NEWS: Official investigation finds Kingstanding councillor earned over £6000 whilst working in “a voluntary capacity” for Council SEND support service

Words by Ed King / Pics from Erdington Local archives

An official investigation has found Kingstanding’s Labour Councillor Des Hughes earned over £6000 whilst working for the Council’s criticised SENDIASS service – in what he claims was intended to be “in a voluntary capacity for a few weeks”.

SENDIASS is a Council run statutory service that supports young people with special educational needs and disabilities, which was found to be “85% non-compliant” in a 2022 review conducted by the National Children’s Bureau (NBC).

A report presented to the Council’s Standards Committee earlier this month, by public law barrister Matt Lewin, identifies the payments were made to Mr Hughes despite him having officially resigned from SENDIASS on the run up to Council elections in 2022.

It further identifies failings by Cllr Hughes to declare his roles as trustee on two local charities, Kingstanding Regeneration Trust (KRT) and SHIME@NechellsPOD – with the latter cited in the report as receiving over £120,000 from SENDIASS for office space rentals from 2020 to 2022, as discovered in a separate review of the service by KPMG.

The report continues to state that “no procurement process had been followed” over the rental agreements and highlights the Council’s exiting portfolio of available office space. It adds, “there were no signed contracts in existence” between the charity and the Council.

The investigation also addressed and held true allegations that Cllr Hughes used his access to HR management software to extend the contact of 21 agency workers at SENDIASS, whilst holding the elected position of Kingstanding Ward councillor.

It also found that Cllr Hughes “failed to disclose his continuing interests at SENDIASS” whilst attending Council meetings, with a focus on his position on the Education, Children and Young People Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

First employed by SENDIASS in April 2019, Des Hughes held the paid position of Parent Partnership Support Officer, working at least in part out of office space at the Nechells POD community hub.

Mr Hughes was not an elected Council member when first recruited by SENDIASS.

After being selected as Labour’s candidate for the Kingstanding Ward in March 2022, Mr Hughes followed official protocol and resigned his city officer role at SENDIASS – allowing him to campaign and, if elected, sit as a Kingstanding councillor without a conflict of interests.

However, findings from Mr Lewin’s investigation show Mr Hughes continued to work for SENDIASS until “at least” the end of August 2022, with invoices issued to his home address showing he received a further £6,189.96 from the service – referenced as ‘SALERY OVERPAYMENT RECOVERY Late Leaver’.

Whilst Cllr Hughes did not deny his continuing work with SENDIASS, both during his local elections campaign and subsequent role as Kingstanding Ward councillor, he told the investigation he was only intending to support a “good bunch of people” in a voluntary capacity and felt that “just running… and leaving them with” his cases to “share out and hand over just seemed a bit inconsiderate in the circumstances.”

When further questioned about the £6,189.96 he received after his official resignation, Cllr Hughes claimed he had not seen the invoices before.

He added: “…this might sound flippant, but if there’s money in the account when I go to the cashpoint, I tend not to investigate further.”

Addressing the rental payments made by SENDIASS to SHINE@NechellePOD, the Lewin report states “there is nothing in the evidence… that suggests any direct involvement in this agreement” by Cllr Hughes – but confirms rental payments to the charity are first seen on their accounts in 2020/21 after Mr Hughes’ appointment.

Des Hughes was a Labour councillor for the Kingstanding Ward from May 2010 to May 2014, and again from May 2015 to May 2018.

In March 2022, Mr Hughes was again selected as a Labour’s candidates for Kingstanding in the 2022 Council elections – alongside running mate Naziah Rasheed. He was elected on 5 May 2022 with 1350 votes, this highest of any candidate, and represents the ward alongside Conservative Councillor Rick Payne.

Complaints were made reportedly against Cllr Hughes last year, with the Kingstanding councillor formally notified of the allegations in August 2023 and an investigation beginning in September that year.

Following the allegations, Birmingham Labour party told Erdington Local they had placed Cllr Hughes under “administrative suspension”.

Only recently made public, following a Standards Sub-Committee meeting on 22 March, the investigation report presented to the Council prompted their decision that “Cllr Hughes had breached the Code of Conduct” for elected officials – citing seven individual cases, including points where Cllr Hughes brought “his role and the Council into disrepute”.

The Committee’s recommendations included stripping Cllr Hughes of his role of trustee at the Barry Jackson Trust and as the Council’s representative on the Board of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The Committee’s ‘Decision Notice’ further recommended Cllr Hughes makes an official apology to Council, and that “all reasonable steps to recover the outstanding overpayment of salary.”

Erdington Local has contacted both Cllr Des Hughes and Birmingham Labour for further comment.

For more on Cllr Des Hughes visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk/councillors/165/des_hughes

For more on Birmingham SENDIASS visit: www.birminghamsendiass.co.uk

NEWS: Free Easter Egg Hunt to be held on Short Heath Playing Fields – from 12noon on Saturday 30 March

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Short Heath Fields Trust

A free Easter Egg Hunt will be held on Short Heath Playing Fields this Saturday (30 March) with local children and families from across the Erdington constituency all invited.

Running between 12noon and 2pm, special festive eggs will be hidden along the hedgerows and sides of Short Heath Playing Fields – which sits in just off Short Heath Road and next to Bleak Hill Park – with each egg carrying an individual pattern.

Children must first hunt for the eggs across the parkland, draw the patterns – to prove they’ve found the eggs, then head back to the Easter Egg Hunt HQ and claim their prize from the Short Heath Easter Bunny.

There will also be an Easter Bonnet Parade held at 1pm, where those attending are invited to show off their festive head gear and decorated Easter hats – with prizes given to the ‘best boy’ and ‘best girl’ in the parade.

The event is totally free, to enter or attend, with no charges for the prizes or anything given to the children for taking part.

Organisers have confirmed the prizes for children will contain chocolate, and there will be a paid for raffle held with more prizes that adults can enjoy.

There will also be a refreshments tent open during the event, run by the Short Heath Wombles – the local community group who litter pick across the park. All money raised with help support future events on the Playing Fields, such as the annual Halloween Pumpkin Hunt which attracts families from Castle Vale to Kingstanding.

Organised by Short Heath Fields Trust, who took over the management of the parkland in May 2023 after a fiercely fought battle to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ from a Council led housing development, the Easter Egg Hunt is now in its third year.

Run by dedicated volunteers and supported by the local community, the Trust has been responsible for organising many free to attend events on the Playing Fields – whilst also arranging for regular football sessions to be held there every Saturday, run by Kingstanding based FC Elite Academy.

Ahead of the Easter Egg Hunt this Saturday, a spokesperson from Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT) told Erdington Local: “The Easter Egg Hunt is a great event for the kids and their families. SHFT are establishing this free event as a regular for the community’s calendar, as this is our third one.”

They added: “It’s a chance to have some family fun, and with it being free it means it really doesn’t matter what your background is – it’s for everyone to enjoy, especially with money being so tight for so many families at the moment.”

The SHFT free Easter Egg Hunt will be held on Short Heath Playing Fields on Saturday 30 March, between 12noon and 2pm. For more details, click herE to visit the SHFT Facebook event page.

For more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit: www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com

NEWS: Erdington teenager found not guilty of Cody Fisher Boxing Day murder

Words by Ed King

An Erdington teenager accused of murdering footballer Cody Fisher (23) on Boxing Day 2022 has been found not guilty, as the highly publicised trial came to an end at Birmingham Crown Court earlier today – 25 March.

Reegen Anderson (19) from Erdington was cleared of murder, but found guilty on a separate charge of affray.

Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, affray refers to violent conduct in public setting ‘such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness… to fear for their own personal safety’ and could carry a sentence of up to three years following a conviction.

Anderson’s co-accused, Remy Gordon (23) from Rednal and Kami Carpenter (22) from Kings Norton, were both found guilty of murder and could be facing life imprisonment. Remy Gordon was also found guilty of affray.

All three will be sentenced at a later date.

(l-r Remy Gordon, Kami Carpenter, Reegan Anderson)

Cody Fisher was fatally stabbed at Crane nightclub, Adderley Street, Digbeth, on Boxing Day 2022 – pronounced dead at the scene despite the best efforts of emergency services attending the incident.

He had been a semi-professional footballer from Redditch who had been part of the Blues Academy and played for teams in Bromsgrove, Stourbridge, and Stratford.

Following the killing, Remy Gordon and Kami Carpenter were initially arrested – with Erdington’s Reegan Anderson the last to be formally charged on 12 January 2023.

During the trial, the jury at Birmingham Crown Court heard how the defendants targeted Cody Fisher after a “minor altercation” at Popworld in Solihull, two days before the fatal stabbing.

Evidence showed Remy Gordon had used social media to try and identify Cody Fisher, and that both Gordon and Carpenter discussed how they could potentially smuggle a knife past security at Crane nightclub, where it was believed Cody Fisher would be on Boxing Day.

Further evidence showed Remy Gordon and Kami Carpenter approaching Cody Fisher on the dancefloor and “immediately being aggressive towards him”, where he has fatally stabbed through the heart and the murder weapon left “embedded” in his chest.

The jury also heard how Reegen Anderson had not known his co-accused for long and had met them through social media.

He told the jury: “I was added to a Snapchat group chat called Ravers Assemble. I’m not thinking these lads carry knives, I thought it was people who liked going out to raves.

“I had known these lads (Gordon, Carpenter) for two months.”

When questioned by Matthew Brook KC, he added: “These are not really my close friends, I have other friends I chat to on social media, I’m not always on this Snapchat group.

“I just went out for a good time.”

In a statement issued by the CPS following the verdict, David Parsons said: “Cody Fisher was an innocent party who was just trying to enjoy a night out with his girlfriend and friends when he was senselessly killed.

“The defendants showed a complete disregard for his life and their actions have robbed Cody Fisher of his future and caused immeasurable pain to his family.

“These two men (Gordon, Carpenter) lied and denied their involvement in Mr Fisher’s murder but we were able to present clear and compelling evidence including that from DNA, messaging on social media, witness testimony and CCTV footage which proved the murder was premeditated and that all three defendants were responsible for Mr Fisher’s death.

“The jury’s verdict reflects the gravity of their actions. Our thoughts are with Cody Fisher’s loved ones.”

NEWS: Responsibility for crime fighting strategy in Erdington to stay with Police and Crime Commissioner after courts reject Home Office appeal

Words by Erdington Local editorial team / Pics by Ed King

The responsibility for a strategy to fight crime in Erdington and across the West Midlands will stay with the Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC) office, after the Court of Appeal rejected a Home Office appeal which would have seen the role taken over by the West Midlands Mayor.

On Friday 22 March, judges at the Court of Appeal denied legal requests made by the Home Office that countered a previous High Court ruling, made earlier in March, blocking the Government from amalgamating the PCC’s office into the West Midlands Combined Authority’s portfolio.

The argument presented by the Home Office was that the Mayor’s office could be more effective in supporting a crime strategy, alongside their other roles and responsibilities across the region.

However, the legal battle began when Labour’s incumbent PCC for the West Midlands, Simon Foster, challenged the Home Office over their decision to combine the roles – arguing the required consultation had not been honoured and repeatedly calling the move a “hostile takeover.”

At the time, Mr Foster said: “The Mayor’s hostile takeover of PCC powers represents nothing more than his own personal vanity project and it is in no-one’s interests, save that of the Mayor. I am concerned that this hostile takeover will mean more cuts, more chaos and more crime.”

He added: “This is a matter that is entirely of the Mayor’s own making. I have repeatedly advised him against this shocking waste of taxpayers’ money. The Home Secretary and the Mayor are more than happy to spend taxpayers’ money on legal costs when it suits them.

“The people of the West Midlands will be rightly concerned that the Mayor’s cynical, divisive, unnecessary and undemocratic power grab, that has never secured a local democratic mandate in the West Midlands, would waste up to a shocking £3.5 million.”

England and Wales saw the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) in 2012, following campaign pledges made by both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to reform policing procedure in the 2010 General Election.

Mr Foster was voted as PCC for the West Midlands in May 2021, retraining the role for Labour since it first came into being in 2012.

However, last November the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, agreed with requests made by the West Midlands’ Conservative Mayor, Andy Street, for the West Midlands Combined Authority to absorb the PCC’s responsibilities – which became possible following the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act passed in 2023.

Most local police forces are represented by a Police and Crime Commissioner, but since the change in legislation last year, London, Manchester, and West Yorkshire have all devolved the powers of the PCC to the regional Mayor’s office.

But in what could be seen as an overtly political move, to take regional policing powers away from the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner and transfer it to the Conservative Mayor, has created frustration on both sides of the aisle.

Richard Parker is the Labour candidate for Mayor and if he beats Andy Street in the elections on 2 May, he will now be in the position of having fewer powers due to a Labour PCC’s legal challenge.

A Labour source told Erdington Local: “Simon Foster’s legal challenge was the last thing we needed.

“It has confused the optics of the election. We are favourites to win the mayoral election so it is not about Mr Street but about the office of Mayor.

“And if we win it feels like we have shot ourselves in the foot before starting on our first day.”

The source added: “Simon (Foster) had a good run as PCC, especially as he was a Corbyn man who stayed long after the party had changed, and sometimes you should just accept time’s up.”

Erdington Local met with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street on Thursday 21 March, at his first public address on his re-election campaign – held at Stockland Green School on Slade Road.

When asked about the challenge made my Mr Foster over the region’s police and crime responsibilities being moved over to the Mayor’s office, he said: “This should have been straightforward. Mayors in London, Manchester, Leeds, and soon Sheffield, all have the powers of the PCC now. However, we have got ourselves into a process which involves a legal battle.

“I have no interest in processes, I just wanted to get on trying to cut crime in the West Midlands because the PCC has around for 12 years and obviously does not work because crime has gone up.”

He added: “I am deeply disappointed with Simon (Foster) for legally challenging the Home Office decision. This is not my legal case, or appeal, the Home Office lodged the appeal. And now we are all in the courts hands, but it is no way a done deal and I am confident they could win.

“People are worried about crime. This would have made sense in the battle against crime in the West Midlands. The mayor, just like in London and Manchester, is in the best position to deliver policies in fighting crime.”

NEWS: Andy Street announces £2.4m careers advisor fund during mayoral election campaign visit to Stockland Green School

Words and on location pics by Erdington Local

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street chose Stockland Green School to make his first major policy announcement of his election campaign.

Mr Street visited the Slade Road secondary on the first day of his official campaigning for the mayoral election to announce if re-elected on 2 May the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will pay for 40 careers advisers for schools in some of the region’s most challenged areas.

The plan has been costed at £2.4m with funding already identified by the WMCA.

Mr Street announced the policy at Stockland Green School due to its successful careers programme, which was launched after the legacy of lockdown saw work experience plummet and face-to-face careers sessions with pupils drastically decline.

Mr Street told Erdington Local: “This school has been praised by Ofsted for its commitment to careers advice, but sadly across the West Midlands the same not can be said for all schools.

“There are still too many young people who are not getting the right opportunities and guidance during the critical years when they are deciding what to do for work.”

He added: “30 per cent of our children have not had work experience; one in six have never had face-to-face careers advice. And as usual it’s the schools in the most challenged areas which have these problems.”

Mr Street, who credits his economics teacher as the catalyst for his journey into the business world – which saw him run the department store giant John Lewis from 2007 to 2016, before entering politics – is concerned youngsters will turn elsewhere for crucial advice if denied access to careers experts.

He continued: “In a world where youngsters are getting their career advice from people like Andrew Tate on social media, having trusted local grown-ups in schools is more important than ever.

“I spoke to children in this school today and they all had a spark, a passion, and an idea what excited them concerning jobs – and for children like these, they need help to give them advice about how to get to where they want be and fulfil their aspirations.”

As announced today, if Mr Street is re-elected as West Midlands Mayor schools which score high on the pupil poverty indicators will be able to apply to the WMCA for funds to employ a dedicated careers officer.

Stockland Green School, which is part of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, was praised last year by Ofsted for the “tenacious” approach of staff in driving up student aspiration.

Assistant headteacher, Katerina Lee, is also responsible for the careers advice in the school. She said: “The pandemic caused so many problems with work experience, and with careers advisors not meeting pupils we wanted to do something about it.

“We work with local companies to get our pupils the routes to the jobs and careers they want. However, it is hard. And it would be wonderful to have a full time careers advisor… in fact we could do with lots, their work is so important.”

She added: “It is not like in previous years, where pupils would be given a pathway to industries which would open their doors for work experience and then a job offer would be at the end of it.

“We have to work hard identifying the needs of pupils, like our SEN (special educational needs) children, it is very important to identify their needs very early on.”

Headteacher Rebecca Goode began working at Stockland Green School 16 years ago before getting the top job in 2022.

She said: “Our pupils enjoyed telling Mr Street their aspirations and what they want to do when they enter the job market. Giving them access to careers advice is a really important part of making that happen.”

Mr Street, who won the previous two West Midlands mayoral elections, promised to keep the region’s youngsters and children at the top of his agenda. He believes improving their economic prospects is key in both their success and that of the wider West Midlands.

He added: “This is one of those areas where we just haven’t had the budget, powers, and responsibility to sort this until now. But I will get a grip of career education if I’m re-elected in May.

The West Midlands Mayoral election is being held on Thursday, 2 May. Candidates include the incumbent Conservative candidate Mr Street, Labour’s Richard Parker, Reform UK’s Elaine Williams, and Sunny Virk for the Liberal Democrats.

For more on Andy Street visit www.andystreet.org.uk

For more on the West Midlands Combined Authority visit www.wmca.org.uk

Click here to learn more about the West Midlands Mayoral elections on 2 May.

NEWS: A search for living relatives of WWII Erdington Aircraftman Maurice Joseph Berry

Words by Ed King

A search is on for living relatives of an Erdington aircraftman who died in the Second World War, hoping to invite them to a special memorial ceremony to be held in May later this year.

The Airfield Construction Branch Association (ACBA) have reached out to Erdington Local, looking for help in finding any friends or family members of Maurice Joseph Berry Aircraftman 2nd Class – who lost his life in a bombing raid whilst serving at RAF Ashford, Kent, in 1944.

Alongside Aircraftman Berry, a total of 20 people died in the raid on RAF Ashford – after a German Bomber dropped a 1000lb bomb on the construction camp whilst the men were on active service at the base.     

14 servicemen were killed immediately with a further six losing their lives following the attack. All the airmen were Volunteer Reservists attached to 5003 Squadron.

Founded in April 1918, the RAF grew to around 1.2m personnel in the Second World War – following the merger of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in the final stages of the First World War.

In the Second Ward War the RAF were also heavily supported by the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), established in 1939, which made up over 15% of the RAF at its peak and saw reportedly 2000 women signing up each week.

The RAF played a significant role in Second World War, as advances in German aircraft and airborne warfare gave birth to the German Luftwaffe – who had been secretly trained in the years in between the First and Second World Wars.

This ‘fight for the skies’ culminated in the Battle of Brittain and what is referred to today as ‘The Blitz’, air fought conflicts which lasted from July 1940 to May 1941 and were the German army’s precursor to their planned land invasion of Britain – named Operation Sea Lion.

However, by spring 1941 the Luftwaffe suffered significant losses and German plans for an invasion of the British Isles were scrapped.

Many of the Spitfire planes and Lancaster Bombers flown in the Second World War were made at the Castle Bromwich Aerodrome, on what is the Fort Dunlop site and Castle Vale estate today – with roads across the area named after the people and planes from Erdington that were so pivotal in Allies’ victory over the Third Reich and Axis powers.

Maurice Joseph Berry was born to Joseph and Alice Berry, who lived in Erdington. Maurice is buried at Witton Cemetery and it is believed he may still have family living in or around North Birmingham – or that people in the area might know how to locate any living relatives.

Anyone who has any knowledge of Maurice Joseph Berry or could help locate any living relatives is asked to contact ACBA Associate President Geoffrey Chesher-Brazier by emailing 5003squadron@gmail.com – or phoning 07481 992 2279.

A memorial service will be held in the St Mary parish church in Ashford, scheduled for 19 May, to honour the 20 fatalities from the raid at RAF Ashford, with a subsequent service held at Ashford War Memorial.

A letter sent by Mr Chesher-Braizer to Erdington Local concludes: ‘It will be greatly appreciated if you would assist us in locating living relatives of these young men who gave their lives in order that we may live in peace.”

NEWS: “A bad taste in the mouth” as Birmingham City Council employees facing cuts to local services presented with “crazy” voluntary redundancy packages

Words by Jacob Morgan

Birmingham City Council has presented workers with a “crazy” new voluntary redundancy package, whilst it grapples with massive cuts – as part of a recently approved budget that will see the largest local authority in Britain withdraw £300m from public services.

Birmingham City Council (BCC) employees were offered voluntary redundancies last August, under its Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme (MARS).

However, after many calculated their MARS settlements and agonised over the decision whether to leave or stay from their jobs, the Council withdrew the offer in a last minute U-turn – as Erdington Local reported last November.

But Erdington Local can now reveal, BCC employed workers were recently sent an email about forthcoming redundancies with a “lower settlement” – which the Council acknowledged could run into 600 jobs being lost.

A Council spokesman confirmed: “We anticipate that (subject to consultation) up to 600 posts may be declared redundant across the council.”

Workers in children’s services, the youth service, SEND provision, the careers service, and other departments earmarked for budget cuts, have begun to receive voluntary redundancy offers that are seen as “lower” than last year’s MARS scheme.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson further confirmed the new round of voluntary redundancies.

They told: “A targeted voluntary redundancy scheme has been opened to employees working within services that are seeing proposals for workforce reductions or changes, as a result of the budget savings that the council is having to make. 

“The voluntary redundancy scheme and proposed payment arrangements are enhanced from the statutory minimum for voluntary redundancy payments.”

A Council employee, who has more than 15 years service, told Erdington Local they have received another voluntary redundancy offer which has left “a bad taste in the mouth”.

He added: “I just do not trust the Council anymore. Last year I spent weeks really thinking hard whether I want to be part of what is going to be left after all these cuts.

“I love my job, I work with some amazing but vulnerable youngsters, and can see the difference I make. But where I work could close… so what is the point of staying?

“Also, I spent ages looking at the settlement I was offered under MARS and what that could mean for my immediate future.

He added: “However, just as I was about to submit my voluntary redundancy submission they scrapped MARS. I really, really, really resent the amount of time I wasted thinking it about. They are playing with people’s lives – I that’s what so annoying.

“And now, just a few months later, I have got another voluntary redundancy offer, with a lower settlement.

“I am getting out of this organisation, which is run by people who do not care about the work their employees do.”

Unite regional officer for Birmingham Council, Lee Wiggetts-Clinton, said: “This is a tremendously uncertain time for all staff at Birmingham (City) Council, one thing they can guarantee is that Unite will always have the backs of its members.

“It is crazy at the moment. I did not like MARS. And I don’t like these lower settlements offered. Obviously, defending on people’s circumstances, a voluntary offer could work.

“But I am telling members, tell them to shove their voluntary offers where the sun don’t shine – wait for the bounty of compulsory.”

The voluntary redundancy controversy comes after the HR expert brought into deal with the personnel problems at Birmingham City Council was himself not kept in post, arguably with questions still left to answer about the more widespread financial issues facing the city.

Interim Director of Human Resources and Organisation Development, Darren Hockaday, was reportedly costing taxpayers between £1,200 and £1,500 a day – which is the equivalent of at least £350,000 a year and a much higher annual salary than that of the Birmingham City Council Chief Executive, who earned around £260,000 per year.

Mr Hockaday leftt Birmingham City Council November 2023 after his contact was not renewed – despite the financial crisis gripping the city, and his role as a key city officer responsible for HR of over around 12,000 Council employees.

Reports from other local media have also cited a Council initiated investigations from solicitors Browne Jackson into allegations that individuals at Birmingham City Council “might have failed to abide by ‘the Nolan principles’ that govern public life, including acting with integrity and honesty.”

NEWS: Derbyshire businessman Steve Knee selected as next Conservative parliamentary candidate for Birmingham Erdington

Words by Ed King / Group pic supplied by Birmingham Conservatives – other pics taken from Steve Knee’s YouTube content

Derbyshire businessman Steve Knee has been selected as the next Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Birmingham Erdington seat – as voted for by locally registered party members.

Following the announcement that longstanding Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden will not contest the seat in the upcoming General Election, as he has done over the last four, a selection meeting was organised for 13 March to choose the Conservative’s new Erdington MP hopeful.

On Thursday 14 March, the Birmingham Conservatives issued a statement confirming Mr Knee as their next parliamentary candidate for the Birmingham Erdington seat.

Steve Knee is an established businessman and entrepreneur, who set up Cloudbass Multimedia Limited in February 2009 – a television programme production company which broadcasts high profile events from the London Olympic Games opening ceremony to Glastonbury Festival.

According to documents on file at Companies House, Cloudbass Multimedia Limited is the “largest independently owned” outside broadcast facilities provider – operating from three sites across the UK.

Successfully navigating through the Covid pandemic and international lockdowns, which saw the ruin of many organisations that work with the entertainment sector, Cloudbass Multimedia retains its 40,000 sqft headquarters in Derbyshire – where Mr Knee also lives with his wife and three children.

Mr Knee has also previously stood for the Duffield and Quarndon Ward in the 2023 Amber Valley Borough Council elections, alongside running mate Martin Betteridge – coming in second with around 27% of the turnout, beating Labour but losing to the incumbent Green Party.

Following his selection as parliamentary candidate for the Birmingham Erdington seat, Mr Knee told: “I’m absolutely delighted… as a constituency with a rich heritage, I’m looking forward to representing the people and to help improve their real world outcomes, from the cost of living to dealing with the fallout from the City Council cuts.”

He added: “I’m a passionate advocate of renewable energy, not only for the environmental benefits but as the cheapest form of energy production it can make a real different to the cost of living.”

Following Mr Knee’s selection, Birmingham Conservatives Association Chairman and Erdington Ward Councillor Gareth Moore stated: “Steve (Knee) demonstrated that he is fully aware of the terrible impact Labour’s financial mismanagement will have on residents and how he wants to work with residents and local Conservative Councillors to fight for our area and to help protect vital services like our local libraries.”

The selection meeting on 13 March, held at the Erdington Conservative Club on Orchard Road, also saw local party members confirm to keep in place the following candidates for the 2026 Council elections: Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward), Cllr Gareth Moore (Erdington Ward) and Cllr Rick Payne (Kingstanding Ward).

Steve Knee: Who am I? – taken from Mr Knee’s own YouTube channel

NEWS: Erdington’s Mo ‘Terminator’ Zubair wins MMA professional debut

Pics supplied by Mo Zubair

An Erdington MMA fighter has begun the long road to international UFC glory with the backing of world champion Leon Edwards.

Mo Zubair spent five years in the amateur MMA ranks and entered the professional arena by winning his bout in Wolverhampton on 2 March in spectacular fashion.

The 23-year-old has trained with fellow Erdingtonian Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards, who proved to every fighter in the UK it was possible to win world titles without being trained in America.

Mo told Erdington Local: “Leon is a big inspiration to me, he has been really supportive. He has let me join him in training camps and join him on the circuit.

“He proves what can be achieved. We are alike, we both came from the streets and just turned up to the gym and changed our lives.”

Mo first began contact sports with a visit to Tyburn Boxing Club as a child. He loved the smells, sounds, and sense of belonging that boxing could bring.

However, like many boxers, fighters, and fans alike, Mo had his head turned by MMA – Mixed Martial Arts. And in Erdington, the catalyst was the popular Ultimate Training Centre (UTC) gym at the old Blockbuster building on the High Street. UTC was the first in the region to have a full size octagon and quickly became a magnet for combat sports athletes from across Birmingham.

Eventually, after being forced to vacate the old premises and several false dawns, UTC left Erdington with its talented trainers scattering to the winds – until a group of trainers began Team Renegade, at a purpose built gym in Northfield.

The rising stars of the Erdington fight scene were Leon Edwards and his brother fighter Fabian, and they followed their trainers to Team Renegade in Northfield. American UFC experts and fighters mocked the facilities and quality of coaching in the UK, let alone Birmingham.

However, Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards stuck with his training team and recorded one of the greatest knockout finishes in sporting history – clinching the welterweight championship by knocking out champion Kamaru Usman in the final seconds of the bout, whilst losing on every judge’s card.

The gym shot to global fame when Joe Rogan showed the new champion a clip of a live video of the gym celebrating back home. Mo said: “I was in the room that night, it was incredible, life changing. I know want to be fighting in the UFC just like Leon. Because of his success there are some UFC fighters training at Team Renegade and West Midlands has become a real hotbed of MMA.”

After winning the biggest amateur competitions possible, including Cage Warriors and Gladiator UK, Mo turned professional on the advice of Team Renegade.

He said: “You can’t just turn professional, you have to be ready and I think I am.

“I am coming up to six years as an amateur so it’s time. I started in small shows and ended up winning the biggest amateur events in the country.”

As an amateur, Mo fought as a flyweight but has begun his tilt at professional glory as a bantamweight.

Fighting on the Golden Ticket Promotions bill at KK’s Steel Hangar in Wolverhampton, Mo won his first professional victory in early March – facing off against Nestor Santana, who already had six professional MMA fights before finished in the first round.

Former John Wilmott School pupil Mo said: “I won with a first round corner stoppage which is a great way to start my professional career. My manager and trainer are just weighing offers and options.”

He added: “I train twice a day, I go home, and do the same the next day. I don’t go to any nightclubs, or any of that. I want to fight in the UFC. That is where the action is and I will not settle for anything less, it is the Premier League of MMA.

“And it would be great to have two fighters from Erdington as champions. It can be done.”

To follow Mo ‘Terminator’ Zubair on Instagram visit www.instagram.com/mozubairmma

NEWS: Birmingham City Council Chief Executive Deborah Cadman to quit quarter million pound role after Oracle and equal pay effectively bankrupt city

Words by Ed King

Birmingham City Council Chief Executive, Deborah Cadman, has officially announced her plans to step down from the role – walking away from the top flight job from 22 March, which reportedly pays around £260,000 a year.

Ms Cadman was appointed as Birmingham Chief Executive in June 2021, having been the tenth person in the role since the turn of the millennium.

Ms Cadman was previously in position as the first permanent Chief Executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) – which came into being in June 2016 – and was appointed an OBE in 2006 for services to local government, following a long career in local governance including holding the position of Chief Executive of Suffolk County Council from 2011 to 2017.

In a statement issued today, Ms Cadman told: “It was always my intention to leave the council once the budget (2024/25) was agreed, and we had a clear route to recovery and improvement. Having secured that approval and having led on the development of the council’s new Improvement and Recovery Plan, I feel that now is the right time to hand over the baton to a new Chief Executive.

“I am of course incredibly disappointed with the council’s current financial position and the challenges that have arisen due to historic Equal Pay issues and the failed implementation of Oracle.

“It has been the honour of my life to be the Chief Executive of the city in which I was born and raised. I wish my colleagues every success in transforming the council into one that this great city deserves.”

The budget Ms Cadman refers to in her statement will see £300m cut from public services, to help get Birmingham City Council financially back on track after a section 114 notice was issued by the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Fiona Greenway, on 5 September 2023.

The potential payout the Council might face in equal pay liabilities, linked to the “bin strikes” from 2017 to 2109, was cited as the reason for the section 114 – with a figure of up to £800m being put into the public domain and endorsed by the exiting Chief Executive, Deborah Cadman.

But many in the corridors of power at Birmingham City Council indicate the real costs to the city may have more to do with the failed implementation of the Oracle ERP system, which was procured to replace the previous SAP system under the advice of city officers serving at the time.

If this proves to be the case, city officials, such as Ms Cadman, will have many questions to answer about the role of the IT and HR support programme in Birmingham’s current financial crisis – which will see residents face on increase of over 20% in Council Tax across the next two years and £500m in public assets being sold to offset a loan from central government.

In response to Deborah Cadman’s resignation earlier today, Birmingham City Council leader and Labour councillor for Glebe Farm and Tile Cross Ward, John Cotton, said: “Deborah has led the council as Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service over the course of the last three years. Her commitment and contribution have been acknowledged by staff, partners and government.

“These have been incredibly difficult times and no one can doubt Deborah’s commitment to the council, the city and the region.”

Leader of the Birmingham Conservatives and councillor for the Erdington Ward, Robert Alden, added: “At a time of unprecedented crisis brought about by the Labour Cabinet, Birmingham now has no Chief Executive, an interim Chief Finance Officer and an interim Monitoring Officer.

“Report after report has talked about the impact of the high turnover rate of senior officers and the resulting loss of corporate memory, but Birmingham Labour have turned this City Council from a place once seen as the pinnacle of a local government career to a national pariah.

“Our great City needs great leadership, but time and again the political leadership has been found badly wanting and residents are paying the cost.”