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.

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

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

The last few months have seen progress on Cllr Gareth Moore and my efforts to tackle crime and disorder across the Erdington Ward. We both supported the recent police all out day on the High Street.

This has seen approximately 800 illegal vapes seized from two premises which have been referred to trading standards with a view to further action, while during July over 20 PSPO tickets have been issued to individuals.

As a director of Erdington Town Centre Business Improvement District I’m delighted we’ve been able to secure an additional High Street warden.

Police have been able to act on intelligence from residents and a local Neighbourhood Watch group to be able to raid a property on Dunvegan Road and remove over 250 cannabis plants. This follows recent seizures and arrests on Chester Road.

We always urge residents to report any information they have to the police as, while it may not instantly lead to something happening, this intelligence is added to other reports and can lead to arrests like those above.

Everyone in Erdington can help make our area safer by reporting anything suspicious to the police.

This month saw the return of travellers to Rookery Park. We secured their eviction and a deep clean of the park and have had concrete blocks placed to prevent the gates being broken open again whilst a longer-term solution is found to keep the park secure.

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

(Ed’s note: This column was first published in the Erdington Local newspaper on 4 September, before the announcement of a Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

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

This month Cllr Gareth Moore and I have been finalising the design for the improvements to the play area in Rookery Park. The Council will be starting this work in September having decided they could not finish the work in time to have the play area reopen for the school holidays.

We have also been pushing the Council to act on the state the former gatehouse for the park has been allowed to get in to and we’ve been informed work should be happening over the summer to improve it.

This month, West Midlands Railway launched a consultation on the closure of ticket offices across the region including at Erdington and Chester Road Train Stations. Gareth and I have collected a petition opposing the closure and submitted it along with an objection to the consultation. An announcement on the consultation result is expected later this year.

Following the recent success of stopping the conversion of the Royal Oak into a HMO, I have launched a petition opposing a similar application to convert 120 Gravelly Lane.

You can see details of how to object to the application on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

This month we welcomed the Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival to Erdington. It was great to see so many residents enjoying the shows. This is a great new addition to Erdington and is hopefully something that can be grown in the coming years.

Thank you to the Town Centre Manager, Oikos Café and the Jazz festival or making this possible.

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

NEWS: New York’s The Hitman Blues Band pack out Oikos Café as citywide Jazz & Blues Festival comes to Erdington

Words by Ed King / Pics by Connor Pope

Last weekend, hundreds of music lovers packed out Oikos Cafe in July to watch homegrown and international acts perform as part of the citywide Jazz & Blues Festival.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), the main Saturday stage was set for New York based The Hitman Blues Band, playing two sets of modern/alt blues, including originals ‘Bad, Bad Man’, ‘Not My Circus Not My Monkey’ and “the track that got us touring in the UK” – ‘Angel in the Shadows’.

Classic covers were also on the set list, Including Dylan’s folk anthem ‘Time They Are A-Changing’ and Willie Dixon’s blues standard ‘Hoot Koochy Man’ – all given a firm Hitman twist. The UK’s Honeyman Hickling Blues Band were also on the afternoon bill.

Originally planned to be held outside on and around the Village Green, the bad weather forced the live gigs into the upstairs room at Oikos café. But in a space usually reserved for church services and community groups, the musicianship, comradery, and comedy made it feel like Saturday night at Ronnie Scotts.

Regaling stories of broken hearts, relationship battles, and pet tortoises who might survive the tour due to poor merchandise sales, Russell ‘Hitman’ Alexander had the room devouring every word and chord change – with superb support from keys, a horn section, percussion, and vocal harmonies.

“Thank you all for coming out, we really appreciate it,” exclaimed charismatic front man at the end of the final set, with many sticking around for signed CDs and photos with the band.

After a short break, Oikos then welcomed the UK’s own Honeyman Hickling Blues Band, serving up a second slice of the Blue & Jazz Festival pie.

Earlier in the weekend, local trombonist Clive the Slide headlined the Erdington Arts Forum run Evening of Creativity – bringing another rafter packing crowd to Oikos Café, as part of the citywide annual event.

Erdington Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, who brought the Saturday Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival to Oikos, told: “Today has been fantastic, hundreds of people came out to welcome international musicians and a citywide music festival into Erdington.

“The Hitman Blues Band travelled all the way from New York to play in Erdington, delivering two incredible sets – alongside the UK’s amazing Honeyman Hickling Blues Band. Erdington High Street can be a vibrant and exciting place with a generous and supporting community, and we (EBID) want to keep bringing acts and events here to celebrate that.”

Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden (Conservative) were also in the crowd on Saturday afternoon.

Cllr Moore said “it was great to have the Jazz festival here on Erdington High Street and to see so many people enjoying the events. Thank you to the Jazz Festival, volunteers, the Erdington BID manager and Oikos for all their hard work.”

Cllr Alden said: “We will be working with the Erdington Town Centre Manager to try and bring the festival back and expand the shows in future years.”

Pastor Dan Mandley from Oikos Café and Church added: “Wonderful to have such a wonderful event come to Erdington. Great bands and great atmosphere. I am already looking forward to next year’s festival.”

Look out for a special PICTURE GALLERY feature on the gigs with The HItman Blues Band and Honeyman Hickling Blues Band at Oikos Cafe – in the next print edition of Erdington Local, out from 1 August.

For more on The Hitman Blues Band visit www.hitmanbluesband.com

For more form the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID
For more from Oikos Café and Church visit www.oikoschurch.co.uk

For more details on Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival visit www.birminghamjazzfestival.com

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Words by Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

June has been another busy month, here is just some of what Cllr Gareth Moore and I have been up to in recent weeks.

We have continued to work with local Police and High Street businesses to make the High Street safer. We have written to the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police as part of our on-going call for average speed cameras on the Chester Road to help tackle people racing along the road.

This is something we have been raising with the Council for a number of years – sadly this site has seen a number of fatalities in recent years, the last leading to a reduction in the speed limit from 40 to 30mph. The Chester Road has a number of vulnerable locations including Pype Hayes Park and the Yenton School.

We are also speaking to the Council about what improvements to road safety are possible at the sites of the other recent horrific crashes locally, and will update residents when there is progress on the options.

We also supported the Neighbourhood Watch meeting to discuss HMO’s and Exempt Accommodation. Earlier this month I joined with colleagues to meet with members of the Eastern European community across North Birmingham to discuss local democracy and issues.

Finally, I have launched a petition opposing the plan to convert the Royal Oak on the corner of Marsh Lane/Short Heath Road into a 10 bed HMO. You can sign the petition at facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

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

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives – June ‘23

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

(Ed’s Note: This column was written to be published in the Erdington Local newspaper – out from 5 June)

Recently Birmingham City Council tried to convert Erdington Library into a Youth Centre. Cllr Gareth Moore and I jumped into action to fight to save Erdington Library – a campaign that was thankfully successful. This is how the campaign unfolded.

Cabinet Member Jayne Francis (at the time of writing, Head of Service for Libraries) and Cllr Robert Alden at Erdington Library

On 28 April, a Friday, Birmingham City Council announced they had submitted two planning applications to turn Erdington Library into a Youth Centre and extend the building.

Understandably residents contacted us, furious with the Council for attempting to close down our much loved and well used Library. On Saturday 29 April the library had over 250 visitors by lunchtime, proving how popular the service is.

By 1 May we had launched a petition demanding the Labour Administration at the Council scrap their plans to close Erdington Library.

On 2 May I met with the Chief Executive of the City Council to raise residents’ concerns and demand Erdington Library is saved.

On 4 May I met with the Cabinet Member and Head of Service for Libraries to discuss the situation.  This was a constructive discussion and that afternoon I emailed the Youth Services department and Library Services demanding the planning applications were withdrawn and a meeting set up to discuss how to protect Erdington Library and the service going forward.

Following our interventions, the Council withdrew the planning applications and have placed any changes on hold. In the coming weeks we will be meeting the services and pushing to protect and improve Erdington Library for years to come.

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