties working together for the good of the City. As a recruitment consultant Ken certainly found the process extremely interesting and worthwhile and hopefully we will soon have some very experienced people in post.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Herman's Hermits.

Posted by Picasa

A blast from the past

That eving Keith & Sue along with Ken & Barbara were at the Austin Club for a charity evening in aid of Cancer Research UK. The room was packed and there was a great line up of talent. The show started with two local boys named Darren & Darren who went through a wide range of songs. Then we had the Fourmost, a band from the sixties. Among a lot of songs they performed their hit single "Hello little girl" which nowadays would require a CRB check before it could be sung.
After a tremendous raffle and Grand Draw we had a demonstration of Ballroom Dancing and then the main act, Hermans Hermits, minus Herman or Peter Noone as we oldsters know him. They were a really proffessional outfit and had the dancefloor packed. A bit disappointing that they only performed 3 Hermits hits but we think there may be a copyright problem. Still a great night and a successful fundraiser.

Godparents, parents and the centre of attraction.

Posted by Picasa


We all turned up at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Billesley for the christening of Katie Elizabeth Mary Huxtable, daughter of Keely and Tim. The church was packed and there was a reception afterwards. This church has really got it's act together, there is a lounge bar in the church hall and a bar upstairs in the function room.


On Wednesday Sue attended the Fostering Panel at Sheldon. As we have said before, this involves an enormous amount of reading in order to be fully conversant with the cases when they come up. When you are making decisions that affect children's lives it is an awesome responsibility and one which Sue takes very seriously. Some of the cases can be quite traumatic but this is balanced by some wonderful people who want to take responsibility for other people's children.
Keith meanwhile was carrying out Custody Visits to our 3 local police stations. This is nothing to do with the Council but is something Keith has done for some years. It involves going to custody suites and carrying out snap inspections. The idea is to ensure PICs (Persons in Custody) are receiving their rights and are being treated properly. We must remember their are no guilty people in custody. They have to be charged, tried and convicted first. This does not mean they are all innocent either, we do see the same faces quite often and on many ocassions we hear complaints which, when we check the custody record, turn out to be complete fiction. Still, Nils Desperandum. On this ocassion the police stations were very busy and the visits took quite some time. It may be the good weather that brings out the ne'erdowells and the drinkers who end up inside the next morning
That evening all 3 of us attended the Longbridge Ward Advisory Board. This is the body that advises us on how we spend Ward funds. We made decisions on roughly £70000of the £100000 we have to spend. At this rate we will be spent up by September.
Thursday evening we were all at the Police Neighbourhood Tasking Meeting in Rednal. This was considerably better than the first one and some real police issues came out of it. One of the problems is that these meetings mainly attract people from the immediate vicinity so we only get a limited number of issues from very close to the venue. We will continue to publicise these meeting in the hope of getting a wider audience.
On Friday evening Sue was out with the police and a sniffer dog on a visit to a local pub to see what the drugs situation is there. A clean bill of Health for the pub and the landlord was very welcoming.
Saturday saw Keith at Police Headquarters at Lloyd House for a seminar on preventing deaths in custody and the workings of the Terrorism Act. It is not generally known that terrorist suspects are just as entitled to a visit from a Custody Visitor as any one else in custody. As the police use a special custody suite in Coventry it is not something that will worry Keith much.
Sue and Ken meanwhile were out with the Flying Squad delivering our latest newsletter to people in Rednal. Keith was enjoying a nice cup of coffee and a biscuit when he looked out of the window and saw a tremendous downpour, he felt really guilty that he was there while all the others were out getting soaked and had to have another biscuit to help him feel better.

Chidren's Home visit

After a weekend off Sue & Keith got back into the swing with a Section 33 Visit to our local Children's Home. This is a duty that all Councillors are supposed to carry out but not all of them do. We think it is forgetfulness rather than neglect and it may be that individual Councillors will have to be rostered to ensure they carry out these visits.
On Tuesday Sue stepped in to deputise for a Councillor who could not attend a Licensing Sub-Committee. When she got there no-one else had turned up either. After some frantic phone calls the Chairman got there and the two of them carried on.
It was the day of the first meeting of the Human Resouces and Equalities Committee which Keith is chairing. This was a scene-setter for the real work which will be carried out in the future. The intention is to ensure we have a workforce which is fit for purpose, fairly treated and encouraged to develop in their roles.
As probably the most diverse city in the country we face many challenges and many opportunities over the coming years and the committee will play it's part in that.
On a personal note Keith pities those people who embrace extreme right wing groups, they limit themselves to their own narrow vision and fail to see the opportunities to enrich their lives by experiencing all that this world has to offer.
Straight after the committee it was straight into a meeting of the Employees Consultative Forum where teachers and school employees get to meet Cllr Les Lawrence to talk about Education Issues. Of course the main topic was the decision that school non-teaching employees have to get backpay the same as the Council workers. The teachers unions think we should put our hands into the bottomless pit which they believe the Council has and pay up. Government guidelines say the schools should pay and as schools in Birmingham have £70million in reserves we tend to agree with them.
The unions in general seem to think we have this bottomless money pit as they called a two day strike for Wednesday and Thursday to demend a bigger increase. This had very little impact in the city, all the waste depots were working and this is what seems to make the biggest impact. It seems a pity that employees are encouraged to lose 2 days pay to support demands for larger increases when a lot of people must be very worried that they will have a job at all the way things are going. Still the unions have never allowed realism to get in the way before.

Get stuck in!

Posted by Picasa

Michael & Sue

Posted by Picasa

Michael Gove at Tally Ho!

On the Thursday evening we turned up at Tally Ho! for the Erdington & Perry Barr Annual Dinner. There was a massive turnout and an excellent raffle. The guest speaker was Michael Gove MP, the shadow Education Minister or Children, Young People and Families in NuLab speak, you may remember he visited Colmers School last year. He gave an excellent speech, very funny in parts but quite eviscerating about the state of the Government and the Labour Party. The food at Tally Ho! is excellent and we all enjoyed a great evening. The event raised a considerable amount of money which will be put to good use over the next two years.
Keith was at Rednal Hill Infant School immediately before the dinner. He is a Governor at the school and the main topic of discussion was the legal decision which means school employees are to be treated the same as Council Employees. This means a hit to the school financially this year and we are trying to decide how best to handle it. It could mean it comes out of school funds, is borrowed from the Council or a mixture of both. Time will tell.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

More about the Vikings

We forgot to tell you last week about the group who do the re-enactment of Viking life.
As we told you they are called Svartland viking age living history. You can see their website at:
They can be contacted at
It all looked very interesting, although they depict life after settling in britain there were plenty of weapons on display and we reckon they have a lot of fun at it.
Take a look.

Council Day

After the Frankley walkabout on Tuesday it was off to the Council.
Ken asked his first question, it is a good way of breaking the ice. It can be a bit nerve-wracking speaking in public but Ken has done it before. The main thing to remember is to breath, a lot of new Councillors see the light flashing to say they are about to be called and immediatley stop breathing, pure nerves. If you stand up to speak like that you find you run out of breath halfway through a sentence and the voice sounds very strained. We advise anyone to make sure they try to breath deeply before they even open their mouth and then speak normally.
Keith spoke during a particularly poor debate on wheelie bins. The Labour Group put forward a motion calling for a wheelie bin trial period to be extended. This was a compromise worked out some months ago when it was decided any Councillors could ask for a pilot in their area, since then none of us, including the Labour Group have asked for a trial. Strangely none of the Labour candidates called for a trial during the election or asked the electorate if they would like one. They know that wheelie bins mean fortnightly collections and know this would have been electoral suicide. There was a sting in the last paragraph where they performed an about face and called for the continuation of weekly collections. Cake and eat it comes to mind.
Keith was rather acerbic about them during the debate and questioned their intellectual capacity. This did not go down too well with Cllr Grundy who complained to him later. The problem with this particular Councillor is that she spends most of her time sitting there denying everything that we say but very rarely presses her button to speak. If her supposed ambition to lead the Labour Group is to be realised she must make more of an effort and show her colleaques that she can outdo Sir Albert in the debating chamber and is capable of leading the group.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Ken's Diary Notes

Ken has spent the last few weeks getting his feet under the various tables he now has to sit at and he hasn't been wasting any time!
With his background in recruitment Ken has been asked to serve on HR & Equalities Scrutiny along with Keith and he is also on Housing Scrutiny. These are extremely important Committees and it really does demonstrate Ken's wish to work hard for the City and the residents of Longbridge Ward
With his background in recruitment Ken was asked to take part in a panel producing a "long List" for some positions with BCC which involved reading through 86 cvs. Ken reported " I found the exercise very interesting and its good that BCC are utilising skills available to them".
It was Ken's birthday on Friday and he and Barbara went away for the weekend. However - just to prove Cllrs are always on call - he was most concerned to be contacted on Saturday morning by the owners of the Cock Inn highlighting their despair regarding some Police related issues they were encountering. Ken promised to visit them when he returned on Sunday. Upon visiting them on Sunday and listening to the problems they were encountering Ken advised them that he would follow it up with his fellow Cllrs Keith and Sue and also with the Police.
We are pleased to announce that the situation is now in hand and that normal service will soon be returned to the Cock.
Ken said " Damien and Rob have worked extremely hard to make the Cock Inn a welcoming and friendly place and it is not right that the illegal actions of some mindless and selfish individuals should put what they have achieved at risk". "I will be backing them all the way in their drive to rid not only their pub of these individuals but also the area".
Ken also wrote to all the companies in the Longbridge area highlighting that their opinions, as employers in the area, are also important as we move forward with the regeneration of Longbridge. Ken along with Keith and Sue are looking forward to having meetings with those who have responded over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Baby Charlotte

Posted by Picasa

All together now......Aaaaah.

That evening we popped over to the Bartley Green Conservatives BBQ. The weather was again dreadful but our host Phil Freakley was undeterred and braveley made sure there was plenty of food for everyone. Also there was Councillor Bruce Lines and his partner Claire and baby Charlotte. Altogether now.....



Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa

Rape & pillage....well the Northfield carnival.

After an advice centre at the offices of New Birmingham in Frankley Parish Council- they get a bit antsy if you don't give them their full title, don't they Roger?- Sue & Keith went into Northfield to have a look at the carnival in Victoria Common. It was a lovely day despite the morning's rain and there were loads of people there. We have some photos for you. The first one if of a re-enactment society that rejoices in the name of the Svartland Vikings. Ther re-enact the Vikings in the period when they had given up raiding and had settled in Britain. The big bloke in the photo is Andy Dimmock. Andy is one of our Constituency Engineers and as you know we are very careful about naming and posting photos of Council officers but in this case Andy is quite happy to be shown in his off-duty pursuits. The other guy is from Peterborough and his group show the lives of the Vikings who founded Russia. Russ is the word for strangers and this is how Russia got its name. The slightly shorter one in the middle is demonstating why so many Vikings went cross-eyed and is re-enacting the life of a modern day Councillor....or something.
There are also a couple of crowd scenes.
Posted by Picasa

Continuing "last week"

On Thursday Keith was at an emergency meeting of the South West Birmingham Community Association. You may remember that this is a Development Agency that helps voluntary groups across Edgbaston, Selly Oak and Northfield and is taking on the management of Oddingley Hall on the new Wychall Estate. Due to Council Officer's procrastination the lease is not yet ready and the Council wants us to take on something called a "tenancy at will". Our solicitor has advised us not to do this therefore we have decided to wait until the lease is complete.
Sue meanwhile had to attend a hastily arranged meeting of the Governors of Colmers infants school. The recent decision in the High Court that all non-teaching staff have to be treated as Council workers has meant a large demand for backpay and is causing some angst in some schools.
That evening Keith & Ken were at the Council House to help out at a paper sift of candidates for 7 posts of Assistant Directors. As there were about 88 applicants it was quite a lot of reading to get through. Still, Council jobs can't be as unattractive as certain Labour members make out as there always seems to be a queue for them, Social Workers apart of course.
On Friday Sue & Keith joined Deirdre Alden and Cllr Alister Dow at Edgbaston Cricket Ground to wish the NHS a happy 60th Birthday. This was a very poorly organised event which overran very badly but it was a pleasure to meet a lot of people who were concerned with and about the NHS.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Last week

Keith spent last Monday & Tuesday at a conference centre at Leamington Spa with the Extended Management Team. This includes Cabinet Members, Scrutiny & Regulation Chairmen and senior officers looking to the future to see what challenges & opportunities await us. Certain members of the press may wish to paint this as a "jolly" but it is jolly hard work, very intensive and constant.
On Wednesday Sue had to see a physiotherapist about her wrist but still managed to get over to Sheldon for the Fostering and Adoption Panel. This is another duty that some Councillers take on which is probably unknown outside the Council. It involves mountains of reading to prepare for and one morning, twice a month. All this for no extra allowance, it shows how good value the Council Tax payers get.
Keith held a pre-agenda meeting to discuss the upcoming first meeting of the HR & Equalities Scrutiny Committee in the afternoon and then went off to Solihull for some training in his role as Chairman of Northfield Conservative Association. This is getting more complicated these days due to rules on donations, reporting and Data protection.
Ken meanwhile attended his first Housing Scrutiny Committee and enjoyed the experience. He will be a real asset to the committee where John Beadman is the Deputy Chairman.
We are off to Council now but will continue last week's goings on tommorrow.



Posted by Picasa

Frankley walkabout

This morning Sue & Keith joined up with Bill Hollis from Frankley & Cock Hill Housing Liaison Board and one of our Housing Officers for a stroll round part of Frankley to take a look a any problems they could find.
Frankley is looking really nice these days but it is still plagued by fly-tipping. We have taken some photos for you, our dog is called Tina and she is a star. She loves a good walk and can sniff for England.