OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

Erdington is my home. It’s where I have lived for more than 35 years, raised my children and where my husband opened his first business. So, I was incredibly proud to show Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities the brilliant work local people have been doing in our area.

We visited Witton Lakes Eco Hub in Perry Common to celebrate its 1st Anniversary. Lisa was absolutely amazed, and praised what she saw; local people coming together to work with our communities, and create a small paradise in the heart of Erdington.

We have many local community groups across Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale. They work day in, day out to improve our neighbourhoods, despite getting little help from the Government, who earlier this year rejected Erdington’s £11million Levelling-Up bid.

But how can the Government help? Whilst interest rates rise and local people face an annual mortgage payment increase of £1,900 this year, the Tory Government have been distracted by their on-going civil war.

The Privileges Committee found that Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament when he was Prime Minister, broke the rules, and was complicit in a campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the Committee. Instead of making his case to the people in his community, who put their trust in him, he chose to quit and run. The country now faces four more by-elections, costing taxpayers £100,000’s in a cost of living crisis.

Whilst the Tory soap opera continues, people in our community and across the country are desperate, and deserve a Prime Minister and a Government that they can trust, and who would always have their best interests at heart.

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

NEWS: Kingstanding’s 16 year old Gene Smith wins bronze medal at Muay Thai WBC Junior World Championships in Italy

Pics supplied by K-Star Academy

Kingstanding’s Gene Smith has won the bronze medal at the WBC World Muay Thai Festival championships in Italy, after his final fight on Saturday 24 June.

The 16-year-old, his father Roland Smith, and his Collage Road based K-Star Academy trainer Steve Logan flew to Venice earlier this month to join 600 elite adult and youth athletes.

The national junior champion, who became the WKA British Champion (under 60kg) earlier this year – after a last minute call to compete, joined Team England for the opening ceremony in which 90 countries from across the world were represented.

Gene missed out on the gold medal bout after suffering a brutal injury during the semi-final on Friday 23 June, against Scottish fighter Kyle Donnelly. Then on the Saturday, the Kingstanding Thai boxer beat Michael Rambert from the French Atlantic outpost Reunion Island to take home the bronze.

His father Roland said: “Gene fought a great fight, easily taking the first round and impressing his coach – seemingly like the fight would easily be in the bag. Sadly, at the beginning of second round Gene took a sharp groin kick witch he couldn’t recover from and in turn lost the fight.

He added: “He displayed high levels of ability as a world class junior fighter. His opponent came out to try and take his head off, but Gene controlled the speed and direction of the fight putting his opponent of the deck four times during the bout.

“As WBC introduced some rules taking away some of the Thai boxing options with sweeps etc, to maintain athletes’ safety and ensure no dramatic injuries occurred during this mammoth event, Gene still managed huge composure with a fantastic display of ability and skill winning on a unanimous decision to achieve bronze.

“Ever since Gene won the English championship away, with six hours notice, we have had a lot of fighters pull out of bouts which has been very disappointing.

“But coming to Venice will really improve him as an athlete.”

Mixing with the world’s best Muay Thai athletes – some of which recognised and greeted Gene throughout the festival – attending WBC seminars about a whole host of issues surround the sport, and representing his country, will a lasting impression on the young fighter.

Gene said: “It was great being part of such a big international sporting event. But I especially love representing my country and the team dynamic. We are all supporting each other and watching each other’s fights.”

Founder of K-Star Academy and Gene’s trainer, Steve Logan, believes Gene’s international odyssey will inspire the next generation.

He said: “Gene bringing the bronze medal back to K-Star Thai Boxing Academy in Kingstanding will expand their horizons.

“He showed a lot of skill and bravery.”

Any sponsors interested in helping Gene Smith should email design@artattack.org.uk

For more on K Star Academy visit www.k-starthaiboxing.com

NEWS: Kingstanding K-Star Academy prepares 16 year old Muay Thai British champion for world title contest

Pics supplied by K-Star Academy

A talented Muay Thai fighter from Kingstanding’s K-Star Fight Academy is undergoing his final preparations for the WBC Junior World Championships in Italy.

Gene Smith, now WKA British Champion (under 60kg), and his team fly out on Tuesday, June 20, to Venice to compete with the world’s best fighters.

However, the dedicated 16-year-old is required to pay his own way to the two week overseas competition and fund his own hotel and training facilities.

In March, Gene notched up the most impressive win of his fledgling career when he won his recent British title after taking an away bout against an opponent with just six hours notice.

After a last minute call to compete, and squeezing in a family party and a morning at work before heading to the championship in Warrington, Smith defeated his opponent with grit, determination, and some excellently placed reverse elbow shots.

Since that win Gene has had several opponents pull out of bouts, so testing himself against the world’s best in Venice is key to his development.

Gene’s father Roland said: “Venice is an amazing opportunity as he will meet the best elite fighters from around the world at his weight to compete against.

“As he moves forward being part of such a prestige team like the England WBC proves his ability at the level he’s at.

“He competed to be part of it and he will be alongside the best of the best of the country’s Muay Thai fighters from the UK.

“However, we need sponsors so anyone who is interested in helping will get named on his fight shirts and on social media as he moves forward to his professional future in the sport. Being an elite athlete costs money whether it is his diet or training facilities.”

Gene, who is currently awaiting his GCSE results after finishing at Barr Beacon School, has taken confidence from his British title win.

He said: “I still can’t believe I took a fight with six hours notice against a world champion quality fighter and won. So, I am going to Venice on a bit of a high.

“It shows you have to be ready for anything in elite sports, fighting for my country is a really special feeling and I can’t wait to meet up with the rest of my teammates in Venice.

“This is an individual sport so when the opportunity comes to have that team dynamic it is really special, we all support one another.”

Gene previously fought in Canada and gained valuable experience despite not winning the tournament.

Gene’s trainer, Steve Logan, first started teaching Muay Thai back in 1989 out of the 610 Community Centre, Kingstanding.

His first gym was College Road in 1993 where Gene now instructs fighters as well as training for his own fights.

K-Star now has gyms in the city centre, Quinton, Sheldon, and Solihull – and are preparing to open a new training centre in Walsall this summer.

The now WKA British Champion Gene Smith has received sponsorship from Green Power Plant Hire, Jacksons Recovery, Foxstar Clothing, Beeches Recovery, Ucan Car Credit, 24/7 Exhibition Services, Dronesafe UK, Butler and Daughter Removals, and Level Group.

Any sponsors interested in helping Gene Smith as he prepares for the WBC Junior World Championship should email design@artattack.org.uk

For more on K-Star Academy visit www.k-starthaiboxing.com

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington – June ‘23

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

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

Recently, Birmingham City Council submitted a planning application that would have reduced the size of Erdington Library to make space for a youth centre.

Although we can all agree that we desperately need a local youth centre, it shouldn’t come at the cost of our library.

Thankfully, following a community campaign led by Friends of Erdington Library, Erdington Lunar Society, and concerns that I had raised, the council swiftly withdrew the application.

The sad truth is that we need things for young people to do in our area but since 2010, the Tories have decimated our youth services. As a result, there are only a handful of services left for young people.

The YMCA youth charity found that nationally, council spending on youth services has fallen from £1.4bn in 2010 to £379m in 2021. During that time, 750 youth centres and a staggering 4,500 youth workers have been lost.

The youth services budget is down by 74% in real terms compared to what it was at the end of the last Labour government.

Government cuts have led to half of Birmingham’s youth centres closing their doors, including Erdington’s Malcolm Locker Youth Centre. It now sits empty, rundown and a shell of its former self.

More than decade of Tory cuts has failed a generation of local young people. The service is in serious need of investment and a government that is prepared to put young people at the heart of what they do.

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

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

(Ed’s Note: All monthly columns were written to be first published in the Erdington Local newspaper on 1 May)

April marked a special time for many people in our community as families celebrated Easter, Passover, and Eid. I hope everyone celebrating enjoyed the break and you were able to spend some valuable time with your family.

Whilst our community came together in celebration, the Government had other plans for our area. In early April, I learned that the Ministers decided to overturn the appeal for another betting shop on Erdington High Street – after Labour run Birmingham City Council rejected the original application. Words cannot describe my disappointment when I discovered that the Tory Government allowed the appeal, despite huge opposition from local people and businesses.

Ministers have chosen to back gambling bosses and ignore the wishes of local people. The decision will come as a blow for people in Erdington who have joined me in relentlessly campaigning to secure improvements for our local High Street. Sadly, this is yet another example of the Tories turning their back on our community after they rejected our £11million Levelling-Up bid earlier this year that would have transformed the area.

Our High Street has so much potential and needs investment, but we are constantly being let down by the Tories. The last thing we need is another betting shop, but it’s clear, the Government have shown that yet again they’re not on the side of local people.

Erdington High Street is the heart and soul of our community and despite this setback, I will continue to work alongside local people and traders to find solutions that help secure the investment we desperately need.

In brighter news, over the first weekend in May our country will come together to celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III and Her Majesty The Queen Consort. I’m looking forward to attending community events across Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale, and joining local people in celebration of this historic occasion. Please let me know if you have an event organised!

Finally, it’s fantastic that the Erdington Local newspaper is back on the shelves in print. The team at Erdington Local do an amazing job keeping our community informed on local issues that matter to you, and they deserve all the support they can get.

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

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

Last week, a local resident told me that their 70 year old father “carries a personal attack alarm when he goes on his morning walk” and despite installing home security, does not sleep well at night. There are many people across our community who share the same concerns – that they feel unsafe and want more to be done.

Since 2010, the Tories have cut £175million from the West Midlands Police Budget that has led to over 2,200 fewer police officers, hundreds of police staff jobs slashed, and the closure of many police stations – most recently for our community in Kingstanding, where the station is currently being sold off.

The reality of more than a decade of cuts to policing has been devastating for Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale.

Our community ranks as the second highest in the West Midlands for reported crime, and as crime hits a 20 year high, the number of people being charged is falling to a record low in England and Wales. Criminals are being let off and victims are feeling let down.

Recently, at a meeting I arranged in Stockland Green with residents’ groups and businesses on Slade Road, Birmingham City Council confirmed that they would be installing new CCTV cameras in the area. The announcement came as a huge relief to local people and traders as the CCTV cameras will help monitor and deter criminal behaviour, as well as assist the police when it comes to catching offenders.

In other parts of our community, despite their limited resources, I have been working with local police teams and held similar meetings to address crime and antisocial behaviour in Erdington and Castle Vale.

In Kingstanding, people have told me that following the closure of many youth clubs, young people have been left with nowhere to go. Our communities were once home to locally run youth centres that provided activities and a safe space for young people.

Sadly, 13 years of devastating Tory government cuts have decimated our youth services with £1billion cut from youth funding, over 4,500 youth work jobs lost, and 760 youth centres closed nationally.

The first duty of the government is to keep people safe and our country secure – this is the foundation and the test for any government – but the Tories have failed.

13 years of Tory failure have left many communities, like ours, worse off and it will be left to a Labour government to pick up the pieces. For me and many others, that can’t come soon enough.

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

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

A year ago, I was proud to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Erdington. Our community made history as I became Birmingham’s first ever Black MP.

Since I was elected, I’ve helped more than 1,500 local people with casework, championed our community in Parliament, and become a strong voice raising the issues affecting people in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale.

During the same period, the Government crashed our economy leaving millions of people facing financial uncertainty as families struggle to keep up with soaring bills and mortgages. 13 years of Tory governments have left our economy weak, and after more than a decade of cuts to the public sector, our vital services are a shadow of what they were under the last Labour government.

As a former nurse of 25 years, it breaks my heart to see our NHS on its knees. Nurses’ pay is struggling to keep up with the cost-of-living crisis, with inflation levels forcing many hospitals to set up foodbanks specifically for their staff. I’ve met nurses at my advice surgeries who simply do not have enough money to eat.

It’s astonishing that for the first time in 106 years, nurses went on strike after the Government refused to talk to them. Ministers were lining up to clap for our NHS staff during the pandemic but are now failing to give them a decent pay rise.

The Government’s delay getting around the negotiating table with the nurses’ unions has resulted in 140,000 cancelled NHS appointments, and patients are paying the price.

Local people are constantly telling me that they can’t get a GP appointment. Every morning at 8am, thousands of people call their local GP surgery to get an appointment but aren’t successful.

One constituent told me that she called her local practice and was fifth in the queue but by the time she got to the front, there were no appointments left. She told me ‘If you ring at 8:01am you’ll be on the phone for 40 minutes and you won’t get an appointment because they’ve all already gone’. Stories like these are sadly not unique.

After 13 years of Tory failure, our NHS is broken, working families are poorer and our economy is in decline.

The Tories are out of ideas, and their ‘sticking plaster’ approach no longer works but I’ll continue to stand up for Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale to ensure that local people’s voices are heard in Parliament.

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

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

The chaos that has engulfed the Tories isn’t only causing havoc within their own ranks, it’s being felt in communities like ours.

Last year, Erdington applied for £11 million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund that would have transformed Erdington High Street and made it a destination again. This was the second time an application for Erdington was submitted after Tory Ministers rejected our first in October 2021.

Our latest plan had secured financial backing from Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority, but when the Government announced the successful applications for the second round of the £2.1billion fund Erdington had sadly been rejected again.

Whilst our community is amongst the country’s top 10% of deprived areas and didn’t get a single penny, the Prime Minister’s own constituency – one of the most affluent – got £19million.

The Tory Government’s levelling up agenda has been exposed as nothing more than a slogan and a vote winning cash machine for panicking Tory MPs.

If that wasn’t reason enough to believe the Tories don’t care about Erdington, gambling bosses have now appealed to the Government in the hope that they stand a better chance of getting another betting shop on Erdington High Street.

The levelling up funding would have bought investment to our High Street and created jobs, skills, and improved infrastructure. Opening the eighth betting shop on our High Street is the last thing we need.

Erdington High Street is the heart and soul of our community and has been badly let down by the Government.  It needs investment but granting permission for more betting shops would risk changing it from a shopping centre to a betting centre.

Alongside local campaigners, residents and businesses, I have formally objected to the appeal. I’ve also raised my concerns directly with Ministers in Parliament.

The fight continues to stop the eighth betting shop, but one thing is crystal clear, the Tory Government has demonstrated a clear track record of simply not caring about Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale.

After being let down with our funding bid, I worry that Ministers will deliver a fresh kick in the teeth for our High Street and our community by approving the betting shop – but I challenge them to prove me wrong.

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

NEWS: Erdington stakeholders told “officers are doing what they can” as crime and community policing discussed at local meeting

Words by Ed King / Pics by Mohammad Ashraf 

Crime and community policing were the main issues discussed at Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton’s Big Conversation last week, with a keynote speech from West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster.

Joining Mr Foster were Chief Inspector Kelly Monaghan, from the Birmingham East Local Command Team, and Erdington’s new Inspector Shameem Ahmed.

Organised by the Erdington MP, the Big Conversation events began soon after Paulette Hamilton was elected to Parliament in March 2022 – bringing senior Council officials and public servants to address local stakeholders and concerned Erdington constituents.

On Thursday 12 January the subject of focus was crime in the constituency, with CI Monaghan opening by identifying the “priorities” for police in the area – hosted at Perry Common Community Hall by Witton Lodge Community Association.

Top of the list was burglaries, with CI Monaghan reiterating the nationwide pledge made in October 2022 that “every single person who is a victim of burglary gets a visit from one of our officers.”

One concerned resident challenged the claim, citing a house on Harrison Road – off Erdington High Street – that has been repeatedly used for growing cannabis, with people breaking in to steal the illegal crops “leaving a trail of (cannabis) leaves through the car park” opposite the address.

Councillor Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington) was quick to suggest “could the police use closure orders” on properties that had repeated problems, as has been previously enforced to shut down unruly HMOs.

Vehicle crime was another “big business” high on the police agenda, with its “knock on effect” to burglary and other offences including the rampant trade in stolen catalytic convertors.

Successes by the Stockland Green police team were mentioned, with both Chief Inspector Kelly Monaghan and Inspector Shameem Ahmed advising the use of anti-theft aids such as steering wheel locks and tamper proof screws for licence plates.

Youth violence was also a paramount police concern on the agenda, discussed only hours before an Erdington based teenager would be charged with the Boxing Day murder of Cody Fisher.

“Gang violence” was raised by Paulette Hamilton as a growing concern amongst her constituents in places such as Wyrley Birch, with the Erdington MP quizzing the police if they were “working with local partners” to effectively tackle the issue.

Consistent crime and violence on Erdington High Street was also raised, with the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) imposed in May 2022 making little impact despite the “40 fines” reported to have been issued.

As one resident commented: “there are street drinkers and dealers outside Boyles (betting shop)… if you are fining them then it’s not working.”

Paulette Hamilton underscored the issue, stating “people are saying the soul has left the High Street” and again calling for more “joined up work” with local partners and police.

Erdington’s new Inspector Shameem Ahmed, who took over the Neighbourhood Police Team several months after Rachel Derby left the post in October 2022, was candid about and committed to the problem facing her force.

“I’m not confident or happy the issue is being resolved as it could be,” told Inspector Ahmed, “and working with partners is something we (police) could do more about – my officers are doing what they can.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster then introduced himself to the room, giving a full background of his role and cementing his commitment to “productive, problem solving, and visible community policing.”

In an immediate challenge, the lack of any noticeable police presence was quick to be raised – with Paulette Hamilton MP stating “you never see police in open spaces” such as parks or children’s play areas, despite a number of violent attacks in areas such as Pype Hayes Park.

Inspector Ahmed informed of a “walkabout” with uniformed officers in Finchley Park, Kingstanding, organised for the end of January – with Ms Hamilton responding: “how is this supported locally and why are you not linking with local councillors?”

Inspector Amend replied “they should be”, despite Councillor Des Hughes (Lab, Kingstanding) unaware of any planned activity at Finchley Park by West Midlands Police. The Kingstanding councillor further suggested Birmingham Citry Council’s Parks Department “had a role to play” in safeguarding the public spaces within their portfolio.

Concerns over the increase of licenced premises and betting shops on Erdington High Street was fiercely debated, with several stakeholders in the room having worked to block the recent application by Boyles Sports to open a second Erdington site at the old HSBC building opposite The Swan pub.

A lack of communication between local police teams and the planning committee, who are ultimately responsible for allowing or blocking applications, was raised as a systemic problem – with one local resident suggesting campaigners and members of the public alike should contact the West Midlands Police Licensing Team directly if they wanted to challenge future plans for more betting shops.

Councillor Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington), who sits on Birmingham City Council’s Planning Committee, further addressed the need to “break down the silo mentality” when gathering evidence and responsible authority support to challenge contentious planning applications.

The recent ‘Pop Up Police Stations’ held on Castle Vale were praised, with Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of The Pioneer Group – who took over the housing portfolio of the estate’s Housing Action Trust – suggesting “another model” could be adopted across Erdington, giving the public more access to local police teams.

Paulette Hamilton was quick to endorse anything that supports “a core level of service (from local police teams) that makes people feel safe,” further suggesting more police “pop ups across the constituency.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster confirmed there would be a new police station opened in Erdington by “summer 2025”, situated at the existing site on the corner of Sutton Road and Wilton Road – although there would be “no public desk”, with the nearest station open to members of the public based in Stechford.

Widely challenged by the room, the lack of a publicly accessible police station in Erdington “seems crazy” to Reverend Emma Sykes from St Barnabas Church, who implored the Police and Crime Commissioner to “consider” revising the plans.

Paulette Hamilton MP will be hosting another Big Conversation later in the spring. For more information visit www.paulettehamilton.org

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

I hope everyone has enjoyed a lovely Christmas break and spent some valuable time with your family. As I look back at 2022, I know it has been a challenging year for many people in our community and across the country.

At the beginning of the year, we sadly lost Jack Dromey MP. He was loved by many across the constituency that he proudly served for 12 years. In the months that followed, I was absolutely honoured to be elected as the Member of Parliament representing Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale. I know that I have some very big shoes to fill.

Since I was elected, I have been working non-stop and have helped more than a thousand local people with casework issues ranging from housing and antisocial behaviour to immigration and benefits. I have regularly spoken up for local people in Parliament and held the Government to account by raising the issues that are important to you like fly-tipping, poor housing, and the cost-of-living crisis.

We campaigned to stop another betting shop opening on Erdington High Street – and won. Sadly, the betting shop has now submitted an appeal to the government to try and overturn the council’s decision and wishes of local people. I will be fighting this appeal all the way.

Our High Street needs investment and I’ve worked with local groups to submit a funding application that will transform to the area and make it a destination again – if it’s approved by Ministers.

I’ve been working in every corner of our community – whether it’s helping with litter picks in Stockland Green, arguing for tougher laws to tackle rogue landlords in Gravelly Hill, supporting our incredible local businesses on Erdington High Street, making the case for more police resources to get crime down in Kingstanding, helping local people in Castle Vale with rising housing costs or fighting for better services in Perry Common and Pype Hayes.

I regularly visit foodbanks in our community that do incredible work to support struggling local families. I’ve listened to heart-breaking stories from working people who are struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis. Local people told me that their wages just weren’t paying enough to keep up with rising bills.

I was an NHS nurse for over 25 years, and it absolutely breaks my heart to see nurses strike for the first time in 106 years.

Nurses work extremely long hours, often for very low wages. They deserve the dignity of fair pay and acceptable working conditions. The power to stop these strikes, that even nurses themselves don’t really want, lies squarely with the Government. But Ministers are still refusing to even talk to them.

Our country is crying out for strong leadership to get our economy moving and help struggling families deal with the cost-of-living crisis. But sadly, we have seen chaos with 3 different Prime Ministers, inflation hitting a 40-year high and the Government crashing our economy, leaving millions of families struggling to pay their bills.

2023 will bring more challenges for our community but know this, I will be there – with you – every step of the way, so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any concerns. 

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