NEWS: Announcement of General Election puts Kingstanding by-election into the political spotlight

Words by Erdington Local election team

The starting gun has been fired in the campaign of the 2024 General Election, putting the upcoming Kingstanding Ward by-election into the spotlight of national politics.

On 22 May, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a rare summer election with polling day on Thursday, 4 July. And unlike the vast majority of UK constituencies, voters in Erdington are being asked to pick their representative to Westminster for the second time in just over two years.

But as the country gears up to choose who represents them in the national corridors of power once again, another by-election has taken on added significance – as voters across the Kingstanding Ward head to the ballot box on 30 May to replace disgraced Conservative Councillor Rick Payne on Birmingham City Council.

Coming so soon after the recent local elections and before the now announced General Election, the up-coming Kingstanding by-election could be seen as a real electoral litmus test – with the results from the North Birmingham ward representing the feelings of voters across the country.

Candidates for the General Election will be given until Friday 07 June to confirm their intention to stand, but those running for local council in Kingstanding have already declared.

Contesting the seat for Labour will be Naz Rasheed, who ran for Kingstanding alongside Des Hughes in 2022 and lost by a narrow margin – coming fourth in the overall count, but only 65 votes behind Rick Payne who came in second.

Naz Rasheed fought a fierce campaign in the 2022 local elections, putting youth services and tackling crime in the area at the top of her agenda.

Also in the running will be Patrick Christopher Lee for the Green Party, who according to a Twitter profile under his name is the Communication Manager for the health focused NGO Impact on Urban Health – based in London.

Standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is Erdington resident and keen HMO activist Kris O’Sullivan, who was a big part of the Dave Nellist parliamentary campaign during the Birmingham Erdington by-election in 2022.

Hoping to repair the damage done by his now disgraced predecessor is Conservative candidate Clifton Walsh – a well known local resident who has previously stood for the Pype Hayes Ward in local council elections, losing out to Labour’s candidates by 92 votes in 2022 and only 16 votes in 2018.

Ahead of his run for the Kingstanding Ward, Mr Welsh launched the ‘Pride in Kingstanding’ campaign, encouraging community litter picking as Birmingham City Council faces cuts to its street cleaning services.

On the ticket for the Workers Party of Britain is Pete Higgins – representing George Galloway’s socialist and socially conservative political party that formed in 2019 and won the Rochdale by-election in 2024 on a strong pro-Palestine agenda.

Being held on Thursday, 30 May, the Kingstanding by-election is somewhat of a poisoned chalice for the main two political parties.

Conservatives do not want voters across the country to be reminded how one of their councillors was caught spewing racism on a secret Twitter account – and Labour do not want a light shone on their party’s very public record of running Birmingham City Council into financial chaos.

But whatever side you support in this game of political football, all the seven candidates standing in the Kingstanding by-election will have a lot more attention on their campaigns than they could ever envisaged – as the country warms up for a General Election on 4 July.

For more on both local and national elections held across the UK, alongside advice on how to register to vote, visit www.electoralcommission.org.uk

OPINION: A view from the Vale – Cllr Ray Goodwin

Words by Cllr Ray Goodwin (Castle Vale Ward, Labour)

It’s been a busy few weeks on Castle Vale.

Work is about to start shortly on Filton Croft and by the time you will have read this we will have held our Crime and Community Safety Summit.

A lot has been said over the last few weeks about politicians not listening to the communities they represent, but one of the things I have done over the last two years has been open and accessible to residents – this is why my regular estate walk abouts are so important, it means I can talk to residents to listen to their concerns and issues and deal with them straight away where possible.

My commitment is to continue to do this and talk to as many people as possible on a daily and weekly basis and discuss what matters to them most, Castle Vale!

I want local democracy to be at the heart of everything I do, and this is the best way to do this. I see residents on a daily basis for appointments. But, also, I hold a monthly advice surgery for residents as well.

Whilst over the last two years a lot of good things have happened – including securing a new bus route to the fort shopping centre.

There is now, however, more to do, and I will be leading the charge to the West Midlands mayor that there is a train station and that station is called ‘CASTLE VALE’.

For more from Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin visit www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale 

OPINION: A view from the Vale – Cllr Ray Goodwin

Words by Cllr Ray Goodwin (Castle Vale Ward, Labour)

Castle Vale is a community rich in talent with good and decent people who look out for each other – and this became really apparent over the last few weeks with the high-profile incident on Castle Vale High Street. 

It is because of the amazing community that Castle Vale is resilient and will bounce back bigger, better stronger.

However, I won’t be resting on my laurels and I will be making sure Castle Vale is getting the best deal possible. I will be holding a ‘Crime and Community Safety Summit’ on the 18 May 2024 at Greenwood Academy from 1.30pm onward.

I will be inviting a representative from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, the West Midlands Mayor’s office, and the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton. The Pioneer Group housing association has already agreed to attend.

My biggest ask is that we reopen a visibly present police station.

The Pop-Up Police Station is great, but it’s not enough. We need to ensure that the incident that occurred on 5 April on the High Street is an isolated incident, and that we do more to not only tackle crime but to deal with the issues that lead to crime.

I won’t be taking no for an answer, and I won’t allow Castle Vale to be treated like second best.

I will stand up be counted and do what needs to be done to represent this amazing community.

For more from Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin visit www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale

NEWS: Police “keeping an open mind” as investigations continue following the attack on Castle Vale High Street last week

Words by Ed King / Pics from the scene supplied by Castle Vale residents

Police were back on Castle Vale today, cordoning off areas around the High Street and St Cuthbert’s Church as they search for more clues after the widely reported attack on the High Street last week.

Following the discovery of spent shotgun cartridges near the scene of the crime, and continued reports of local residents having heard gun fire, officers are now “keeping an open mind” as they continue their investigations.

On Friday 5 April, police responded to an emergency call at around 5:10pm where masked individuals were seen brandishing machetes and chasing another man into the Nisa convenience store on the High Street.

No injuries were reported, and within 72 hrs the police had arrested an 18 year old and a 16 year old for violent disorder.

Under the Public Order Act 1986, violent disorder can carry a jail term of up to five years if the accused ‘used or intended to use firearm or other highly dangerous weapon.’

But from the most immediate reports, including those who claimed to have witnessed the attack or the immediate aftermath, many members of the public also told they had heard what they believed to be gun fire – taking to social media to warn others on the close knit North Birmingham estate.

The first post on the popular Castle Vale Community Facebook Page, following the incident, read: “Shots fired up by Nisa… 4 lads with long blades.

“Speed off in a car people please get your kids in doors as there’s a lot about the high Street. Armed police now here.”

One local mother also posted: “My son was by St Cuthberts (Church) when he heard the shots and saw lads with machetes running into a car. The car was not far from him and he turned straight back around.”

The initial response from West Midlands Police, however, was that there was “no evidence of any gun being fired”.

But following continued reports from people living around the area, and the discovery of spent shotgun cartridges near the scene, Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin (Labour) petitioned the police to step up their investigation.

On Saturday 6 April, the day after the initial attack, police returned to Castle Vale – using official police tape to cordon off the Pitstop Service Station and continue their forensic investigations.

Then again earlier today, Monday 8 April, blue and white tape was back up around the Tangmere Drive end of the High Street and St Cuthbert’s Church – with officers at the scene telling members of the public it was related to the attack last Friday.

In a report issued later, a spokesperson for West Midlands Police confirmed: “An investigation has been launched into violent disorder that took place in Castle Vale on Friday (5 April).

“We were called to reports of an armed group chasing another man into a shop on the High Street at around 5.10pm and a report of a firearm being discharged.”

They continued: “Cartridges have also been recovered nearby, and will be examined to see if they are linked to the investigation.

“We’re keeping an open mind and we’d ask anyone with information to contact us via Live Chat on our website, or by calling 101, and quote 20/380920/24.”

West Midlands Detective Chief Inspector James Spencer added: “We understand the worry this has caused the community and are doing everything we can to establish what took place.

“Today we will continue CCTV enquiries and will be speaking to witnesses. We will also have our forensics team searching the area.”

He added: “There will be an increased police presence in the area this week to offer reassurance to the local community.

“Please come and speak to us if you have any concerns or information.”

But one concerned Castle Vales resident, who lives near the crime scene and wished to remain anonymous, told Erdington Local: “I would like to know why the police have taken three days to investigate the reports of gunfire from local residents and eyewitnesses. 

“The residents of this estate have been let down yet again. If this had been a more affluent area of Birmingham the police would have been on it immediately and the relevant areas cordoned off for forensic investigation.”

They added: “The police were told there were gunshots, gun cartridges were found, what more evidence did they need.”

After hearing the updated statement from West Midlands Police, Councillor Ray Goodwin also commented: “I welcome the development that West Midlands Police have now acknowledged that residents reported fire arms being discharged.

“I am concerned that the community was not listened to on Friday; what’s important now is the police ensure there is a presence and the community feels safety in the community they live in.”

Following the attack last week, Cllr Goodwin has previously promised to hold a ‘Community Crime and Safety Summit’ to address concerns over crime and policing on the Castle Vale estate.

No date has been set for the summit, although Erdington Local has been told that following the elections for West Midlands Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner on 2 May – whomever is in office will be invited to attend.

The investigation into the attack continues.

If anyone has information regarding the attack on 5 April on Castle Vale, or that might aid the investigation, please contact West Midlands Police via their Live Chat: https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/contact-us/live-chat

Alternatively, people can call 101 and quote the crime reference number: 20/380920/24

NEWS: Police cordon off Pitstop Service Station after shotgun cartridges found following disturbance on Castle Vale

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Castle Vale residents

West Midlands Police have now cordoned off the Pitstop Service Station on Castle Vale, after a local resident found spent shotgun cartridges around the corner from where the violent attack that took place on Castle Vale High Street on Friday afternoon.

Following reports of a disturbance on Friday 5 April, where local residents heard what they believed to be gunshot fire and saw masked men wielding machetes, West Midlands Police (WMP) have been investigating on the estate.

In a statement issued by WMP earlier today, the force confirmed that whilst they acknowledged there had been “masked men… carrying machetes” they were not treating this as a gun related crime.  

But following the findings of shotgun cartridges from a local resident, and the insistence of Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin that the police treat this as a potential gun related crime, WMP have now come back to the North Birmingham estate to continue with forensic invetigations.

Having reported the incident earlier today and been told by WMP that “at this stage” the police had “no evidence of a viable firearm being fired”, Erdington Local has asked for any updates or developments .

At the time of writing, Erdington Local has been told of no immediate danger to any residents on Castle Vale and police presence in the area is purely investigational.

In their statement issued earlier today, WMP advised: “We’re investigating after weapons were brandished during disorder in High Street, Castle Vale, at just after 5.10pm yesterday (5 April).

“Up to four masked men – understood to be carrying machetes – chased another man into a shop. They then fled and no-one was injured.

“We’re carrying out CCTV – and other enquiries – and anyone with information can contact us via Live Chat on our website, or by calling 101, and quote 20/380920/24.”

Erdington Local has asked West Midlands Police for any updates on the investigation or possible threat to public safety.

NEWS: Castle Vale councillor to hold ‘Community Crime and Safety Summit’ after reports of shots fired and men carrying machetes on High Street

Words & pics by Ed King

Castle Vale’s Councillor Ray Goodwin (Labour) is set to hold an emergency ‘Community Crime and Safety Summit’ following reports of shots fired and men carrying machetes on the North Birmingham estate.

On Friday 5 April at around 5pm, several people posted messages saying they heard gun fire on or around the High Street and seen men wielding large knives – with some saying they had seen armed police and emergency services attend the scene.

Cllr Goodwin posted updates on his own Facebook page, confirming he had visited the area to “make sure residents are safe” and that the police had attended, but that things were “getting back to normal”.

He further added, in response to the incident and growing concerns over crime and policing on the estate: “We will be holding another Community Safety meeting… to talk about some of the issues we’re facing (on Castle Vale) as clearly some of these issues have not gone away.”

Posts on the popular Castle Vale Community Facebook page showed that some Castle Vale locals were even almost caught up in the violence, being close enough to witness aspects of the attack and even see those involved flee the scene.

Adam Stansbie posted: “Shots fired up by Nisa… 4 lads with long blades. Speed of in a car people please get your kids in doors as there’s a lot about the high Street. Armed police now here.”

Jess Bolton quickly confirmed: “Yes seen armed police car go along Manby Road however went off the estate at speed not long ago.”

Thankfully, at the time of writing no reports of anyone being injured have yet been made.

But the reality of how easily innocent bystanders could get hurt became all too apparent to those with families in the area.

On Friday afternoon, not long after the first reports of the incident came in, one local mother posted: “My son was by St Cuthberts (Church) when he heard the shots and saw lads with machetes running into a car. The car was not far from him and he turned straight back around.”

She added: “He’s a grown man and it shook him up. My husband has just drove by to go pick him up and there’s police and kids all dressed in black hanging around. Hopefully cameras will catch something. Really hope nobody was hurt!”

In a Facebook Live video from the scene, Cllr Goodwin further identified the need for the Castle Vale police station to be reopened and for “a proper police presence on this estate”.

Castle Vale was one of the first community police stations to be closed across the West Midlands, following the announcement made by West Midlands Police in 2015 that they would be shutting an initial 28 facilities to save money.

To watch the full video from Cllr Ray Goodwin, click here.

Cllr Goodwin later issued the following statement to Erdington Local: “Castle Vale is a strong vibrant community full of amazing individuals which is why tonight’s incident is more shocking.

“I am determined to deal with this issue head on and stop crime increasing further. This is why I am announcing we will be organizing a Community Crime and Safety Summit. Time, date, and venue will be announced shortly.

“I will be inviting the Police and Crime Commissioner, other local partners, and the MP Paullette Hamilton.

“I will be rolling my sleeves up to ensure more resources and better visible policing are allocated to Castle Vale.”

Erdington Local contacted West Midlands Police and West Midlands Ambulence Service for any updates or information.

West Midlands have released the following initial statement: “We’re investigating after weapons were brandished during disorder in High Street, Castle Vale, at just after 5.10pm yesterday (5 April).

“Up to four masked men – understood to be carrying machetes – chased another man into a shop. They then fled and no-one was injured.

“We’re carrying out CCTV – and other enquiries – and anyone with information can contact us via Live Chat on our website, or by calling 101, and quote 20/380920/24.”

For more on Councillor Ray Goodwin visit www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale

NEWS: West Midlands Mayor Andy Street set to invest £400m in social housing in Stockland Green and across the region

Words and pics by Erdington Local editorial team

West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, has secured £400m from Central Government in an ambitious new plan that will see the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) invest hundreds of millions in social housing across the region.

Mr Street announced the new policy at social housing provider Nehemiah Housing Association, an organisation based in Great Barr and with properties in the Erdington constituency.

Launching his mayoral election campaign at Stockland Green School on 21 March, the West Midlands mayor further identified Stockland Green as an area the WMCA will be looking at on “how to improve the housing stock”.

The plan, which was secured ahead of the mayoral election on 2 May, will be the first time the West Midlands Combined Authority has directly funded the building of social housing.

It became possible after Mr Street petitioned Government for £400m investment into the WMCA Affordable Housing Programme, which had reportedly previously only been allocated 50% of that budget, as part of the Deeper Devolution Deal agreed last year.

 

Having secured the multi-million pound social housing investment fund, which will be overseen by the West Midlands Mayor, Mr Street hopes the new plan will attract national media attention and become the blueprint for social housing provision across the country.

Mr Street told Erdington Local: “I want to do this because housing is key to solving so many problems in our region. People might find it strange a Conservative Mayor would care so much about social housing, but I know we could do so much more.”

He added: “The £400m I secured is key, it was a red line for me when signing the Deeper Devolution Deal with the Government.”

The chronic lack of quality social housing across Birmingham is a major factor why Erdington became a hotspot for Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs), assisted living properties, and exempt accommodation.

Now a widely reported and recognised national concern, Erdington Local first covered the frightening reality of those living in HMOs and Exempt Accommodation in August 2020 – with a series articles written by a reporter who has lived experience of the problems facing thousands across the country.

(Click here to read the first story in the series, titled ‘EXPLOITED: HMOs – when greed meets vulnerability, carving up communities for a profit’.)

Following the initial article published by Erdington Local, many other media outlets then covered the topic in depth – with titles from Birmingham Mail to The Guardian all shining a much needed light on the issue.

Mr Street continued: “This kind of plan is a real third term policy as we have been working towards this since I was first elected.

“Housing has always been top of my agenda, prompted by Erdington Local’s investigation into HMOs and assisted living I lobbied the Select Committee in Parliament to look into the problem.”

He added: “This policy is about building new homes, but we will continue to look at how to improve the housing stock in places like Stockland Green.

“This is about building quality social homes for rent for people who want to have a home to call their own – people like key workers, nurses, and young families.

“By partnering with organisations like Nehemiah, we will be building real communities too – that are nurtured by supportive housing associations.”

Despite securing the funding, the WMCA will not actually be building new homes or improving existing social housing themselves – but would instead partner with organisations who have experience in the sector, such as Nehemiah Housing Association, Witton Lodge Community Association, or The Pioneer Group on Castle Vale.

Using funding from the Affordable Homes Programme, Mr Street has promised to triple the current rate of 500-700 homes built by housing associations in the West Midlands to 1,700 per year by 2028.

Mr Street launched the policy at Nehemiah Housing Association, which the organisation’s website describes as providing ‘quality, affordable housing together with wellbeing services to ethnically diverse communities across.’

The housing association has more than 1,250 properties serving the multicultural African, Caribbean, Asian, Irish, and European communities across the West Midlands, including Erdington.

Martin Levermore, Vice Chair of Nehemiah Housing Association, said: “We are celebrating our 35th anniversary this year. Social housing is so important but Government policy changes so often it can be hard to keep up.

“It’s incredibly important that we build enough Social Housing, and the devolution of funding for Affordable Housing could be a game changer for the region. Housing associations like Nehemiah not only build homes, we build communities; so we look forward to seeing how we can play a role going forward.”

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

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

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

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

Words by Erdington Local editorial team / Pics by Ed King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPINION: My thoughts on Birmingham’s budget – Gravelly Hill Councillor Mick Brown

Words by Cllr Mick Brown (Gravelly Hill Ward, Labour & Co-operative) / Pics from Birmingham Labour and Erdington Local archives

As the Councillor for Gravelly Hill, I wanted to give my thoughts on Birmingham’s budget, the difficult decisions that had to be made and the impact the council cuts are likely to have.

As Councillors we have been left will no alternative other than to get the council back on a sound financial footing, but like many of my council colleagues it was with a very heavy heart that I voted for this budget. 

When I talk to Gravelly Hill residents about their concerns over what has happened in Birmingham, there are the four commonly asked questions:

What’s gone wrong here?
I believe that the Council needs to take responsibility for its part in the failings, which include both the ongoing equal pay liability and the botched implementation of the Oracle computer system.  For this reason, I’m backing the call for an independent inquiry so that the people of Birmingham can see that there is accountability for what’s gone wrong here.

The failure to deliver savings in previous years, is a further reason for the need to save £300 million over the next two years. However, much of the savings we have had to find are due to increased costs, and more people needing our services due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Is this just happening here?
While some of this situation is unique to Birmingham, the constant underfunding of local government is an issue for councils up and down the country regardless of political persuasion.  Birmingham has lost over a billion pounds over the last decade, as we are all being hit by inflation and rapidly increased demand for services such as adult social care and childcare services.

What’s been protected?
We will still have millions to spend on services, for example the Council has safeguarded the future of the Wellbeing Leisure Centres, and the aim is to ensure a £1 million fund for youth services across the city. While the cuts are far larger than we would have wanted to have made, with the adult care being cut by 6% and children and young people services cut by 14%; the rising demand for both services means that the amount of money spend is rising despite the budget cuts.

What’s happening next?
We know that the way the council works needs to change, and we need to get better at working with partners across the city. We are going to consult with the people of Birmingham on how you want services to be delivered in your local area, so that we give people the support that they need in the most effective way possible.

As councillors we all have a role to play going forward standing up for our communities and ensuring that the transformation of the Council delivers the better basic services that the residents of Birmingham deserve.

Click here for more from Gravelly Hill Councillor Mick Brown (Labour & Co-operative).

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

Words and on location pics by Erdington Local

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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