Thursday, 12 February 2009

Good news, bad news

Great news that the Longbridge Area Action Plan has been approved by the Inspector with a few minor changes which had been agreed at the public inspection. This plan, worth £750m will bring much needed jobs and homes to local people along with a new town centre which will put a new heart into Longbridge. We look forward to working with the developers and our residents to see this project through and prosperity restored to our neighbourhood.
The bad news is that about 250 local people have lost their jobs in the last month, a shocking figure and more than the number who were made unemployed when MG/Rover went. These will be worrying times for them and hopefully if they have problems with Council Tax Benefit or Rent Allowance we can help. Still, the bankers have said sorry and Gordo has said its not his fault so thats alright then.

Community Chest

Every year the Councillors are given £100,000 to fund groups and projects in the ward.
As we are nearing the end of the financial year it is time for all our local groups to start considering their bids for the coming April.
The spending of this is first passed through the Ward Advisory Board where local representatives advise the 3 Councillors on the bids received. We mainly aim to support bids that directly affect Longbridge residents but we also prefer bids that already have some funds or are likely to attract match funding once we have put some money in.

Should we tolerate intolerance?

Following on from Sunday's post about language by co-incidence I had to go on Tuesday morning to Victoria House. It was only when I got there that I realised that an anti-BNP demonstration was taking place there. The story goes that a teacher who it was alleged to have used a school laptop to access BNP sites during a lesson was appealing against his dismissal. Forgive me if this is not completley accurate but I think you get the gist. There had been talk of a show of support from members of the BNP and a counter demonstration had been organised by anti-fascist groups and trade unions. The police where there to play piggy-in-the-middle as usual. When I arrived it appeared that none of the far right supporters had turned up and the antis where lined up facing the police chanting "get out of Brum you nazi scum". What the police thought about this being screamed into their faces I can't imagine, all it would of taken would have been for the demonstrators to turn to their right in order to face Victoria Square and a degree of dignity and respect would have been maintained.
Later I went to get a sandwich for lunch and took the opportunity to listen to a couple of the speeches. The phase I heard most was "We will not tolerate...". It seems that a lot of people demand toleration for their own point of view and their right to express it but would deny others the same opportunity.
My point of view is that if you have faith in your argument then you need have no fear of others who take a different view. The same applies to the banning today of Geert Wilders who apparently was due to introduce a film at the House of Lords denouncing the Koran and accusing it of promoting terrorism. My belief is that Islam has scholars perfectly capable of destroying this with words and argument and showing him up for what he is. Banning him just increases his profile and makes some people think that Islam has something to hide. Have confidence in your own ideals!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Race & language

A personal word from Keith.
As Chairman of the HR & Equalities Scrutiny Committee I am always aware of the importance of choosing my words carefully. That is one reason I have little sympathy for Carol Thatcher in this week's latest BBC controversy.
Whatever it's historical origins the use of the word "Golliwog", especially when referring to a black man, is offensive and smacks of denigration due to colour. To use it in a room full of BBC lefties and a "right on" Jo Brand shows either extremely poor judgement or an excess of Green Room hospitality. Her failure to then make a full apology rather than try to pass it off as a joke compounds the offense as jokes like that should have been buried along with Bernard Manning.
The Conservative Party is working hard to encourage black and Asian membership and this kind of affair affects the way people think of us and works against us in trying to persuade the nation that we are an inclusive party who require only that a member be a Conservative whatever their origins.

True grit

Its been a topsy turvy week with some meetings cancelled and others missed due to the snow. A big thank you for all the gritting teams who have been working hard to keep the main roads clear. We know that sometimes the weather conspires to defeat their best efforts but they have done a tremendous job in very tough conditions.
Keith & Sue spent Tuesday morning clearing about 5" of global warming off the drive in order to get to the Council Meeting.
This was a strange affair, we started with oral questions with Keith asking Cllr Alan Rudge about the Chinese New Year celebrations on the previous Sunday. As Cllr Rudge revealed he was born in the year of the ox Keith informed the chamber that the members of the opposition would not be surprised to learn that he was born in the year of the rat. This drew quite a bit of laughter but it led on to a question about the way celebrations to which everyone is invited & welcomed emphasise the things which bring us together rather than some occasions which could keep us apart.
There followed several lead member reports on Housing, Licensing, Planning and Public Protection. These showed all these departments had had successful years and the officers had worked very hard to make sure these services were top notch.
Ken & Keith both indicated to speak on Housing but time did not allow. There was a bit of nowtrage from Labour about the Taxi consultation but David Osborne made short shrift of an opportunistic attack from the opposition.
The Labour group then withdrew their motion. This is unusual as each group gets first choice once every 3 months, it appearred they wanted to seem statesmanlike by allowing more time for our motion on the JLR crisis. In the end it was decided to combine both the motion and the Labour amendment in a show of unity and support for JLR. The B'ham Mail got their report wrong by saying that the Labour amendment was lost. As there was no-one there from the press at that stage this is not surprising.
The Mail also published a disgraceful personal attack on Len Gregory by John James which used quite vicious language to accuse Len of failing to use apostrophes in street signs. This practise ceased about 10 yrs ago when his socialist friends were in power but we don't think James has the grace to apologise. Keith has written a rebuttal to the Mail but he will not hold his breath waiting to see it published.
On Wednesday Keith was able to clear the remainder of the snow and ice from the drive before attending a meeting at Alpha Tower about the future of the Longbridge Consultative Group. The consultation phase has now ended and we need to seek a different role for the group.
Ken has been attending his advice surgeries and working in Wolverhampton in the by-election there. A slight disapointment as we failed to take another seat there but it was always going to be a tough nut to crack.

Monday, 2 February 2009

On the Campaign Trail

On Saturday Ken, Keith and Sue were out helping Nigel Dawkins do some leafleting in Bournville. Its always good to see people from all over the City working together and gives us all a chance to catch up on things.
On Sunday, while Keith & Sue were enjoying the Chinese festivities, Ken was in a very chilly Wolverhampton for 09:00am helping with the leaflet delivery for the forthcoming by election in the Heathtown Ward of the City. Again there was a sizable contingent from Birmingham and a lot was achieved. We are keeping our fingers crossed for the result.

Snow win situation.

Sue & Keith set off early to get to the Council House for the Conservative group meeting, just got to Paradise Circus when a phone call tells us it has been called off. The roads were fine but it was a hell of a game trying to get off the drive which has quite a slope to it. Since we got home it hasn't stopped snowing so it was the correct course of action.Turns out Ken too was making his way from work in Wolverhampton when he got the message. Ken told us that the roads were worse over there buts warns that black ice is already starting to form so be extra careful if you need to go out.
The roads were very quiet so lets hope everyone makes it home safely tonight. A thought also for the gritting teams who will be working all night again in horrible conditions.

Deirdre Alden & Friend

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Gung Hoy Fat Choy...Happy New Year

Yesterday Sue and Keith went to the Arcadian for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Many hundreds of people turned out in freezing weather to see the dancers, singers, acrobats and dragons. There were fortune cookies and vouchers for money off Tiger Beer, always welcome in these hard times.
Sue and I watched from the comfort of the Ibis Hotel thanks to the Festival Committee and particularly Mr Jeffery Yap who entertained several MPs, Councillors and the Lord and Lady Mayoress. Keith was invited as Chairman of the HR & Equalities Scrutiny Committee but this was one ocassion when it was pssible to mix business & pleasure.
We've put some photos up for you. Some were taken through a window whilst others have had to be doctored due to strong light.
p.s. No names, no pack drill but we did spot a Council Officer with the shortest skirt seen for many a year. We do have some hardy souls in Brum!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it.....bugger the snow.

Keith is writing this whilst looking out the window at the back gardens covered in snow. It looks marvellous but it is very different at the front. The road is a bus route and had clearly been gritted this morning as it was absolutley clear. We have had to cancel two advice surgeries this morning as the keyholder could not get to one and the other was cut off.Now however after several blizzards it was looking a bit dodgy. Hopefully it will be clear for when Sue and I go to the Council House for the group meeting this evening although the forecast is for a lot more snow this evening.

There were some interesting things going on last week besides the usual meetings.
On Wednesday Keith was at Longbridge Technology Park for a meeting of the Central Technology Belt. This discussed developments at Worcester (2) Malvern Hills Science Park, Bromsgrove Technology Park, Quinetic, Longbridge and Pebble Mill. In the present economic climate changes are occurring constantly and we really have to be on top of things in order that investment goes to the right places at the right time.
Straight from there Keith went to the Beeches Conference Centre for the afternoon session of the Birmingham Summit, organised by Be Birmingham and looking at how the Strategic Partnership can help improve things for our sitizens in the coming years.
On Tuesday Sue had to make a housecall for a disabled resident who had some problems with some alterations to his home. Hopefully Sue's intervention will get that sorted out. Later she attended an advice surgery at the Frankley Plus Childrens' Centre on Frankley whilst on Wednesday she was at a meeting of the Children, Young People and Families Theme Group of which she is the lead member. That evening Sue and Ken went to the Frankley Library for a meeting of the Frankley & Cockhill Housing Liaison Board. Keith had another hat on as Chairman of Northfield Conservative Association whilst paying a visit to the Northfield Branch. A robust meeting followed by a swift visit to the Northfield Conservative Club.
Thursday was another busy day. Keith was at Frankley Library to meet Vanessa Nichols who is the Director of Crime at the Home Office. It was nice to see such a high ranking civil servant actually coming to Frankley to find out what we were doing to combat anti-social behaviour through the "Yes" group set up after the Frankley Summit. We hope this will act as a model for other areas.
Sue spent most of the day at the Adoption Panel. As we have said before this requires an enormous amount of reading before the panel meets and is quite intensive.
Immediatley after Sue went to Colmers Junior School to chair a meeting of the Finance committe before going to Longbridge Technology Park for a meeting of the Consultative Group. Keith was at the AGM of the South West Birmingham Community Association at Northfield Fire Station before joining Sue & Ken at Longbridge.
On Friday Keith & Sue were at a meeting at the Constituency Office to meet with the Head of Constiuency and Randal Brew, Constituency Chairman. Also there was Stan Banting, Chairman of SWBCA, to discuss the lease for Oddingley Hall which SWBCA will be managing as soon as we can get the legal details sorted out.
From there Sue & Keith went to Callowbrook Elderly Persons Home for a Section 33 visit. This is our annual inspection that all Councillors are required to carry out at all Childrens Homes and EPH,s in their ward. The Callowbrook specialises in people with dementia and their dedication and hard work has to be seen to be believed.