OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic by Ed King – from Erdington Local archives

This month saw the Labour Council approve their new bankruptcy budget, leaving residents facing a double whammy of higher taxes and fewer services.

The Conservative opposition put forward a fully costed amendment, approved by officers, which would have saved all local libraries, increased street cleaning, scrapped Labour’s new ‘Rat Tax’ charge on pest controls and protected other services immediately and in the long term, showing how the Council can maintain weekly bin collections, funding in youth/adult services and keep Council Tax lower.

Sadly all 53 Labour Councillors voted against our alternative, instead voting for the Labour bankruptcy budget. Only Labour Councillors voted for Labour’s double whammy which puts up Council Tax by 21% over the next 2 years and closes most libraries.

Rest assured that Cllr Gareth Moore and I continue our campaign to try to save Erdington, Kingstanding and Perry Common libraries. You can sign our petition by visiting our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

Gareth and I are also delighted to announce funding has been secured to refurbish the Tennis Courts in Rookery Park, Brookvale Park and Pype Hayes Park.

The Council are trying to introduce charges for using these tennis courts. Gareth and I have been clear this is totally unacceptable. Thankfully have listened to us and the charges proposed will not happen in Erdington Ward; Rookery Park Tennis Courts will remain free.

In Stockland Green Brookvale will also remain free; however we will continue to fight for proposed charges to also be scrapped in Pype Hayes Park.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

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: Councillor Robert Alden will not stand for Birmingham Erdington seat at upcoming General Election

Words and pics by Ed King / Profile pic of Cllr Robert Alden supplied by Birmingham Conservatives

Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden will not be standing for the Birmingham Erdington seat in the upcoming General Election – as he has done successively since 2010.

Birmingham Conservative members who live within the Erdington constituency will be voting for their new parliamentary candidate on Wednesday 13 March – alongside further votes to select Conservative candidates for the Erdington, Pype Hayes, and Kingstanding Wards.

Party members outside of the specific constituency and Ward boundaries will not be eligible to vote but have been invited to attend the selection meeting, where the nominees will be presented and voted on – to be held tonight at the Erdington Conservative Club on Orphanage Road from 7:30pm.

Whilst the date for the next General Election is yet to be set, in accordance with parliamentary process it must be called by 28 January 2025.

However, many have speculated Prime Minister Sunak will announce May as the month – with growing speculation about a ‘snap election’ following the recent defection of Conservative Deputy Chairman Lee Anderson to Reform UK.

Leader of the Birmingham Conservatives, Robert Alden has been an Erdington Ward councillor since 2006 after taking it from Labour – a position he now shares with Conservative running mate, Cllr Gareth Moore.

A prolific figurehead in the area, who lives in central Erdington, Cllr Alden stood against Erdington’s previous MP Jack Dromey in four General Elections. After the sudden death of Mr Dromey in 2022, he stood against Paulette Hamilton in the March ’22 by-election – losing a fiercely fought campaign with 36.3% of the turnout.

As a local councillor, Robert Alden has held the Erdington Ward with a comfortable majority – securing his position in the 2022 local elections with over 50% of the turnout.

A recognised campaigner, Cllr Alden has been a long supporter of community groups such as the Erdington Litter Busters – and was heavily involved in the fight to stop a housing development on Short Heath playing fields, backing the successful campaign led by the Short Heath Fields Trust.

Alongside Cllr Gareth Moore, Cllr Alden is currently campaigning to secure the future of Erdington Library, Perry Common Library, and Kingstanding Library, following fears they will be sold off by Birmingham City Council as part of a £500m assets sale to repay a loan from central government to tackle the city’s financial crisis.

However, at the time of writing it is unclear if Cllr Alden will also be withdrawing from contesting the Erdington Ward in the next City Council elections – as well as the Birmingham Erdington constituency in the General Election.

An email sent to Birmingham Conservative members in February said: “As an Association, we have been fortunate in that Cllr Robert Alden has kindly stood as our parliamentary candidate in five previous elections and has achieved some phenomenal results – turning Erdington from the safest Labour seat in Birmingham in 2005 to now the most marginal Labour-held seat in the City in what has sometimes been trying circumstances for the Party.”

The message continues: “Robert has decided to not stand as our parliamentary candidate on this occasion which means we need to choose a new candidate for the General Election.

“In addition to selecting our parliamentary candidate, afterwards the Association will be selecting our local government candidates for the 2026 elections for Erdington, Pype Hayes and Kingstanding Wards.”

Erdington Local has approached Cllr Alden for comment and has been told more information will be released after the selection meeting on 13 March.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

Our local Libraries in North Birmingham are vital community hubs helping to support residents of all ages. Erdington Library in particularly has a brilliant children’s library, excellent staff and services. While the building itself, a Carnegie Library, is listed and a key heritage site on our High Street.

A recent investigation has revealed in the last two years 92,950 people have used Erdington Library while 31,586 people have a membership and 67,779 books have been issued. Making Erdington Library one of the busiest libraries in the city.

As residents you will know Cllr Gareth Moore and I have been fighting over the last few years for the repairs and investment into the Library that are required to ensure that the service is what residents would rightly expect.

Sadly having effectively bankrupted the Council, through their equal pay crisis and botched IT rollout, the Labour administration have now announced that they are closing 25 libraries across the city. Meaning that Erdington Library, along with all the rest in North Birmingham are at risk of closing and being sold off.

Cllr Gareth Moore and I are clear that Erdington Library, along with Kingstanding and Perry Common libraries, must be saved. It would be totally unacceptable for it to close and so we have launched a campaign to protect and save Erdington Library from closure.

Residents can rest assured we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to save our libraries.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

 

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

Sadly, January has seen the Labour Council announce they are putting up Council Tax by up to 21% across the next two years.

That means since the 2012 election, when the Labour administration was elected on a promise not to increase Council Tax, the average resident is paying £855 more, (a 77% increase in Council Tax) since 2012 by the end of next year.

It’s disgraceful that residents are being made to pay more for less services to make up for the failure of the Council Administration.

Before Christmas we had the pleasure of attending many of the wonderful Christmas events that were held; including those at Erdington Abbey Church Hall and St Barnabas School. Thank you to everyone involved with events to share the season with residents, it is really appreciated. 

Frustratingly it’s been another year of botched Christmas refuse collections. The Council advertised a new way of collecting the waste this year – effectively everyone had two collections across three weeks.

However, the dates they published didn’t match the date collections occurred meaning many residents missed refuse/recycling collections. We’ve raised this with the Council.

In what seemed like a trial for Labour imposing fortnightly collections in the future it instead proved why it would cause a massive increase in litter on the streets, e.g. Jarvis Road became covered in uncollected waste.

We’ve demand improvements from the Council and for rubbish to be cleared.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

Last month saw the latest Police All Out Day on Erdington High St, which Cllr Gareth Moore and I are pictured taking part in.

We’ve been working with the local Police and partner agencies to try and increase the enforcement of the Public Space Protection Order and secure increased visibility of Police locally. The regular Police All Out Days are a key part of increasing that visibility and thank you to the local officers for their efforts in recent months. 

Gareth and I were proud to once again help switch on the Christmas Lights this year at the Erdington BID Christmas Light Switch on event. Thank you to John, the BID manager, for his work in pulling the event together again.

Thank you to everyone who supported my campaign against the recent attempt to convert a terraced house on Orchard Road into a children’s care home. The Council policy is clear that terraced houses should not be used due to the impact it has on the surrounding area and, thankfully, the Council rejected the application following the campaign.

Residents will recall that Labour’s equal pay crisis has caused the Council to become effectively bankrupt. We will be doing all we can to protect local services and sites from Labour’s axe when they announce their new budget.

Finally, December brings a wide range of amazing community events to celebrate Christmas in Erdington – Gareth and I look forward to seeing you at some of them during the next few weeks!

We wish you all a Merry Christmas.

(This column was written for initial publication in the Erdington Local newspaper – published on 8 December)

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Recent weeks have seen further developments in the effective ‘bankruptcy’ at Labour run Birmingham City Council, with the external auditors and press raising concerns about what appears to be inappropriate and intimidatory behaviour and toxic working relationships between the Labour Party and senior officers. 

Locally, Cllr Gareth Moore and I have been monitoring the progress of the improvements to the play area and outdoor gym in Rookery Park (pictured inspecting the work recently).

The play area work has been funded by money we secured from the redevelopment of Rookery House, and we supported the Friends of Rookery Park to secure funding for the outdoor gym equipment.

We have continued our work to help keep Erdington safe and are delighted that attempts by an amusement arcade to secure 24 hour opening hours on the High Street have been rejected. This would have attracted ASB and was totally unnecessary.

We have also seen a number of other successes recently with our campaign to retain the Erdington Police Station as the base for local Police teams. This will ensure the building is retained allowing, a possible reopening of the front desk in the future, while also ensuring our Police teams are based locally. 

We are also delighted to announce that we’ve successfully fought to keep Ticket Offices at Erdington, Chester Road and Gravelly Hill Train Stations open following the recent consultation about closing them. 

Thank you to everyone who signed our petitions as part of these campaigns.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

I was honoured to join, along with local school children, the Erdington Rotary Club this month for the opening of their Peace Garden at Spring Lane Playing Fields.

Thank you to all the volunteers who helped build this lovely addition to our local area.

Much of Cllr Gareth Moore and my work this month has been connected to the damning section 114 notices about the Council effectively being declared bankrupt due to equal pay bills and the Leader of the Council refusing to act to prevent the Council collapsing despite warning from auditors, the opposition, and officers at Birmingham City Council.

Therefore, we have been meeting with officers to discuss protecting Erdington Library and to try and ensure plans to regenerate the former Erdington Baths site continue to go ahead.

We have also been meeting with officers to discuss what plans the Council have for other assets locally, such as office blocks, and to stress they must not sell any of them for exempt accommodation.

We are clear that our heritage/cultural assets and green spaces must be protected. They were left for the people of Erdington to enjoy in perpetuity, not to be flogged off to pay for the mistakes of the Labour administration. 

We have also been pressing the Council to ensure the improvements to Rookery Park we secured still happen. We are delighted to confirm they will still go ahead, following a short delay, and work begins in early October. 

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

NEWS: Birmingham City Council agree Financial Recovery Plan which could see Erdington assets sold and a rise in Council Tax

Words by Ed King

On Monday 25 September, Birmingham’s elected officials approved a Financial Recovery Plan which could see assets from Erdington and across the city sold to pay off the Council’s debt, as well as a potential rise in Council Tax introduced.

In a heated four hour Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), councillors from the city’s ten constituencies debated the two Section 114 notices recently issued – which effectively declared the city ‘bankrupt’, highlighting Birmingham City Council (BCC) does not have enough financial reserves to balance its books – before voting on a four point strategy presented by BCC Chief Executive Deborah Cadman.

The first recommendation in the BCC Financial Recovery Plan was to ‘Agree to accept the Section 114 notice issued on 5th September 2023’, allowing the Council to move forward and work with government appointed commissioners. The vote was carried.

The following three recommendations outlined approaches that could either save or generate money for BCC, including an ‘Assets Review to identify options to raise funds’ – which could pave the way for Erdington’s libraries, parks, community hubs, and leisure centres being sold on the commercial market, alongside other BCC assets from across the city.

Also included were spending control measures until emergency and balanced budgets could be approved, a potential ‘Organisational Redesign’ of ‘services around citizens’, and an ‘Income Review to maximise sustainable income from all sources’ – including Business Rates, Council Tax, and Grants. The vote for these recommendations was also carried.

According to BCC’S official list of property published in 2019 – the latest Erdington Local could find – the Erdington constituency has 464 assets owned by Birmingham City Council, excluding social housing and operational public highways.

These include social hubs such as both Erdington and Kingstanding Leisure Centres, Highcroft Community Centre, Elim Pentecostal Church, the Magnet Centre, The British Legion Social Club in Perry Common, Stockland Green Sports Centre, and Lakeside Childrens and Family Learning Centre.

These Erdington facilities could now be sold to address the financial crisis faced by Birmingham City Council.

Birmingham City Council could also look to sell the green spaces in its portfolio, which according to the 2019 published portfolio includes allotments across Erdington – from Castle Vale to Wyrley Birch – Erdington Playing Fields, Twickenham Road Playing Fields, Short Heath Playing Fields, Spring Lane Playing Fields, and Yenton Playing Fields.

Larger public spaces such as Brookvale Park, Rookery Park, Highcroft Park, and Pype Hayes Park could also be sold – alongside Perry Common and Witton Lakes.

Also back under question is Erdington Library, which recently fought off a proposal from BCC that would have seen its entire facility squeezed into the corner children’s library area, and Erdington Baths, which was recently promised £2m from BCC to aid the development of an Enterprise Hub – as delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA).

Birmingham City Council is facing a projected deficit of £87m for 2023/24 and legal bill of ‘between £650 million and £760 million’ for new claims over equal pay, having already remunerated thousands of historic claimants over £1bn in liabilities.

In response to the growing financial crisis faced by BCC, the first Section 114 notice was issued by Birmingham City Council’s Interim Director of Finance, Fiona Greenway, on 5 September.

A following notice was then issued on 21 September, alongside a further Section 5 notice from the City Solicitor, after calls of inaction over plans for a workable job evaluation scheme.

Ahead of commissioners coming to take over Birmingham’s finances – as appointed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – a Financial Recovery Plan was published by the BCC Chief Executive, Deborah Cadman, on 25 September.

An Extraordinary General Meeting was held that evening, with all councillors requested to attend, to debate and vote on the recommendations presented.

Council Leader John Cotton (Glebe Farm and Tile Cross, Labour) was the first elected official to speak, stating “(Birmingham City) Council is at a crossroads” and recognising the “severe challenges that we face”.

Cllr Cotton went on to “apologise to the people of Birmingham” for the “stark choices” and “worrying times” as the City presents a plan to save itself from financial ruin.

Erdington Ward councillor and Leader of Birmingham Conservatives, Robert Alden, was next to speak, acknowledging the “sad day for the city” and “tragic” circumstances Birmingham City Council now found itself in, following a “shameful amount of inaction across the summer” from the Council leadership.

Cllr Alden further presented a litany of official opportunities and advice given to BCC to address the equal pay liabilities over recent years, as well as highlighting the debt accrued was “a council issue” and that “the city of Birmingham has a bright future ahead of it; the city of Birmingham is full of amazing people.”

Alden added:  “And the city will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of this mess that’s been created by the Labour administration.”

A total of 30 local councillors stood up to address the Lord Mayor and Council Chamber during the EGM on Monday, 25 September – including Cllr Alden’s counterpart in the Erdington Ward, Cllr Gareth Moore.

Cllr Moore was quick to admit he was “quite frankly embarrassed and ashamed” over the “unprecedented” financial crisis facing the city.

He added: “Birmingham is an amazing city full of passionate people with a rich and diverse history, and yet the reputation and finances of this Council have been ruined by chronic mismanagement by the Labour leadership”.

No councillors from any of the remining six political Wards in the Erdington constituency spoke at the EGM, although time cut short the requests from six elected officials who were not given the chance to address the Chamber.

Commissioners appointed by the DLUHC will now begin working with Birmingham City Council to address the financial crisis.

NEWS: Erdington Ward Councillor issues open letter to Council Leader asking for ‘transparency and honesty’ about cuts to services or selling of assets following Section 114 notice

Words by Ed King

Erdington Ward Councillor and the Leader of Birmingham Conservatives, Robert Alden, has issued an open letter to the Leader of Birmingham City Council (BCC) calling for “transparency and honesty” over plans to save the City following the Section 114 notice issued on 5 September – including any proposed cuts to services or selling of Council assets.

Sent to Cllr John Cotton (Glebe Farm & Tile Cross, Labour) earlier today, the letter identifies 13 separate requests for information and documentation – asking for all to be included in the “document pack” issued ahead of an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on 25 September.

Click here to download a PDF of the letter issued from Cllr Alden to Cllr Cotton on 19 September

Following the issuing of a Section 114 notice, the Labour run Birmingham City Council declared it was unable to meet the financial requirements to run the city – citing a projected deficit of £87m for 2023/24 and legal bill of ‘between £650 million and £760 million’ for new claims over equal pay.

The EGM on 25 September will be when the Council will meet to discuss the Cabinet’s plans to pull the Local Authority back from financial ruin – including any potential cuts to public services and any assets within the City’s portfolio that could be sold.

Included in the letter sent by Cllr Alden to Cllr Cotton are calls for “all correspondence” between the Cabinet “relating to the issuing of the s114 notice”, including the date and times of phone calls.

It also asks the Council Leader to release “reports and briefings to Cabinet Members” from the last four years about the Job Evaluation Scheme, a “list of dates and times Officers have emailed” to the Leader’s office about equal pay in the last six years, and “the public and private cabinet reports of 2017 and 2019 relating to the waste dispute resolution”.

There are further specific requests to see any “proposals” sent to the Department of Housing, Levelling Up, and Communities (DHLUC) since Cllr Cotton was elected as Council Leader in May 2023 – alongside any “financial measures including solutions/savings/cuts/sales” that have been suggested by the City as part of the recovery package.

After the shock announcement of the Section 114 notice on 5 September, concerns have been mounting across Birmingham about where the money will come from to balance the Council’s books – as managed by an external team of commissioners, appointed by the DHLUC.

Birmingham City Council Chief Executive Deborah Cadman has already outlined aspects of the City’s £2.4bn property portfolio which could be sold, including museums, art galleries, and even the newly built Library of Birmingham.

In Erdington, public assets previously earmarked for community use and constituency redevelopment initiatives are now once again under threat – despite commitments from Birmingham City Council to finance and support the projects.

Public buildings in Erdington that could now be sold include Erdington Library, which recently fought off plans to decimate its facilities to make way for a developments led by Adult Social Care.

Erdington Baths could also find itself on the commercial market, despite recently securing funding from BCC and the West Midlands Combined Authority to become a new Enterprise Hub – designed and delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA).

Campaigners for Short Heath Playing Fields are also preparing to once again fight off potential developments on the green space that do not pertain to community sports – after a three year battle to stop BCC’s previous plans to build an 84 strong housing estate on the parkland.

Before leaving office, previous Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward had issued a license agreement to SHFT giving them responsibility for Short Heath Playing Fields until May 2024. Cllr Ward further stated in a letter to Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton that regarding any potential sales BCC’s “intention will be to market it as a sports field.”

A spokesperson for SHFT told Erdington Local: “For the last three years our community battled to save these playing fields and be in a position where they are secured for future use.

“There are few places left for us to use for sporting activities and we are very concerned that this will result in promises made being broken, and our playing fields being sold off for something other than sporting activities.”

In a separate statement issued today, Cllr Alden added: “Birmingham Local Conservatives are clear the sale of cultural and heritage assets would be totally unacceptable, they were left for the people of Birmingham to enjoy in perpetuity not for a Labour Council to flog off to fix their mistakes.”