ELECTION NEWS: Erdington MP hopeful Paulette Hamilton and Labour Deputy Angela Rayner visit Spitfire Services on Castle Vale

Words by Jasmine Khan / Pics by Claire Taylor

On Thursday, 3 February, Cllr Paulette Hamilton was joined by Labour Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, at Spitfire Services on Castle Vale High Street – to find out about the issues facing people on the ground who support their community on a daily basis.

Spitfire Services is a Castle Vale based charity providing ‘a range of welfare information, support and advice services’ – as well as operating local facilities including Castle Pool, Castle Vale Library, The Meeting Place Café, and the Upcycle shop and showroom.

Cllr Hamilton has been recently confirmed as the Labour candidate for the upcoming Birmingham Erdington by-election and remarked on how volunteers and staff at Spitfire Services are “like a big family.”

She told Erdington Local: “What we’ve seen on the (Castle Vale) estate, and in wider Erdington, are the aftereffects of the pandemic. Inequalities have been exacerbated.

“On certain parts of Castle Vale, you live nine years less than you would in Sutton Coldfield. I have got to fight for people locally and what their needs are.”

“The Castle Vale area has felt neglected over the last three years. The issues they (Castle Vale residents) have talked to me about on the door are HMOs and Exempt Housing. Not so much anti-social behaviour, but also waste and fly tipping in the area.

“They’ve seen their shopping bills get bigger and are also talking about gas and electricity and the rise that’s happening there.

“They’re working class and they’re worried about how they’re going to cope.”

Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, who joined Cllr Hamilton on Castle Vale, added: “It’s amazing to see the work of Spitfire Services.

“It’s bittersweet. I’m still grieving the loss of Jack (Dromey), as I’m sure many of the people of Erdington are as well. But to see the community come together in the way that they have, and the legacy of supporting each other, it’s humbling.

“What Jack stood for is looking out for each other…its lovely to see that the community are there for each other when they need it. That, to me, is what the working class are all about.”

A practising nurse for 25 years, Cllr Hamilton was made Mental Health Champion for Birmingham City Council in 2013 and Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care in 2015.

During earlier stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, she returned to nursing to help deliver vaccines to local people.

She added: “I felt it was so important for us to not just talk about it, but do it. That’s why I’m really upset and annoyed with the government.

“In the mist of Covid we saw an enormous amount of people’s mental health effected. (If elected Erdington MP) I would start to challenge and look at (mental health) legislation, and work with other politicians to ensure mental ill-health goes down.”

But some local voters are concerned that another Labour MP might not be able to hold their ground and fight for Erdington’s interests with the wider City Council.

When Cllr. Hamilton was asked whether she would be able to effect genuine change in Erdington, as a Labour MP in conjunction with a Labour Council, she said:

“I’ve lived in Erdington for the past 35 years. I’ve raised my five children here. I’ve worked as a nurse in the local area, in Warren Farm. I’ve been a governor in the local school; I’ve worked with voluntary organisations.

“Because I’m so local and I absolutely understand the needs of the community, I’m best placed, at this moment in time, to represent the community at a national level in Parliament.

“I’ve been a local counsellor for 17 years. With the current council, you have just got to talk and negotiate with them. I believe I’m best placed because I know the services well; I know what the community wants, but I also know how the council provide it.

“So, I am best placed to go in, challenge and work with them (Birmingham City Council) to get change for Erdington.”

Deputy Labour Leader, Angela Rayner, further commented: “I think Paulette will be a massive asset to us (Labour Party), because she has a long history of helping her community. She has worked in the NHS. HMO’s, housing and inequality – those things are her bread and butter, and she comes with a wealth of experience.”

“The Parliamentary Labour Party would learn a lot from Paulette. Not only will she raise things for the people of Edrington. But I’m sure my constituents in Greater Manchester will do well from Paulette being in Parliament.

“I hope the people in Edrington give her a resounding victory.”

Maggie Whitehouse, who volunteers at Upcycle, told Erdington Local: “I’m thrilled with Paulette (running for Erdington MP) because she’s on our wave length and she’ll keep traditions alive.”

Whilst Castle Vale Library Manager, Ian Bingham, added: “Paulette (Hamilton) will be a massive asset to the Erdington constituency and the Labour Party hopefully. She’ll carry on the good work that Jack started.

“Meeting Angela (Rayner), she’s so down to earth. It was humbling to meet a politician that’s in touch with grass roots.”

Erdington will vote for its next Member of Parliament on Thursday, 3 March.

At the time of writing, the current candidates who have declared their intention to contest the seat are Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Labour), Cllr Robert Alden (Conservative), Dave Nellist (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), and Michael Lutwyche (Independent).

For more on Paulette Hamilton visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/councillors/49/paulette_hamilton

For more on Spitfire Services visit www.spitfireservices.org.uk

ELECTION NEWS: Erdington Councillor Robert Alden to run for MP as official Conservative candidate in March by-election

By Erdington Local election news team

Councillor Robert Alden has been selected by local party members as the Conservative candidate for the Birmingham Erdington by-election – with polling day scheduled for Thursday, 3 March.

Held in Pype Hayes late on Wednesday, 2 February, the selection meeting started with a minute silence in memory of the late Jack Dromey MP, according to a Conservative party source.

The Erdington ward representative, who is also leader of the Birmingham Conservatives, then face a full room of constituents, answering question on issues including Exempt Accommodation, street crime, policing, and anti-social behaviour – before being confirmed as the Conservative candidate.

Robert Alden has contested the seat for the past four General Elections – narrowing the gap between Conservatives and Labour – and is hoping to become the first Conservative MP to represent Erdington since 1945.

In his role as local councillor and opposition leader, Robert has worked with local residents on issues from Council Tax to housing repairs, street repairs and cleaner streets, to tackling inappropriate development and exempt accommodation

He has also supported residents groups and community events, in campaigns to save green spaces, local police stations, and health care centres – and sits as a local school governor and vice chairman of the Erdington Business Improvement District.

Following the selection, Robert Alden said: “I am honoured to again be selected to stand to represent residents of Erdington Constituency.

“Erdington Constituency is an incredible place to live and work and as I have shown over the last 17 years, I am determined to help make it an even better place with our long-term plan for Castle Vale, Erdington and Kingstanding.

“I know how difficult it will be to win here as there has been no Conservative MP for the area for almost 80 years. But over the last 16 years residents have seen first-hand the difference having Conservative Councillors has made and the progress we are making.

“Residents want the best possible local constituency MP, with a proven track record locally, to serve the people of Erdington and Kingstanding and force the Birmingham Labour-led council to do better for the area.

“I know there is hard work to be done, but I cannot wait to get my message out to everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale.

“As a local resident I’ve campaigned for our area continuously for 17 years, including 16 years as an Erdington Councillor, as a school governor and vice-chair of the Business Improvement District.

“Working alongside Mayor Andy Street and the Government to secure the investment we need in our local centres will be at the heart of my campaign.”

West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, who has joined Cllr Alden on several campaign across Erdington, was quick to give the local resident and Conservative candidate his full support.

Mr Street added: “Robert Alden is unquestionably the best possible person to serve the people of Erdington as their next MP.

“He has an unrivalled record of action, service and commitment to the area. He is already working closely with me on key local issues like protecting jobs, regeneration the town centre, major improvements to public transport, protecting green spaces and the character of communities.”

At the time of writing, the candidates who have declared their intention to contest the seat and become the next Member of Parliament for Erdington are Justice-4-the-21 campaigner Michael Lutwyche (independent), Dave Nellist (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), and Paulette Hamilton (Labour).

Registered voters will be selecting the next Erdington Member of Parliament on Thursday, 3 March.

ELECTION NEWS: Justice-4-the-21 campaigner, Michael Lutwyche, first independent to run for Erdington MP in March by-election

By Erdington Local election news team

A founder of the Justice-4-the-21 campaign, which succeeded getting answers for the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings, has announced he is standing in the Erdington by-election.

Michael Lutwyche lives on the Pitts Farm Estate in Erdington and is the first serious independent candidate to announce they are standing in the 3 March poll caused by Jack Dromey’s death.

The 55-year-old security expert spent the last decade taking on successive governments and the criminal justice system to help the families of the 21 Brummies murdered by the IRA in 1974.

He told Erdington Local: “I am not a single issue candidate but obviously I will use my power as an MP to do everything I can to help the Justice 4 21 campaign because it has been such a big part of my life.

“If there is one thing the campaign has taught me is that victims of crime are ignored in this country, and if you are a normal person who ask the state for help you will be ignored.”

He added: “When I said to people in the campaign about running they were very supportive and I have had friends get involved asking to help so my campaign is broad coalition.”

Mr Lutwyche believes the time is perfect for an independent candidate to make a big impact in a by-election, especially in Erdington.

“We are living in a post-politics era now where the big corporations decide the agenda and the politicians just do what they want. If you follow the money you often find the same people are funding the two main parties.

“Erdington has been deteriorating for years now, it has not been a sudden thing, Labour run the council, the Tories run the country and they are both to blame.”

The fledgling politician is putting crime and punishment at the front of his agenda.

He said: “I tried to stop the drug dealing on the High Street and in Stockland Green and ran up against a brick wall with the police. I was even told the top brass were happy for the drug dealing to be contained in the areas where there are lots of HMOs.

“Personal safety is important as is the increase in anti-social behaviour. Only last week the police admitted parts of Erdington have become ghettos. I believe they have become ghettos due to police indifference and council mismanagement. I will call both bodies to account.”

The Aston Villa fan is relishing the fight ahead and has called on local people to back him to send a clear message to Westminster they are not happy with the system.

He said: “It’s turned into a real David and Goliath struggle, the odds are firmly stacked against me, but history shows people like us thrive on odds like those. They make it hard for us, they tell us we can’t, we turn round and quietly show them we can.

“I’m in this fight for the little people, the people quickly ignored once their votes have been cast and their MP swans off to London, for the elderly who’ve now been abandoned once they’re surplus to requirements, the people from our community unable to access GPs and on ever expanding hospital waiting lists, the families who dread escorting their kids through neglected High Streets where drug dealing is openly happening.

He added: “The people who just want to enjoy their lives without having every last penny squeezed out of them and watch as every local facility is slowly lost.”

LUD FOR ERD – Michael Lutwyche for Erdington campaign has set up a GoFundMe page for donations: www.gofund.me/b99333bd

ELECTION NEWS: Paulette Hamilton launches campaign as Labour candidate for upcoming Erdington by-election

By Erdington Local election news team

On Saturday, 29 January, Councillor Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Holyhead) launched her campaign to be the next Erdington MP – meeting local Labour Party members during a special address at Highcroft Community Centre in Stockland Green.

Having been nominated to stand in the upcoming Erdington by-election via an online vote earlier in the week, winning a significant majority over her Labour Party opponent Ashley Bertie, Cllr Hamilton used her first public address as an MP hopeful to tell her supporters:

“Can I thank you all for your support. I cannot believe it, the overwhelming support I have had from people throughout the constituency.

“We have got a lot of work to do. We are going to run a clean campaign; we are going to fight at the doorsteps to take the Labour message to the people.”

In an email sent out to Labour Party members earlier in the week, Cllr Hamilton previously stated: ‘This is an election none of us wanted to be fighting but it is one we have to win. We owe it to the memory of our dear friend Jack Dromey MP and we owe it to the people of Erdington.’

At the time of writing, only Dave Nellist has also thrown his hat in the ring – with the erstwhile Labour MP for Coventry South East and Coventry City councillor declaring his intention to stand for the Erdington seat on behalf of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Joined by Shabana Mahmood MP (Lab, Ladywood), who is also the National Campaign Coordinator in Kier Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet, Cllr Hamilton launched her by-election campaign with around a hundred local Labour Party members – all giving up their Saturday to help her canvass across the constituency.

The atmosphere was a positive one; Cllr Hamilton and her team were met with raucous applause upon entering and beginning their speeches – with local Labour Party members and staff filled with optimism and excitement ahead of the campaign.

The event began with some opening words from Shabana Mahmood MP, who paid tribute to the late Jack Dromey: “I could not be more proud that we have got a local woman who is going to stand up and fight for the people of Erdington, and do Jack proud.”

The Ladywood MP was keen to kick the Labour campaign off with a “flying start”, building up excitement for the beginning of Paulette Hamilton campaign – which, if successful, would make her the first black Member of Parliament.

Addressing the crowd, Cllr Hamilton also began with an immediate tribute to Jack Dromey: “Can I start by saying; I absolutely adored Jack. I am really saddened that Jack has passed away.

“He was a stood for social justice and he championed the people in Erdington and the constituency. He fought for people who needed jobs and saving jobs.”

Cllr Hamilton then went into detail on her background – having lived in Erdington for 35 years and working as a nurse – as well as her work fighting for local residents to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

After her speech, and another raucous applause, campaigners got to work organising group photographs and teams for door-to-door campaigning.

One Labour Party member told Erdington Local: “I’m certainly enthusiastic. Paulette has definitely made a good impression.”

Judith Park, a local resident, went on to say: “I haven’t normally been involved in the party meetings etc. but I thought she really inspired us on the Zoom meeting.”

There were previous concerns over the organisation of the online meetings and voting process, with the Wednesday night candidacy selection starting hours later than scheduled – with a Labour source citing “technical difficulties” and problems verifying the identity of those attending to vote.

Andy Cook, who was present at the selection meeting, told: “We were all very impressed. Paulette was impressive in the way she came across and responded well to the questions put to her. I am more than confident we have made the right choice.”

Speaking to Erdington Local directly, Shabana Mahmood MP added: “We have got a fantastic local woman standing for a seat we already hold. Jack Dromey worked very hard for the people of Erdington.

“I think we can go into this by-election fairly confident and I hope we can do Jack proud and do right by his legacy by holding the seat strong for him and for Labour.

“Jack was an immense figure of British politics and of the Labour movement across the whole country, so naturally he leaves behind a record that few can match. However, we have an amazing candidate who is going to get stuck right in.

“I think if Jack could have chosen for himself the successor for his seat, he would have chosen Paulette, and I believe that is the highest honour I can pay her.”

For more on Paulette Hamilton visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/councillors/49/paulette_hamilton

ELECTION NEWS: Dave Nellist to run for Erdington MP as Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in upcoming by-election

By Erdington Local election news team

On Thursday 27 January, Dave Nellist declared his intention to run for Erdington MP in the upcoming by-election – standing as the official candidate for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Having previously been a Member of Parliament for Coventry South East, a seat he held for the Labour Party for nine years, Mr Nellist is a longstanding supporter of worker’s right – famously donating 60% of his MP’s salary to the Labour movement, trade unionists, and community campaigners.

It is expected his campaign will take a strong anti-austerity stance, challenge Government cuts, and put the plight of workers at the heart of its manifesto.

Accepting the TUSC nomination, Nellist commented: “With Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour welcoming a Tory MP into the parliamentary party last week – while confirming Jeremy Corbyn’s exclusion from the PLP at its national executive committee meeting on January 25th – it couldn’t be clearer that the interests of Britain’s wealthy establishment will be in safe hands if and when they decide to move on from Boris Johnson’s disintegrating premiership. Starmer is so obviously not on our side.

“That is why I am proud to represent TUSC in the Birmingham Erdington by-election and would urge other trade unionists, socialists and community campaigners to also consider standing for TUSC in the forthcoming local council elections in May.

“Red Tories, Blue Tories or Yellow Tories carrying out policies against the interests of the working class majority cannot expect to be unchallenged at the ballot box”.

With people already taking to social media to demand a ‘union man’ to replace the late Jack Dromey MP, Dave Nellist’s campaign could find a welcome voice in the Erdington constituency – home of the ill fated GKN Chester Road factory and long suffering Jaguar Land Rover Castle Bromwich plant.

Having once shared an acrimonious office with Tony Blair, when both men were entered the House in 1983, Dave Nellist has been a longstanding supporter of Militant – an internal Labour Party born movement that became the Socialist Party in 1997.

Expelled from the Labour Party for his affiliation with Militant, ahead of the 1992 General Election, Dave Nellist was continuously voted in as a Coventry City councillor between 1998 and 2012.

After announcing his nomination for the Erdington by-election, the Socialist Party went on to state:

‘Former socialist MP Dave Nellist will be standing to put forward an anti-austerity, pro-worker alternative’ – hoping to regain a place in the House ‘to give a voice to the struggles of working class people in Erdington fighting attacks on public services, for decent pay and working conditions and for urgent action to deal with the cost of living crisis.’

Dave Nellist is the second candidate to announce their intention to run for MP in the upcoming Erdington by-election, following the Labour Party’s selection of Cllr. Paulette Hamilton – who was nominated by local party members on Wednesday, 26 January.

Although with a date yet to be set, and many other parties expected to put forward a candidate, the political race for Erdington’s next Member of Parliament has only just begun.

For more from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition visit www.tusc.org.uk

For more from the Socialist Party visit www.socialistparty.org.uk

ELECTION NEWS: “As your MP I will demand the better deal that we deserve” – Cllr. Paulette Hamilton set to run for Erdington MP as official Labour Party candidate

By Erdington Local election news team

Cllr. Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Holyhead) has been confirmed as Labour’s official candidate for the upcoming Erdington constituency by-election.

Looking to take the seat left vacant after the sudden death of Jack Dromey MP, if successful Paulette Hamilton would be Birmingham’s first black Member of Parliament.

Selected by local Labour Party members during an online vote late on Wednesday, 26 January, Cllr. Hamilton won a landslide victory over her only rival Ashley Bertie – receiving nearly three times more votes than the one time West Midlands Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner.

Currently the Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Cllr. Hamilton was the first candidate to publicly declare their intention to stand for the Erdington seat – a place “where me and my family have lived for 35 years.”

During the session she spoke about the importance of mental health and social care, whilst also heralding the work of the once Prime Minister Gordon Brown, according to a Labour Party source.

Soon after the results late on Wednesday evening, the West Midlands Labour Party declared:

“Congratulations to Paulette Hamilton who has been selected as Labour’s candidate for the Birmingham Erdington by-election.”

Message of congratulations and support quickly followed, as the news quickly spread across social media. Soon after, Paulette Hamilton made the following statement:

“Thank you to the @ErdingtonLabour members for selecting me – I promise to work hard every day of this campaign and with your support look forward to representing Erdington in Parliament. I will do my best to continue the legacy of @JackDromeyMP’s outstanding work.”

In a subsequent email to Labour Party members, Paulette Hamilton established her strong ties to Erdington – where she moved to from Handsworth with her husband 35 years ago, and where they raised their five children.

“35 years is also how long I’ve been qualified as a registered nurse,” she went on to say, before reiterating her intentions to “keep fighting for more funding for mental health services while working with the police to combat anti-social behaviour and provide accessible support to those battling alcohol and drug dependency – which are blighting our area.

“As your MP I will demand the better deal that we deserve.”

Birmingham Labour’s BAME Officer, Naziah Rasheed, was also quick to celebrate the nomination – which could see Paulette Hamilton enter the house as Birmingham’s first black MP.

Following the result, Naziah told Erdington Local: “I believe Paulette Hamilton is the best choice for Erdington, she will serve this community well and I am looking forward to working with her – to ensure she gets elected and be the pride of Erdington.”

However, the evening was not all a cause for celebration as the online meeting ran into problems when officials tried to sign in dozens of members on Zoom whilst trying to prove their IDs.

The process took hours and there were complaints several members were unable log into the meeting – which was due to start at 6:30pm but due to the verification problems the winner was not announced until 9.55pm.

There were also concerns raised that by conducting the vote online it isolated local Labour Party members who did not have the right technology or digital know how.

One veteran Erdington Labour member, who did not want to be named, complained: “It was an organisational shambles.

“It was bad enough only those with computer access or smart phones could take part.

“What about a pensioner who is not online? And because it took so long online rows began breaking out.

“People understandably were fed up because of how it has been organised, families with young children disenfranchised and there were complaints that many BAME members have been excluded at verification.”

Several Labour members also complained the candidates were not grilled as they normally would at a selection meeting.

The Labour member added: “Questions also had to be submitted in advance but not all members knew.”

The Labour Party is yet to set an official date for the Erdington constituency by-election, although it is suspected polling day will land in early to mid March.

Candidates from across the political spectrum are expected to contest the Erdington seat, although at the time of writing no official announcements have been made by other parties or independents.

However, fierce campaigning for the 5 May local elections has already begun by the local Conservative Party – who currently have several councillors in the constituency, including the leader of the Birmingham Conservatives and Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden.

Cllr Alden lives in Erdington and is a prominent figure across the constituency, which could make him a viable candidate if the “go local” messaging from Labour continues to drive their campaign.

ELECTION NEWS: Labour set to “go local” in Erdington by-election as initial candidates announce their place on the party shortlist

By Erdington Elections news team

Labour look set to follow a “go local” strategy in the upcoming Erdington by-election according to a party source, the same approach which helped them win the Batley and Spen by-election last July.

Pollsters from the Labour’s London headquarters have been in Erdington asking voters who they would prefer to stand in the by-election, with many reportedly rooting for a local candidate – which rules out several big names who lost their seats in the 2019 Tory landslide.

But as candidates are still being considered, Holyhead Councillor Paulette Hamilton has already announced her place on the Labour Party shortlist. A post made on Cllr Hamilton’s social media on Sunday, January 24 stated:

“I have put myself forward to become the next @UKLabour MP for my home constituency of Birmingham Erdington. @JackDromeyMP will be a tough act to follow – I’m honoured that my party have shortlisted me and hope the party members endorse me.”

Currently the Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Cllr Hamilton was the first candidate to publicly declare their intention to stand for the Erdington seat, a place “where me and my family have lived for 35 years.”

However, another announcement came only an hour later with Ashley Bertie also declaring his candidacy saying:

“I’m honoured to have been shortlisted to become the next @UKLabour MP for the constituency I grew up and live in – Birmingham, Erdington. @JackDromeyMP will always have a special place in my heart and those of Erdingtonian’s and I hope that party members will support me.”

Currently the Chief Executive Officer for the Independent Custody Visiting Association, Mr Bertie served as the West Midlands Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for over three years.

Big hitters from Labour HQ are also heading to Erdington, joining local party members as they conduct ‘doorstep conversations’ with registered voters across all the constituency wards.

On Sunday 24 January, Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds MP was canvassing across Erdington, with Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Wes Streeting MP hitting the streets the following Monday.

The Erdington by-election campaign, which could be seen as a referendum on Boris Johnson’s record as Prime Minister, will be six weeks long. It is expected the Labour Party chief whip will submit a motion for a by-election after Monday, 31 January, the day of Jack Dromey’s funeral, resulting in polling day landing on Thursday, 3 March or 10 March.

With Labour more than ten points ahead in the polls and fighting a safe seat, Sir Keir Starmer will be under pressure to deliver a big victory.

However, the Conservative Party have several councillors in the Erdington constituency – including the leader of the Birmingham Conservatives Cllr Robert Alden, who is the elected representative for the Erdington Ward alongside Cllr Gareth Moore.

Cllr Alden lives locally and has strong name recognition in the area, which will favour the Conservative campaign if Labour indeed fight for the seat from a local angle.

The Conservative campaign will further benefit from dissatisfaction from local residents about the Labour council administration over HMOs, green spaces, and crime – issues Cllr Alden has repeated raised in Cabinet meetings.

In the coming weeks, the political eyes of the UK will leave Westminster for Erdington, as the fiercely fought by-election is expected to attract more candidates than a normal General Election. Last month’s North Shropshire’s by-election had 14 candidates including one from the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Labour still has time to announce more candidates for the Erdington seat, with the final candidate being voted on by local party members later this week.

An email to Labour Party members from West Midlands regional director Charlie Walker said: “Following the sudden death of friend and colleague, Jack Dromey MP, there will be a Parliamentary by-election for the seat of Birmingham Erdington.

“Please be aware if you are successfully included on the longlist you will be required to attend a shortlisting interview via Zoom on Saturday, January 23 or Sunday 24.

“Successfully shortlisted candidates will be invited to a selection hustings meeting on Wednesday, January 26 where all members of the Constituency Labour Party will vote as to who will be the candidate.”

NEWS: Erdington healthcare expanded with Urgent Treatment Centre at Stockland Green Primary Care Centre

Ed’s note… Please contact NHS 111 (it’s free to call) before attending Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre at Stockland Green Primary Care Centre, as walk-in patients cannot been seen.

Words and pics by Ed King

The new Erdingon Urgent Treatment Centre at Stockland Green Primary Care Centre (EUTC) is now open and operational, boosting much needed healthcare across the Erdington constituency.

Established to replace the Health & Wellbeing Walk-In-Centre, that operated from a shopfront site on Erdington High Street, the EUTC can see up to 100 patients per day – taking over previously unused space at the Stockland Green Primary Care Centre (SGPCC).

Despite being a well-loved and well-used facility, the previously high street based practice was not without its challenges – such as opening hours , parking, and proximity to busy licensed premises. The site was further dogged by the constant threat of closure, once in 2013 then again in 2020.

Following several campaigns to save the facility, the Walk-in-Centre finally closed it’s doors during the coronavirus crisis – but with assurances from Birmingham healthcare bosses that such a facility would remain ‘at the heart’ of the community, as called for in an open letter by MP for Erdington Jack Dromey.

The new Stockland Green Primary Care Centre based EUTC will be operational 12hrs a day, seven days a week – with a significant capacity for parking and emergency vehicles, allowing drivers to get right to the front door in desperate situations.

Next to several major bus routes, the EUTC will also offer easier access for patients using public transport from Erdington wards such as Stockland Green, Perry Common, Kingstanding, and Short Heath.

Further facilities on hand at the EUTC are three GP services, a pharmacy, and ‘a range of NHS community services.’

The NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (BSCCG), who manage the city’s NHS healthcare provisions, are hoping that many of the issues surrounding the old high street centre will be solved with the new facility.

Paul Jennings, Chief Executive of NHS BSCCG, said: “We welcome the opening of the relocated Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre; which will provide crucial urgent care services to local people.

We are committed to ensuring there is suitable local healthcare provision across Birmingham and Solihull, which meets the needs of our diverse communities.”

Erdington’s Member of Parliament, Jack Dromey, is also hopeful that the new UTC will bring widespread benefits across the constituency.

Speaking to Erdington Local about the EUTC , Jack Dromey MP said: “I am delighted that the Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre has opened and is already providing a first-class service to the people of Erdington.”

The Erdington Walk-In Centre saved countless lives, and when it closed temporarily due to COVID, many constituents contacted me with concerns over the future of our local healthcare provision. Back in August, I sought reassurances from the Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group that Erdington would retain such a service, and I am pleased they have delivered on that promise.” 

The new site not only offers improved medical facilities, but the increased accessibility will hopefully mean many more Erdington residents will now access this invaluable local service.” 

It is important for those who wish to use the service to remember to call 111 in the first instance to be referred for an appointment. The threat of COVID-19 is still very real, and we should not risk the health of others by turning up at the new Urgent Treatment Centre without an appointment.”

Local residents looking to access the EUTC, during the coronavirus crisis, have been asked to initially contact NHS 111 – to make sure everyone at the new facility can be met with COVID-19 safe environment.

For more details on how to access the Urgent Treatment Centre, visit www.birminghamandsolihullccg.nhs.uk/your-health

For more information on NHS 11 online, visit www.111.nhs.uk

For more from Jack Dromey MP, or for contact details to his constituency office, visit www.jackdromey.org

For more on the NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, visit www.birminghamandsolihullccg.nhs.uk

EXPLOITED: Part 3 – The unchallenged rampage of HMOs and shared houses, wreaking havoc for a profit across our community

Words by Adam Smith

In the third instalment of EXPLOITED, Adam Smith looks at the oversaturation problem in the HMO and supported living sector – hearing from the top of two housing associations and going right down to the root cause of the misery.

It’s a license to print money,” one former employee of a housing association tellingly revealed.

And it stands to reasons where there is easy money on offer there will be a queue of people ready to take it.

On the Birmingham City Council website there is a list of HMOs where landlords can charge the benefits system £900 for a room, which often can be more than £500 over the private rented market value. And the list runs into the thousands.

Across Birmingham there are 2345 HMOs with six or more people living in them, with applications pending for another 758 properties – including houses in Mere Road, Queens Road, Chester Road, Hillaries Road, Norfolk Road, Kings Road, Slade Road and George Road in Erdington.

As well as the licensed HMOs there are thousands more smaller HMOs and shared houses which fall into the category of ‘exempt’ or ‘supported’ accommodation. There are hundreds of companies which can apply for an HMO license in Erdington, many of which have been arguably set up just to take advantage of the system.

Spring Housing Association (SHA) is a Birmingham based Housing Association which operates HMOs, hostels and social housing – an organisation that has been referenced in previous Exploited articles. SHA has close links to Birmingham City Council and is one of the biggest housing associations in the Midlands, managing or owning more than 700 properties.

SHA, which has Edgbaston MP Preet Gill on its board of directors, has lobbied the Government to tighten up regulations and is now even turning shared houses into family homes.

SHA group chief executive and founder, Dominic Bradley, told Erdington Local there should be tighter regulations on the mushrooming number of companies which can run HMOs and shared accommodation.

He said: “We believe that there is over saturation of exempt shared housing provision in Birmingham. This is not to say that this type of housing doesn’t have an important part to play in the prevention of homelessness in all of its forms. In fact it’s essential.

However, we have long recognised that in parts of the city we are over saturated with this style of housing – which is disruptive to local communities. Stockland Green is an obvious example of this.”

Dominic added: “It’s one of the reasons we are about to purchase a shared house in Erdington and convert it back to a family home. We are aiming to do something similar in Edgbaston, which has had similar community issues to Stockland Green.

Whilst this is a start and one we are keen to develop further there are wider more systematic issues that need to be tackled around strengthening existing regulations about what we mean about care, support and supervision and work with providers to curb the current unmitigated growth and target provision linked to local strategy which we know Birmingham City Council are very keen to achieve.”

In the last article, Exploited – Humans Must Obey,  we outlined the rules tenants have to follow whilst living in supported housing and HMOs.

In the housing sector the term used is ‘Exempt Accommodation’ because in 1996 Housing Benefit regulations were changed to include ‘non-commissioned EA’ which were defined as ‘accommodation which is…provided by a non-metropolitan country council, a housing association, a registered charity or a voluntary organisation where that body or a person acting on its behalf also provides the claimant with care, support or supervision.

‘If a provider or landlord meets these criteria, they are exempt from rent restrictions within the private rented sector and are able to yield rent levels, paid for from housing benefit, far in excess of ‘general needs’ social sector rents and, often, market rents.’

These two paragraphs provided the starter of the sector gun, as landlords and housing associations realised they could charge more rent without the hassle of tenancy agreements – and the introduction of Universal Credit in 2012 massively increased the sector. The Conservative government’s change of rules, that the tenant received the housing benefit and not the landlord, meant it made sense for landlords to claim their houses were ‘exempt’ so they could get the cash directly as had been the case for decades.

The last Parliamentary research into HMOs, published in 2019, revealed there were more than 497,000 HMOs in England in Wales in 2018. And that number is growing.

Spring Housing Association, the University of Birmingham, and Commonweal Housing combined to produce a 60 page report – Exempt from Responsibility? Ending Social Injustice in Exempt Accommodation – which detailed the shocking state of housing provision and detailed how thousands of people were stuck in negative housing situations across the city.

Ashley Horsey, chief executive of Commonweal Housing, a charity formed to ‘implement housing solutions to social injustice’, described the damage exempt housing is doing to tenants and communities.

He said: “The findings of this report are stark. That over 11,000 people in Birmingham – and many thousands more across the country – are living in potentially unsafe and unsuitable ‘exempt’ accommodation should concern us all.

Residents interviewed for this report described feelings of ‘entrapment’ in financial instability; exclusion from decision-making processes; lack of control over where, and with whom, they are housed.

At the same time, the nature of too many of the business models involved in this space are causing some concern, not least inflation linked leases from property owners requiring ever rising rents.

In addition, the deficit-based tenant modelling – talking up your tenant’s weaknesses to justify your income stream – is all too common, and a tricky place to be morally. Especially where there remains little oversight.”

Ashley added: “The ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ nature of some of the governance and regulation of this sector is alarming. Of course, everyone accommodated in the exempt accommodation sector is in need of a home. But asking no questions simply because this sector is putting a roof over a head is not good enough.

In particular, the exempt accommodation sector is too often the only housing available for the marginalised, the overlooked, the undervalued and the de-valued in society. They are the women who find themselves here after fleeing domestic violence, as their only housing option.”

The next instalment of EXPLOITED will reveal the shocking stories of women who have either lived in, live in, or have been affected by HMOs, exempt, or shared housing.

To read Exempt from Responsibility? Ending Social Injustice in Exempt Accommodation, visit www.springhousing.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Spring-Housing-Final-Report-A4.pdf

To read the 2019 Parliamentary briefing paper on HMOs, visit www.commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn00708 

For more on Spring Housing Association, visit www.springhousing.org.uk

For more on Commonweal Housing, visit www.commonwealhousing.org.uk

If you have been affected by HMOs or any of the issues mentioned in this article, we want to hear your side of the story – email Erdington Local on exploited@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: Save Short Heath Playing Fields campaigners call for ‘common sense’ collaboration with Conservatives and Labour

Words & pics by Ed King

In a rare show of solidarity, the campaign to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ has grabbed the attention of top local politicians from both Labour and Conservatives – Erdington Local can reveal.

In exclusive quotes about the campaign to Erdington Local, both Jack Dromey MP (Labour) and Erdington Councillor Robert Alden (Conservative) came out swinging – with each elected official challenging Birmingham City Council for their disastrous first attempt at a public consultation.

Jack Dromey MP stated: “It is clear the Council have not done a good enough job of consulting with concerned residents, and local people understandably feel that they have been ignored and the sense of anger is palpable.”

Whilst Councillor Robert Alden said: “Short Heath Playing Fields are vital to the local area. They are a green lung in the middle of our community and it is disgraceful that the Labour Council wishes to rip out that green lung that helps clean our air, helps provide residents with an area to go to help exercise and improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing.”

But the two local residents spearheading the campaign, Steve Hughes and Estelle Murphy, want a commitment that Labour and Conservatives will work together on the issue.

In an email to Jack Dromey MP and Councillor Robert Alden, sent earlier this week, the campaigners asked both politicians ‘to write jointly to Councillor Ian Ward’ – expressing their concerns directly to the leader of Birmingham City Council.

Speaking to Erdington Local, Estelle Murphy and Stephen Hughes said in a joint statement: “We have said it before, and we will keep saying it because it is the simple truth, this isn’t political, this is about our community.

We have simply asked two of our communities most influential people, who are in a position, and have both offered their support and help, to join together and work for our local community. Surely that’s just common sense.”

Councillor Robert Alden has previously raised concerns to the Council about the proposed developments on Short Heath Playing Fields – including the lack of a robust public consultation.

The top Birmingham Tory has also met with campaigners, joining them for a day of litter picking and talking directly to local residents.

Jack Dromey MP met with Steve Hughes and Estelle Murphy on Saturday 5th September – the first time the MP’s constituency office has been opened during the coronavirus crisis.

Following the meeting, the MP told Erdington Local: “Steve (Hughes) and Estelle (Murphy) agreed to draw up a proposal on behalf of the community that would then be presented to the Council for consideration.

I will ensure that they are alongside me. Their views, along with those of the local community, will be central to these discussions at every stage.”

As of yet, Erdington Local is unaware of any meeting with the ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ campaigners where both political parties have been present.

The next campaign community meeting, held under COVID-19 safety restrictions, will be held on Short Heath Playing Fields on Saturday 12th September.

To sign the petition to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’, visit: www.change.org/p/birmingham-city-council-birmingham-education-department-bob-beauchamp-jack-dormey-save-short-heath-playing-fields

To further support the Save Short Heath Playing Fields campaign, you can donate through the official GoFundMe fundraising platform: www.gofundme.com/f/save-short-heath-playing-fields