NEWS: Newly elected West Midlands Mayor wants people “to be proud of Erdington High Street”

Profile and campaign pics supplied by Birmingham Labour

Newly elected West Midlands Mayor Richard Parker wants to improve the fortunes of Erdington High Street and for people “to be proud” of the once bustling retail hotspot.

Labour’s first ever West Midlands Mayor won an incredibly tight election against the Conservative and two time elected Andy Street, but now he just wants to get on with the job.

Mr Parker has plans to introduce new policies and innovations to attract businesses to high streets like Erdington’s across the region, which will encourage residents to shop local and invest in their retail community.

He told Erdington Local: “I want people to be proud of Erdington High Street again.

“We will utilise new powers from a Labour government to bring empty shops on our high streets back into use and to help businesses to set up – in partnership with Business Improvement Districts and councils via a range of measures such as compulsory purchasing orders, ‘meanwhile’ uses, and flexible business rates.”

He added: “I want to establish a new Local High Streets Taskforce to ‘innovate and regenerate’ empty shops and to identify derelict sites that can be put back into use.

“We will establish an empty property register for our high streets and a proactive introductions system, which will work with partners to search for occupiers and promote empty spaces.”

The former business consultant and Price Waterhouse Cooper partner is also a big fan of market stalls as a way of revitalising high streets and has pledged to establish a new fund to help support market traders across the region.

Erdington Business Improvement District has itself been exploring plans for a new market to be held on the pedestrianised area by the Co-op supermarket.

Anti-social behaviour is also high on the list for the new West Midlands Mayor, and whilst his office lacks the powers of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) – which would have been absorbed by the Mayor’s office if it had not been recently blocked in the High Court by the PCC Simon Foster – the newly elected West Midlands Mayor Richard Parker wants to fight the scourge of anti-social behaviour and the impact it has on communities.

Mr Parker added: “I will work with the Police and Crime Commissioner, councils, faith and community groups, and West Midlands Police to make the streets of Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale safer.

“Anti-social behaviour blights the lives of many people and we know that having visible policing out on the streets tackling crime, gathering intelligence, and cracking down on anti-social behaviour is essential to making our communities safer.

“We will guarantee town centre patrols dedicated to their areas.”

For more on West Midlands Mayor Richard Parker visit www.facebook.com/RichardParkerWM

NEWS: Announcement of General Election puts Kingstanding by-election into the political spotlight

Words by Erdington Local election team

The starting gun has been fired in the campaign of the 2024 General Election, putting the upcoming Kingstanding Ward by-election into the spotlight of national politics.

On 22 May, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a rare summer election with polling day on Thursday, 4 July. And unlike the vast majority of UK constituencies, voters in Erdington are being asked to pick their representative to Westminster for the second time in just over two years.

But as the country gears up to choose who represents them in the national corridors of power once again, another by-election has taken on added significance – as voters across the Kingstanding Ward head to the ballot box on 30 May to replace disgraced Conservative Councillor Rick Payne on Birmingham City Council.

Coming so soon after the recent local elections and before the now announced General Election, the up-coming Kingstanding by-election could be seen as a real electoral litmus test – with the results from the North Birmingham ward representing the feelings of voters across the country.

Candidates for the General Election will be given until Friday 07 June to confirm their intention to stand, but those running for local council in Kingstanding have already declared.

Contesting the seat for Labour will be Naz Rasheed, who ran for Kingstanding alongside Des Hughes in 2022 and lost by a narrow margin – coming fourth in the overall count, but only 65 votes behind Rick Payne who came in second.

Naz Rasheed fought a fierce campaign in the 2022 local elections, putting youth services and tackling crime in the area at the top of her agenda.

Also in the running will be Patrick Christopher Lee for the Green Party, who according to a Twitter profile under his name is the Communication Manager for the health focused NGO Impact on Urban Health – based in London.

Standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is Erdington resident and keen HMO activist Kris O’Sullivan, who was a big part of the Dave Nellist parliamentary campaign during the Birmingham Erdington by-election in 2022.

Hoping to repair the damage done by his now disgraced predecessor is Conservative candidate Clifton Walsh – a well known local resident who has previously stood for the Pype Hayes Ward in local council elections, losing out to Labour’s candidates by 92 votes in 2022 and only 16 votes in 2018.

Ahead of his run for the Kingstanding Ward, Mr Welsh launched the ‘Pride in Kingstanding’ campaign, encouraging community litter picking as Birmingham City Council faces cuts to its street cleaning services.

On the ticket for the Workers Party of Britain is Pete Higgins – representing George Galloway’s socialist and socially conservative political party that formed in 2019 and won the Rochdale by-election in 2024 on a strong pro-Palestine agenda.

Being held on Thursday, 30 May, the Kingstanding by-election is somewhat of a poisoned chalice for the main two political parties.

Conservatives do not want voters across the country to be reminded how one of their councillors was caught spewing racism on a secret Twitter account – and Labour do not want a light shone on their party’s very public record of running Birmingham City Council into financial chaos.

But whatever side you support in this game of political football, all the seven candidates standing in the Kingstanding by-election will have a lot more attention on their campaigns than they could ever envisaged – as the country warms up for a General Election on 4 July.

For more on both local and national elections held across the UK, alongside advice on how to register to vote, visit www.electoralcommission.org.uk

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Words and pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

This month, I have been pleased to support Erdington Friends of the Library in their campaign to protect and preserve our local library, following a consultation by the Council.

Our libraries serve as essential hubs for learning, community engagement, and have historical relevance. As a local resident of Erdington who has used our local libraries for decades, I understand how important these local facilities are to our community.

These spaces promote knowledge, creativity, and social connections, and we must preserve them for future generations.

I wrote a letter to the Council expressing my strong opposition to any closures of our libraries and also attended the library consultation event in Erdington, where I was heartened to see so many passionate individuals coming together to voice their concerns.

I signed Erdington Friends of the Library’s petition, urging the council to carefully consider the views of local people about the future of their libraries.

I would also like to extend my warmest congratulations to our new Mayor of the West Midlands, Richard Parker.

His leadership and vision will undoubtedly benefit our community and region. I look forward to meeting him soon to discuss how we can work together to fulfil one of his key pledges: revitalising our High Streets and making it a thriving destination once again.

Results like these send a clear message that people in Erdington, Kingstanding, Castle Vale, and across the country deserve better. After 14 years of Tory chaos and mismanagement, it’s time for change.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Words and pics supplied by Erdington Ward Cllr Robert Alden – Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

The last month has been busy as always, with colleagues and I continuing to push a number of campaigns to support residents.

Together with Kingstanding local campaigner, Clifton Welch, we recently met with staff from the NHS to continue to push for Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre (soon to be closed for urgent roof repairs) to be reopened longer term.

I have also been supporting Clifton Welch with his new ‘Pride in Kingstanding’ campaign that has seen him clearing dozens of bags of rubbish off the streets of Kingstanding, including clearing the alley between Gainford Road and College Road and clean numerous road signs locally to remove graffiti and dirt.

Cllr Gareth Moore and I were also joined by Kingstanding Campaigner Clifton Welch, who is leading the campaign to keep Perry Common and Kingstanding Libraries open, and Parliamentary Spokesperson Steve Knee at the public consultation event on the future of libraries in the city.

We have been clear to the Council that we think Erdington, Kingstanding and Perry Common Libraires should be protected and remain open.

We have put forward a fully costed alternative, approved by Council officers, which would allow the Labour administration to scrap their plan to close our libraires. We will continue to push them to listen to the calls of residents.

Finally, thank you to everyone who voted for Andy Street in the recent West Midlands Mayoral election, sadly Andy lost by under 2000 votes across the whole urban West Midlands..

For more from Erdington’s Councillor Robert Alden and Councillor Gareth Jones visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

OPINION: A view from the Vale – Cllr Ray Goodwin

Words by Cllr Ray Goodwin (Castle Vale Ward, Labour)

It’s been a busy few weeks on Castle Vale.

Work is about to start shortly on Filton Croft and by the time you will have read this we will have held our Crime and Community Safety Summit.

A lot has been said over the last few weeks about politicians not listening to the communities they represent, but one of the things I have done over the last two years has been open and accessible to residents – this is why my regular estate walk abouts are so important, it means I can talk to residents to listen to their concerns and issues and deal with them straight away where possible.

My commitment is to continue to do this and talk to as many people as possible on a daily and weekly basis and discuss what matters to them most, Castle Vale!

I want local democracy to be at the heart of everything I do, and this is the best way to do this. I see residents on a daily basis for appointments. But, also, I hold a monthly advice surgery for residents as well.

Whilst over the last two years a lot of good things have happened – including securing a new bus route to the fort shopping centre.

There is now, however, more to do, and I will be leading the charge to the West Midlands mayor that there is a train station and that station is called ‘CASTLE VALE’.

For more from Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin visit www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale 

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Exams and young people’s wellbeing

Words & pics supplied by Urban Devotion Birmingham

Exam season has begun, and it can be a stressful time to be a young person. Whether as a year 6 pupil, feeling nervous about the big move to secondary, or preparing for GCSE’s or A-Levels, it can be a pressure filled time of year.

The problem is that this pressure can become a negative and crippling force in many young people’s lives, impacting their mental wellbeing in small or significant ways.

For some this can look like overworking and getting stuck in revision. For others it may be complete avoidance or an inability to sit and revise.

As adults we can all play a significant role in helping make this time less stressful and mentally taxing for young people by encouraging and role modelling what it looks like to find a healthy balance between focus, rest and play is essential.

The reality is succeeding during exams does require times of focus, and revision cannot be ignored.

But it also needn’t be all consuming. We all need time to rest our minds and our bodies, and making sure young people know ways to rest and relax is important.

Play can be a great way to do this. This will look different for different ages and for different people, but includes elements of exploration, creativity, and fun.

Perhaps it’s playing a sport, or painting, or jumping on a trampoline – the possibilities are endless! This is as essential for our mental wellbeing, and performance, as getting a good night’s sleep.

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit www.urbandevotion.org

Urban Devotion Birmingham is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: New Mayor, new approach to housing supply

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group & Castle Vale Community Housing / Pics supplied by The Pioneer Group

With a new Mayor elected in the West Midlands I very much look forward to seeing a reinvigorated approach to the need for more social housing across the region.

The new Mayor, Richard Parker, speaking in Inside Housing made clear his commitment to “having the biggest social housing development programme we’ve seen for 40 years in the West Midlands”.

Whoever had been elected the combined authority is set to get new devolved powers to deliver central governments affordable homes programme from 2026 and a £400m investment to transition to that implementation date.

This hopefully will help Mr Parker deliver on his commitment to build 2,000 social rented homes by 2028. Social rent is usually set at about 60% of market rent and is therefore the most affordable tenure on the market.

Here at Pioneer we will support not just the combined authorities priorities in this area but also continue to work with Birmingham City Councils ambitions to work in partnership to deliver more homes in the City.

As I Have discussed previously the city has a chronic shortage of such homes leading to huge waiting lists.

I wish Mr Parker and all the newly elected officials across the region all the best in their new roles and look forward to their ambitions for the region being delivered.

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

The Pioneer Group, Castle Vale Community Housing, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Reflections and renewed focus

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association

Whilst we know there is always more to do, usually at this time of the year we take a moment to reflect on the impact that we have made. This is important on many fronts, and not least to recognise the contributions of our many volunteers, local groups and partners who make our work possible.

Over the past year our five hubs had over 18,000 visits, providing vital community spaces for our residents to seek support, advice or simply connect with others.

We also awarded more than £450,000 to local groups, showcasing our dedication to empowering community organisations. These funds will make a significant difference in addressing the needs of our community and help to create local infrastructure that will serve us well in the future.

Additionally, we secured £4 million to kickstart the much-needed redevelopment of the former Erdington Baths into a dynamic enterprise hub for budding entrepreneurs and a new community centre to be proud of.

We also supported over 3,000 households through our B:Can Energy Advice partnership, saving each household an estimated £380 annually, easing financial burdens for our residents whilst also contributing to environmental sustainability.

As we pause for reflection, we are immensely proud and grateful for the dedication of our 18 volunteers, whose commitment to volunteering embodies the DNA of our Association.

Their efforts have positively impacted hundreds of fellow residents across all our sites, showcasing the power of community support and collaboration.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

NEWS: Evening of Creativity brings international music and musicians to Erdington on 17 May

Words by Lily Higgins / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

Erdington’s longstanding arts and music showcase, the Evening of Creativity, return to Oikos Café on Friday 17 May – running from 6:30pm – 9:30pm at the popular Erdington High Street venue.

Organised by the Erdington Arts Forum, the Evening of Creativity is one of Birmingham’s longest running music nights and will be approaching its seven year anniversary in June.

Sicilian singer Manuel Cangemi is travelling all the way from Germany for the event in May. His passion for music started at a young age, merging opera, classical music, and together – accompanied by his Sicilian origins. He will be singing songs by legends Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and others.

Drums Aloud will be performing rhythms which have been taught to them by master West African drummers. They will have up to eight drummers at their Evening of Creativity performance, playing on djembe – a hand drum, and dunduns which are bass drums played with a stick with a bell. Nigel Saddler of the group has been teaching drumming for 14 – 15 years.

Also performing are the two piece band Skint, from Tamworth. Skint perform country style music which they call “council estate poetry”. They will play a set of originals tracks which talk about dealing with being ‘skint’ in England in 2024, including songs ‘Cost of Living’ and ‘Cash Converter’.

When you put your hand in Grandma’s biscuit tin you never know what you’re going to get… which is how the band Grandma’s Biscuit Tin invented their named. An ensemble consisting of five 5 eclectic musicians, the band are classically trained musicians with a huge passion for jazz.

Grandma’s Biscuit Tin have been together for about a decade, who just started out as friends and family having a jam session, and their repertoire includes trad-standards with their own twist.

The International award winning Birmingham Opera company will also be performing at Oikos café.

Jobe Sullivan told Erdington Local: “I think Erdington needs to trumpet loudly what a brilliant achievement the Evening of Creativity is. Seven years, 84 events… not including all our satellite events in Kingstanding, Castle Vale, and other places in the constituency.

“It’s so great to have acts visiting us from around the world – Joana Carvalhas on her world tour, a touring group from New Zealand, an opera singer who flew in from Germany the night before.”

He added: “But our bread and butter are the community. Featuring visual artists, and encouraging choirs, bands, from everywhere – and Erdington is at the heart of it. Erdington has a huge heart, and we’ve been quietly kicking-ass here for seven years, come hell or high water.”

The next Evening of Creativity events will be held at Oikos Café on 17 May and 21 June, between 6:30pm – 9:30pm.

For more information and links to online ticket sales visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

This content was generated and supported by GET WRITING GET WORKING and LOCAL AMBASSADORS – to get involved in local journalism and find opportunities in the creative industries email la@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO WORK: Fort Dunlop based Precision Micro launches 2024 apprenticeship drive

Words by BTW editorial team and Precision Micro / Pics supplied by Precision Micro

World leading, Erdington based, engineering company Precision Micro is looking for a fresh cohort of 16-21 year olds for its 2024 apprenticeship drive.

Based on Vantage Way, a stone’s throw from the Fort Shopping Park and Castle Vale, the internationally renowned photochemical etching company has been training young people for years – giving them the specialist skills they need for a career in precision engineering.

Providing opportunities for local young people, Precision Micro has welcomed students from Greenwood Academy through previous apprenticeship drives – getting them set on a lifelong career path at the cutting edge of engineering.

Throughout their comprehensive four-year program, apprentices will gain invaluable hands-on experience across all departments within Precision Micro – refining the crucial skills necessary for producing precision-etched metal components.

A global player in chemical etching, Precision Micro plays a key role in critical applications across many sectors, including lifesaving surgery, military jets, luxury cars, surveillance drones, and more.

Applications for the Precision Micro apprenticeship 2024 drive will be accepted until 31 May.

Successful candidates will commence their apprenticeships in September 2024 while pursuing a Level 3 qualification in engineering through Birmingham Metropolitan College – James Watt Campus.

A proud management-owned business situated at Fort Dunlop, Precision Micro’s commitment to investing in its workforce is underscored by Director and Co-owner Mick Taylor, who embarked on his career journey as an apprentice himself thirty years ago.

Mick shared his enthusiasm, telling Erdington Local: “With substantial investments in our facility and equipment in recent years, there has never been a more exciting time to join Precision Micro.

“Our previous cohort of apprentices have flourished, contributing to our culture while gaining invaluable insights into our business and the industries we serve.”

In 2022, Greenwood Academy students Clayton and Kyle started out on the Precision Micro apprenticeship program – taking their first steps into the world of work with the Erdington based engineering company, just as the firm’s current Director and Co-owner Mick Taylor did three decades ago.

Clayton told Erdington Local: “I have gained a vast amount of knowledge that helps me in different situations to either solve problems, guide jobs around the process or to work on the different projects that are incomplete”.

Kyle added: “Everyone at Precision Micro is so kind, helpful, and approachable, meaning you never have to feel scared to ask questions.

“My time here so far has helped me to grow as a person, in confidence and knowledge, so I can’t thank the business enough for this opportunity.”

Since 2019, Precision Micro has invested more than £7million in upgrading its Erdington based facility – including £1.8 million in 2024, building a second etch room that significantly increases capacity and underpins its ambitious growth strategy.

Across 2024, the world leading engineering firm has plans to grow by a further 20%, with existing and new apprenticeships playing an integral role in the company’s long-term success.

Precision Micro’s 2024 apprenticeship drive is open to local young people aged between 16-21 – anyone interested should register their interest before 31 May.

To make an application visit www.resources.precisionmicro.com/apprenticeships

For more on Precision Micro visit www.precisionmicro.com