Thursday, 23 October 2008


The Council meeting last week was another quiet affair with the Labour Group fairly supine. Sir Albert did try to stir them up but his heart does not seem to be in it. It is hard these days for them to get up and say anything. We have managed to keep out of the Icelandic Bank mess but it seems the Police Authority and now Centro have been caught up in it. We like the way they all say it will have no effect on their services but you have to wonder if it does not matter why have they got it?
Before that on the Saturday evening Sue and Keith were at the ICC for the annual ANKA Daycare Dinner. This is a longstanding organisation which provides daycare, and a lot more, in some of the hard-pressed areas of Lozells and Aston. Although they do much good work it is one aspect of the gun/gangs scenario which gets little publicity, although it deserves more. Cllr Yvonne Mosquito was the co-host and she believes we should all sing for our supper so during the evening Keith, Sue, Cllr Alan Rudge and Cllr Paulette Hamilton were dragged up on stage and had to recite a rather long poem, Blake's " Augeries of innocence" no less. Very intellectual for us councillors.
On Wednesday Keith was at the Innovation Centre for the LAAP enqiry whilst Sue spent most of the day at the Council House doing some training for the Licensing Committee, firstly about normal licencing issues and then a session on about gaming, bet that was interesting. Sorry. That evening Keith was at the AGM of the Sir Barry Jackson Trust. This is the body that owns the shares of the Rep and a lively meeting was followed by an enjoyable meal and discussions about the forthcoming Library of Birmingham Project which will include part of the Rep.
On Thursday Keith was at the Planning Committee helping some local residents with an application by the Reaside Clinic for new security measures. All went well with a meeting afterwards between the residents and the clinic's Estate Manager which will hopefully solve the problems. It is nice when two sides of a dispute can work together to sort things out.
On Friday Sue and Keith went to the Caravan and Camping Show at the NEC. Nothing to do with the Council and yes they paid for the tickets. It turned into an expensive morning as they bought a caravan. It involved a good deal on the motorhome but does mean that Keith will have to change the Micra for a bigger car. Another smacking from the green doom merchants seems on the cards.
After the show Sue and Keith took the motorhome over to Wem in Shopshire for a beer festival. Also on site were Ken and Barbara, Cllr Adrian Delaney from Weoley with his two kids and Derek Johnson and Gary Sambrook. Derek is the candidate for Brandwood and a big Post and Mail letter writer while Gary is a young man who almost took Kingstanding this year and is working extremely hard in order to win in 2010. We all had a great time. There were lots of real ales from all over Shropshire and the standard was very high this year.
We had to come back early on Monday for the funeral of a good friend and local personality, Gill Yates. Gill was a loving wife and mother as well as a well known teacher. She also sang in the City of Birmingham Symphony Choir for twenty years as well as playing the trombone. The ocassion was attended by a large number of her numerous friends and her loss at such a young age is a great blow to her husband Malcolm and their three children.
It seemed odd afterwards to be going on to more meetings but it has to be done. Sue was at Colmers Juniors for a Governors meeting which seemed to go on for hours whilst Keith was at the Northfield Town Centre Shop for a meeting of the board of South West Birmingham Community Association.
Tuesday and Wednesday saw Keith at the LAAP enquiry again. As we have told you the one session has been adjourned. Yesterday Sue, Keith and Ken had a meeting with the Highway Engineer at some shops on the Bristol Road South. It seems some of the shop owners and residents have been driving down the pavement to access the frontages. This will be stopped before someone gets killed or injured but we are assessing how we can help them gain a safe acess to the shop frontages. It is amazing how aggressive some people can be when you are trying to help and it can be very tempting to walk away and say bugger the lot of you. Luckily we have thick skins and shrug it all off and get on with trying to help them even though they don't seem able to help themselves. One man was full of his own opinions, we felt like telling him that we would run his shop and he could be the Highway Engineer but restraint won out in the end.
Today Keith and Sue have been at the Callowbrook Day Centre for a Section 33 visit. These are snap inspections which we are reqired to carry out on Childrens Homes, Elder Peoples Homes, Daycare Centres and Emergency Assessment Teams, mostly in our own wards but sometimes in other area of the city. Callowbook is well known to us as we hold a regular surgery there and the visitors speak very highly of it.

We may be dirty but its in a good cause

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Getting our hands dirty

Just to prove that this job is not all glamour we would like to show you a pic of a recent incident. Keith got a phone call telling him that a resident had put some bulky rubbish out at 12midnight on Friday night for an arranged collection on Saturday. At about 1am a local herbert set fire to it. The fire spread to a nearby fence and hedge belonging to a sub station. The Fire Service were called and responded prontly and put the fire out. Unfortunatley they left all the debris spread over and blocking the pavement. Keith and Ken went out on the Sunday morning and managed to get some of it down the tip and swept the pavement to allow people to get past. Keith arranged for the rest to be picked up by the neighbourhood workers an Monday. Just think about this the next time the Post talks about Councillors only being in it for what they can get out of it.

We get in on the act.

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Cllr Randal Brew, Lucy, Pauline, Ian and a grateful Mr Greenway

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Lucy, Pauline and Ian

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Just rewards

On Sunday the 12th we had the pleasure of attending a presentation at Colmers Leisure Centre of some awards to three members of staff who leapt into action when a member of a football team had a heart attack. They kept Mr Greenway going until the police and paramedics came to take over. The police and PCSOs did get a lot of publicity from the incident and we thought that these heroes deserved some recognition of their own. Congratulations and thanks to Pauline Davies, Ian Harper and Lucy Spurrier. We took some pics which also show Cllr Randal Brew, Deputy Lord Mayor and Ivor Williams who is Head of Northfield Constituency.

Non stop

The last two weeks have been a non-stop effort by all three of us.
The Longbridge Area Action Plan Examination in Public, to give it it's official title is taking place at the Innovation Centre on the site. We are rather impressed at the way the Inspector, Jill Kingaby is conducting the enquiry. She tries to find common ground between differents interests and succeeds the majority of the time. There is a disagreement between the Council and St. Modwens and AWM over the money which will have to be paid through section 278 and section 106. This item has been adjourned for three weeks for negotiations to take place, expect some hard bargaining but there should be a deal by the time it resumes.
One thing that struck Keith was the attitude of some of the professionals toward local people. These highly educated and highly paid people, including several QCs tend to be a little superior to local residents such as Sid Grey who is representing the people of Frankley. What they forget is that when they get into their big cars and drive off to their big houses the rest of us remain behind to live and work in the area. They can make the decisions and decide on the future of Logbridge but it is us locals who have to live with the consequences and our views must not be discounted as being unimportant in the grand scheme of things. We did have a former Labour Councillor turn up who made some outlandish statements which caused some amusement but the trouble was that Sid Grey was then lumped into the same category which is very unfair to a man who has fought for his neighbours for umpteen years for no reward and deserves to have his words listened to with respect.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Sion Simon in Government? Are things that bad?

The Erdington Typo has earned his reward for his loyalty to Gordie, and his disloyalty to Bliar, and has entered Government as Minister for Skills. Not all skills, just those in the Universities. Perhaps he will be offering advice on how to maximise the capacity for consuming Frosty Jack and White Lightning in the Student Union, and if you saw his speech about the never ending march of Labour footsoldiers you may suspect that he is no stranger to cheap cider.
Liam Byrne was also promoted but not into the Cabinet, his job was down-graded to a cupboard apparently. He also went on to YouTube complaining about litter in his constituency. He didn't complain about the people who drop the litter, just about the Council for not picking it up. He cannot be called two faced as he would not choose the one he has surely?


Although this has been another busy week with meetings and a lot of leafletting the main topic of conversation is the collapse of the banking industry and efforts to stave off economic disaster. We are not economic experts and take our chances like everyone else. It was once said that if all the economists in the world were laid end to end they would still not reach a conclusion so what chance have we got.
At least we had some good news this morning with confirmation that BCC has no money tied up in Icelandic Banks. It appears that nearly 100 local authorities and several other public institutions, Fire & Police Authorities, Transport for London and others have over half a billion pounds in accounts which may longer exist. At least we stayed clear of that mess.
On a personal note from Keith "I decided about 4 years ago to reduce my debt as much as possible. I had a small mortgage but was maxed out on 2 credit cards. I decided to only use them for purchases when I needed them to be insured but other than that have not used them at all and made great efforts and got them down to zero. This meant I was not paying all my disposable income to the card companies and when I need a loan, for instance a newer car last year, I can shop around for the best deal. The reason for my caution was that I could not understand how we could be a successful economy by doing each others accounts and when working for a hardware company I saw that virtually everything was imported from India & China. This could not go on and I now feel this has been vindicated. This is no comfort to all those who are staring into the abyss of job losses and repossessions so lets hope that the action being taken affords some hope for the future, although I fear the worst."

Lord Mayor at Balaam's Wood



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Lord Mayor at Balaam's Wood

Last Friday Sue welcomed the Lord Mayor, Cllr Chaudry Rashid, and the Lady Mayoress to the inaugaration of a new Site of Local Interest & Nature Conservation (SLINC) at Balaam's Wood. This is an area of ancient woodland and much valued by the people of Frankley.
The Lord Mayor made a real impression, he is a natural gentleman and although we are generally scathing of the Labour Group they made a good decision this time.

David Cameron at Symphony Hall

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Sue, Caroline & Keith.

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Desperate times

It may be that with everything going on at the moment a review of the conference is maybe not too interesting so we will just precis the final 2 days.
On Tuesday evening Keith & Sue attended a reception at the offices of Groundwork UK who are benefitting from M & S' decision to charge for plastic bags. This has led to an 80% drop in bag use but all the profits are going to Groundwork. Keith spent the evening telling anyone who would listen about the Forestdale Community Park in the hope of getting them interested as the project cost is up around the £1million mark. We met Caroline Spellman there and have a pic to prove it.
Wednesday's speech by David Cameron was very well received. Symphony Hall was packed and looked amazing.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Dominic Grieves listening to the Indian High Commissioner

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Sue with Alan Duncan

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Day 2

George Osborne made an unscheduled speech about the economy during the morning session which emphasised the importance of us all pulling together to get us out of the economic mess we seem to have fallen into. Later Keely made an appearance on the stage talking about the problems ordinary people are encountering. She followed up with a plea for the government to simplify things for people instead of making everything so complicated. This brought a huge response from the hall.
Of course the conference is not just about the events in the main hall. There is a break from 12.30 until 2.30 and there are masses of fringe meetings going on. You dash from one to the other, hoping to get some food but not always succeeding. We all break apart for these 2 hours and join up for the afternoon session. We all have different interests and attend different meeting. Some meetings start at 7.30am as well and hopefully you can get a bacon butty for breakfast. The events also go on during the evening so it is a very long day. That is why you sometimes see people catching a few zzz'ees in the hall, its not boredom, its sheer exhaustion.
That evening Keith & Sue went to the Chairman's Reception and later attended a reception by the Indian High Commissioner at which Dominic Grieves made a speech.
The pictures show Sue with Alan Duncan at the Chairman's Reception and then Domimic listening to the IHC.

Conference Day 1

The first day of the conference went very well, firstly a greeting from Caroline Spelman and advice not to take a general election victory for granted, as if! Here in Northfield we take nothing for granted, if the polls suggested a landslide we will still be on the doorsteps until 10pm on polling day. William Hague followed and hammered Brown mercilessly. Especially turning Brown's comments about "the age of irresponsibility" around against him.
Various people then did a "Welcome to Birmingham" section. David Willetts was very good, we didn't realise he was a Brummie. Karen Brady did a spot, very good also but she could do with a little more length on the skirt. Mark Reeves also came on and managed to include a plug for the Post and the Mail, very clever. Monica Hardie, the wife of Dr Andrew Hardie from Selly Oak also made an impassioned speech about the NHS. She should know as she is a nurse. The afternoon started with an unscheduled speech by David Cameron about the state of the economy, not for the faint-hearted. We then had a turn from Boris Johnson. What a performer, one minute he has you in stitches the next he becomes deadly serious especially when dealing with knife and gun crime in the capitol. Later there was a very moving session about supporting our armed forces which included Simon Weston.
That evening Sue and Keith & Ken attended the opening of the Urban Hub at Baskerville House. A wide range of invitees heard from Mike Whitby and Eric Pickles.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Catch up

On Thursday after the Fusiliers marched through the town Keith went to a meeting of the South Birmingham Young Homeless Project. This operates in a former Council Depot in Belton Grove and does a lot of fine work for young homeless people from all over the South of the city. They not only help with accomodation but work with youngsters to resolve problems with parents as well as starter packs and advice when they do find somewhere to live.
Afterwards all 3 of us where at the Longbridge Consultative Group at the Innovation Centre. The main topic of conversation was the Examination In Public which gets underway on the 14th October.
On Friday Sue was working all day at Birmingham University Medical School for Freshers Day. She was helping out her colleaques from the BMA. Sue only does the occassional stint these days but always enjoys herself.
Ken & Keith went to a MacMillan Coffee Morning at the Reaside Centre, Ken then went off to work whilst Keith went into the Council House to visit the Lord Mayor's Parlour for another MacMillan cup of coffee. He met one of his constituents and had a long conversation about Longbridge.
Saturday morning was another busy day, Keith had to go to The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital for their AGM so Ken did the advice centre at the Parish Council offices in Frankley. A word of thanks to the PC. They let us use the offices free of charge and of course someone has to turn up to open and close the office. Their time is freely given and we hope the residents appreciate all they do.
Keith was at the ROH as a member of the Members Council. It has been another successful year for the Trust which has gone from strength to strength under the chairmanship of Councillor Les Lawrence. Les stands down this month and we wish his successor all the best.
Later Keith went to the ICC for the Conservative Party National Convention of which he is a member through his chairmanship of the Northfield Association. David Cameron turned up at the end and made a speech which was very well received and sent us off in good heart. Keith managed to have a conversation with Michael Ashcroft afterwards and who knows we may get some more funding for Keely.

Catch up.

He's not so bad after all.

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Blimey! He's a lot bigger close up.

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All change

We've decided to ring the changes on the site, hope you like them.
One of the reasons was that Paul Dale of the Post got a little confused about whose blog it is. The heading in the "about us" section said Keith Barton so we have changed that to reflect the true nature of the blog in that it is written by and about all 3 of us. That is why it is written in the 3rd person. It would be confusing if all 3 of us wrote I when we contributed an article so we just stick to the 3rd person.
Before we get on to last weeks Conference Sue and Keith bumped into Paul at the East & West Midlands Reception together with his editor Mark Reeves, more of whom later. A third of the previous Saturday's Iron Angle had been devoted to Keith and his blog so he thanked Paul for all the publicity, that always throws them.
As you will see Paul was a little apprehensive at first but soon cheered up after he and Keith kissed and made up, well a manly handshake was exchanged anyway.