ELECTION NEWS: Erdington to vote for next MP as by-election date set for 3 March

By Erdington Local election news team

The upcoming by-election to decide who will be Erdington’s next Member of Parliament has been set for Thursday, 3 March.

A tweet made by the Labour Party whips office on Monday, 31 January, stated:

“First item of business today in @HouseofCommons – Opposition Chief Whip @alancampbellmp moving the writ for the Birmingham Erdington By-election. Polling Day 3 March 2022.”

The by-election follows the sudden death of Jack Dromey MP, who was found dead at his constituency residence on Friday, 7 January.

Candidates from parties across the political spectrum are expected to contest the seat, with Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Holyhead) already announcing her intention to run as Labour’s sucessor to Jack Dromey – after being selected by local party members via an online vote on Wednesday, 26 January.

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 – which if successful, would make her Birmingham first ever black Member of Parliament.

Addressing local Labour Party members at her official campaign launch, at Highcroft Community Centre on Saturday, 29 January, Paulette Hamilton told the crowd: “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.”

Also currently in the running is Dave Nellist, the one time Labour MP for Coventry South, who has declared his intention to run for Erdington MP as the official candidate for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

A longstanding supporter of worker’s right – who famously donated 60% of his MP’s salary to the Labour movement, trade unionists, and community campaigners – Mr Nellist is expected to take a strong anti-austerity stance and champion support from Erdington’s industrial community and factory workforces.

Following his announcement on Thursday, 27 January, Mr Nellist posted on social media:

“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”.

Since announcing their respective candidacies, both Paulette Hamilton and Dave Nellist have been canvassing across the constituency and receiving strong online support – although response has favoured those with strong links to the area.

There is also growing concern that Dave Nellist’s candidacy could split the Labour vote, adding pressure to the party that has consistently held the Erdington seat since 1974.

At the time of writing, no other parties have proposed a candidate for the Erdington by-election – however many are speculating Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington) will stand again for MP, having contested the Erdington seat in the last four General Elections,

Cllr Alden, who has narrowed the gap between Conservatives and Labour in the last two General Elections, also lives locally – which could work well for voters who are keen to see a familiar face represent them in Parliament.

NEWS: Hundreds attend Jack Dromey’s funeral at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster

Words by Ed King / Pics by Michelle Martin

“A gentle but passionate man, who existed to change things for the better.”

Hundreds of people gathered at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster on Monday, 31 January, to say their goodbyes to Erdington’s well loved MP, Jack Dromey.

Braving the tail end winds of Storms Malik and Corrie, people from across the political divide joined Mr Dromey’s family, friends, colleagues, and constituents – with recognised faces from the halls of power, from Sir Keir Starmer to Jacob Rees-Mogg, in attendance.

Nestled into the 12th century church in the political heart of London, next to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, a full house congregation came to pay their respects to the Brent born and Birmingham adopted Jack Dromey – a man who had spent a lifetime fighting injustice and inequality, first as a trade unionist and then an MP.

The service was conducted by The Venerable Patricia Hillas, the Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons who was appointed by the Queen to serve as a Canon of Westminster in April 2021. Songs and hymns were sung by St Margaret’s Consort, conducted by Greg Morris.

Opening with selected passages from the Bible, including John11: 25-26 ‘I am the resurrection and the life…’, the Westminster priest began by remembering the “passionate and generous” man that had served as Erdington’s MP since 2010.

Hillas went on to talk about Jack Dromey’s “broad reach” and willingness to cross the boundaries of faith and politics if it was “for the good of all” – a sentiment that would be reiterated throughout the service.

Following the opening hymn, ‘Abide with Me’, family memories were first offered by his son, Harry, remembering, with sadness and humour, his father’s love for his grandchildren and generosity – the long lockdown walks with his grandson, who would bounce back into the family home “as if he’d just been to Disneyland.”

Sir Tony Blair was the first of two former Prime Ministers to pay tribute to Jack Dromey, reading Isiah 58: 6-12, recalling the Lord’s cry to “share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house,” – attributes reflecting the man today’s mourners have lost.

Jack’s daughter, Amy, then read passages from her mother’s book, A Woman’s Work’, talking about when the young solicitor and trade unionist first me – before telling of the positive impact her father had on her own life.

Gordon Brown was next to address the congregation, praising his tremendous campaigning achievements and reflecting how Jack as the life and soul of “work events, as they’re now called” – receiving a  warm wave of laughter – before citing Jack’s understanding of the necessary balance of power and principals. The front rows of

William Blake’s Jerusalem was next on the order of service, before Joe Dromey took to the pulpit in a heartfelt recollection of the tributes that came flooding in after the shock news of his father’s death.

At points fighting back tears, Joe spoke of condolences from across the political spectrum – including a profound message from Guy Opperman, the Conservative pensions minister Jack shadowed in Parliament, who referred his counter across the aisle as “a gentle but passionate man, who existed to change things for the better.”

This, affirmed Joe Dromey, “…sums up Jack perfectly. And I am honoured to call him my dad.”

The service was brought to a close with further prayers and passages from the Bible, including a reading from Father Simon Ellis of St Margaret Mary’s Church in Perry Common – before Jack Dromey’s coffin, a simple wicker casket adorend with a wreath of red roses, was taken out of the church to be laid to rest.

Mr Dromey was found dead at his constituency residence, Highcroft Villas in Erdington, on Friday 7 January – survived by his wife Harriet, his sons Joe and Harry, his daughter Amy, and his grandchildren.

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

FEATURE: Remembering Jack – Erdington High Street memorial for “a giant of Birmingham politics”

Words by Ed King / Pics by Claire Taylor

Erdington High Street has been the centrepiece of many recent political battles – from clarion calls for more community policing and a Public Space Protection Order, to ambitious regeneration plans that could bring in millions, a buzz has been returning to the once vibrant throughfare.

But on Sunday 16 January the High Street stood still, as hundreds gathered to pay their respects to “a giant of Birmingham politics and a very, very good man.”

Just over a week beforehand, the Erdington MP Jack Dromey was discovered dead at his constituency residence. Following ten days of shock and sadness, this was the day people came to say their goodbyes.

“We’re all Jack’s friends,” exclaims Gerard Goshawk, the well known minister from Six Ways Baptist Church who is introducing speakers onto the stage – a temporary platform outside the Co-op on Erdington High Street – and reminding the bipartisan crowd they are indeed just that.

A fierce trade unionist before being elected MP in 2010, Jack Dromey was known as a dyed in the wool “Labour man”, but also a canny campaigner who would extend a hand “across the political divide” to get the job done.

Standing shoulder to shoulder at his memorial are the leaders of both the Birmingham Conservative and Labour parties, further reflecting the impact of a man who, as Cllr Ian Ward would later state on stage, “was never blinkered or tribal when it comes to working constructively”.

Today’s cold January concourse hosts hundreds more well wishers from all backgrounds and belief systems – local MPs and councillors, Erdington residents and families, business owners and house builders.

Also in attendence are local campaign groups such as Short Heath Fields Trust – who despite spending much of their time locked in heated debates with Jack Dromey, maintained a healthy respect for a politician who ultimately “kept his word.”

Organised by the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce, of which Jack Dromey was a “driving force” behind, the memorial is being delivered by two organisations who knew the late MP well – Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) and Active Arts – alongside Reverend Gerard Goshawk.

With more friends and figureheads waiting in the wings, a friendly reminder from Gerard to keep all speeches under two minutes launches proceedings gets a ripple of laughter from the crowd – mirroring the minister’s call for celebration and humour amongst the grief.

First to speak is Cllr Josh Jones (Lab, Stockland Green), who talks through his memories of meeting Jack during his first General Election campaign in 2010, to standing beside him as one of the city’s youngest campaign agents in the MP’s subsequent bids for the Erdington seat.

But it was the heartfelt memory of Jack and wife Harriet Harman cancelling their family holiday to be at Josh’s wedding that hammers home the closeness of their relationship, one evolving from professional to personal, and rubber stamps the sentiment of remembrance that would be reiterated throughout the afternoon.

“It feels incredibly strange and weird to be thinking of Erdington without Jack… a wonderful MP, a wonderful friend, a wonderful comrade. I will miss him very, very dearly.”

Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Holyhead) follows Josh Jones, regaling her own memories of a man who “came with so many titles…” and “encouraged people to be a better version of themselves”. Before the stage is set for Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington), arguably Jack Dromey’s most immediate political postcode rival.

Immediately paying tribute to the late Penny Holbrook, the Stockland Green councillor who was also found dead at home back in November last year, Cllr Alden goes on to honour Jack Dromey’s “formidable reputation” in trade unions and politics, a man “passionate for worker’s rights”.

Afzal Hussain and Linda Hines MBE, WLCA Chief Officer and Resident Director respectively, stand together next – representing one of the key constituency stakeholders, who worked closely with Jack Dromey for over a decade on projects ranging from social care to High Street regeneration.

“Jack was a principled politician,” begins Afzal, “he had huge convictions and sense of justice and fairness,” before reminding the crowd of Jack’s pivotal work through the “the dark days” of the coronavirus crisis and his role on the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce.

A quick joke about Jack’s love of a “a good photo”, and an anecdote from Linda about meeting Jack when she was a last minute stand in for Santa (there are pictures), round off a eulogy from two more people who will struggle to see Erdington in the same way again.

Stepping back into the political arena, Birmingham City Council Leader and Shard End representative, Cllr Ian Ward, is next to speak – mourning the loss of “a great friend, inspirational colleague, and a good man.”

A close personal and professional ally, Cllr Ward continues to reiterate Jack Dromey’s ability to bring warring fractions together for the greater good – celebrating the late MP’s commitment “to give a voice to the unheard” and his “tireless enthusiasm and dogged determination”. Traits many in today’s crowd will both recognise and be grateful for.

But simplicity is often the clearest full stop, as Cllr Ward sums up his earnest goodbye to “ultimately a decent and principled man” by extending condolences to the grieving family he has left behind – hoping they know just “how much Jack was loved here in Birmingham.”

Jess Phillips MP for Yardley is next to address the crowd, having known Jack since working in his constituency office before becoming elected and whose own Yardley office has now stepped in to assist with “urgent” casework in Erdington.

A defiantly human face in the political mirror, Jess begins telling the second city crowd, “your stories, your lives, were always his very first and most pressing concern.

“Jack fell in love (with Birmingham), he chose us, and he saw what many outside of Birmingham don’t see – it may not be the prettiest but the people are magnificent. You won his heart.”

Reminding us of Jack Dromey’s devotion to his family, be it round a dinner table or in the halls of power, a memory of “the regulation weekly slide show of the pictures of Jack’s grandchildren” makes way for a live performance of a special jig written in Jack Dromey’s honour by the head of the Erdington Arts Forum, Jobe Baker Sullivan.

And as the music plays, paying homage to Jack Dromey’s Irish roots, the sun literally begins to shine.

A sharp reminder of Jack Dromey’s important role in the lives of his Erdington constituents comes as Jane Roche celebrates the MP’s support for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign. Jane lost both her sister and father to coronavirus within a week of each other, with Jack picking up the charge and pushing for a public inquiry in the house.

Ray Goodwin joins Jane on stage, both from the Castle Vale based Spitfire Support Services, and reiterates the impact of “the most remarkable man we have met; fearless, passionate, and caring – he fought for justice and fairness all his life.”

The day continues and the temperature drops, but the crowd standfast, as further messages of love and memories of laughter come flooding off stage. Representatives of local community groups, religious institutions, law enforcement, and local schools all offer their reasons for celebrating the life and legacy of Jack Dromey.

The crowd are invited to write messages of condolences for Jack Dromey’s family, hand written notes to be delivered by Active Arts and the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce, before the last opportunity to speak goes to Liam Byrne – Member of Parliament for the neighbouring constituency of Hodge Hill.

Liam’s own father was at school with Jack Dromey, the MP remembers, and the actions and integrity of that generation have clearly left their mark on the man – as Hodge Hill’s voice in the house walks us down Jack’s “long march for justice”.

“Sometimes that road is steep,” continues Liam, “sometimes that road is hard, sometimes on that road we get weary.

“And it’s at those points that you need someone to put an arm around you, to give you warm words, to tell you it’s going to be OK, to tell you you’re a superstar.

“Jack put the fuel in the tank all of us in the fight for justice. He was the best booster that has ever been invented… Britain’s second city has lost its greatest citizen.”

R.I.P. Jack.

Watch Liam Byrne MP speaking at the memorial for Jack Dromey MP

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

FEATURE: Remembering Jack – tributes to the late Erdington MP, Jack Dromey

By Ed King

On Friday 7 January, only a week into the New Year, the longstanding Erdington MP Jack Dromey was found dead at his constituency residence – aged 73.

Erdington Local asked local organisations, stakeholders, colleagues, and community champions who knew Jack to contribute some words and pictures in remembrance.

A significant part of Erdington since being elected MP in 2010, Jack Dromey was involved in numerous projects and initiatives to support the constituency.

From his work with the Erdington Covid Taskforce and North Birmingham Economic Recovery Plan, to every food bank or school road safety campaign that needed his support – the impact of Jack Dromey’s death will be felt by countless across the Erdington constituency and beyond.

Erdington Local wishes to extend our condolences to Jack Dromey’s family, friends, and close colleagues. We hope the following is a welcomed epitaph to a man who will be sorely missed and mourned for. RIP Jack.

With thanks to the following for their contributions:

Witton Lodge Community Association, The Pioneer Group, Compass Support, Spitfire Advice and Support Services, Castle Vale Community Partnership, The Hospice Charity Partnership, Save Our Schools West Midlands, Active Arts Castle Vale, Erdington Local, Erdington Arts Forum, Kingstanding Food Community,  Urban Devotion, Andy Street – Mayor of West Midlands Combined Authority, Cllr Robert Alden, Unite the Union, Erdington Labour Party, Josh Jones, Naziah Rasheed, Birmingham Leader Cllr Ian Ward, Liam Byrne MP (Hodge Hill), Jess Phillips MP (Yardley), Preet Kaur Gill MP (Edgbaston), Shabana Mahmood MP (Ladywood), Steve McCabe MP (Selly Oak), Short Heath Fields Trust, Short Heath Residents Action Group, Abbey Catholic Primary School, Paul Jennings, Haroon Chughtai, Simon Foster – West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.

With special thanks to the staff from Jack Dromey’s offices in Erdington and Westminster.

Remembering Jack – pictures and messages of rememberence

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“We are shocked and deeply saddened at Jack Dromey’s sudden passing. We have lost a principled public servant and a kind, generous and thoroughly decent man.

“At Witton Lodge Community Association, we had the privilege of working with Jack for over a decade and in recent years almost on a weekly basis. He was a friend of the Association.

“His determination to act for local people was second to none – whether helping to solve problems, creating opportunities to improve lives or celebrating the richness of local communities.

“He was an engaging and energetic man who collaborated with many, combining a mixture of good grace and steeliness to get things done. We saw this first hand through his leadership of the Erdington Taskforce and the North Birmingham Economic Recovery Board, through which we were able to support thousands of residents during the pandemic.

“Jack’s legacy will live on in his many accomplishments and the lives that he touched. Our heartfelt condolences to Jack’s family, friends, and colleagues. RIP Jack.”

Afzal Hussain / Chief Officer, Witton Lodge Community Association

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“Jack was so much more than a hardworking constituency MP; he had a real passion and sense of purpose in his work to fight for every constituency and make their lives better. He has been an unwavering supporter of our work and that of all social landlords and partners working across the communities. Jack advocated for his constituents across many issues, not least ensuring they had secure, well-paid work and decent housing and communities in which they can thrive.

“He had chaired the Castle Vale Neighbourhood Partnership Board for many years and done so in a way that paid no regard to tribal politics – it was always about getting the best possible outcome for the people he served. He was the best MP I have ever had the privilege to work alongside and he will leave a huge chasm in our communities that will be hard to fill. My thoughts are with his family, friends, his wife, children, grandchildren who he spoke of frequently and with such joy.”

Simon Wilson / CEO, The Pioneer Group

“Jack was an amazing MP who strongly supported the communities of Erdington. He was a strong arm in lobbying for improving people’s circumstances and was particularly engaged in some of our work with young people and families over the years. He will be dearly missed.”

Lisa Martinali / Community Regeneration Director, The Pioneer Group

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“Jack was simply the most remarkable man I have met, fearless, compassionate and caring, he saw something in me (personally) which I didn’t and through his kindness and support enabled me to see it also, I will be forever grateful.

“At Spitfire Services he became part of our collective Castle Vale family. A friend colleague and one of the greatest parliamentarians he will be missed terribly, there are not words to say how I feel about Jack’s passing. My thoughts are with his family.”

Ray Goodwin / Chief Executive, Spitfire Advice and Support Services

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“Jack has carried on with the tradition of providing senior leadership to the Castle Vale Community Partnership building on the likes of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale and Lord Rooker. Over the last four years, he has helped the partnership in securing funding for a range of community projects and fought for the support of residents throughout our communities.

“Jack always had the people at the heart of everything he did, and his legacy shall live on through the lives he has touched. We will always be whole-heartedly grateful for his dedication, and he shall be deeply missed.”

Sue Spicer / Vice Chair, Castle Vale Community Partnership

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“Jack was a huge advocate, supporter and friend of John Taylor Hospice in Erdington. His work locally and with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Palliative and End of Life Care reflected his commitment to the hospice movement and his constituents.

“Jack was a regular visitor to the hospice and always looked to find a way to help and support in any way he could. Warm, friendly and engaging, he showed humility and kindnesses to the people he met, he will be dearly missed by us all. Our thoughts are now with Jack’s family and friends.”

Simon Fuller / Chief Executive Officer, The Hospice Charity Partnership

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“The whole SOS family has been devastated by the tragic and sudden death of MP Jack Dromey. A wonderful politician, with a Trade Union heart. Passionate about campaigning for children’s rights, he supported SOS in so many of our actions and was driven to ensure ALL children had access to a good education.

“We will miss him dearly and send our love and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”

Kate Taylor, on behalf Save Our Schools West Midlands

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“The grief has caught many of us by surprise. Jack Dromey was the local MP – the person we demanded to be whatever we needed in any day because he was our local elect and in a position of responsibility. Actually, he was our captain, our comrade, our friend.

“One of the best things about my work in Erdington was getting to know Jack. He gave his all for Erdington, much will never be fully appreciated but his legacy is already and will be enormous. I have some very fond memories of Jack – throwing himself into creative projects including holding a vegetable for a photo shoot, enjoying many Evenings of Creativity, and walking with pride as part of our diverse community with Little Amal.

“It’s hard to now imagine an event or meeting without him being there. We will still save a seat for you. Thank you Jack, for being you, we will miss you.”

Claire Marshall / Project Director, Active Arts Castle Vale

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“A fierce supporter of Erdington Local, Jack was always championing the voices of Erdington and pushing us to celebrate the constituency’s achievements, endeavours, and people. He was immensely proud of Erdington and made damn sure others knew why. Not everyone in office cares as he did.

“Always available, Jack never hid from a contentious issue or a tough question. He was a man who could be careful with his words, but never lied. It would have been incredible to report on him ‘in action’ during the upcoming elections, a real tour de force.

“I told him this many times, but we wouldn’t have made it without his help. Plain truth. This is a real, tragic loss. RIP Jack, rattling the pearly gates with a battle cry for justice no doubt.”

Ed King / Editor-in-Chief, Erdington Local

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“I, along with many other musicians and artists in the local area, will miss Jack deeply. He was a champion of the arts, really seeing the value in what creativity does for the soul.’

Jobe Baker Sullivan / Erdington Arts Forum

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“Jack possessed a rare combination of concrete convictions with a willingness to collaborate to get things done. When the Lakeside Children’s Centre was threatened with closure it was Jack’s ability to draw people together from across the political spectrum that ensured we won the case for it to remain open.

“His influence took a grassroots campaign right to the corridors of people; he gave people a platform to speak rather than presuming to speak for him. I have lost count of the number of local people Jack described as ‘remarkable’. He was undoubtedly a remarkable man himself who has left an indelible imprint on our community and will be sorely missed.”

Andy Winmill / Director, Urban Devotion

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“Today we lost a true democrat.  Jack was a principled politician who fervently believed that the democratic process could improve the lives of his residents. His natural respect for political leaders, officers and even his political adversaries revealed his own guiding principles.

“He was a man schooled in the Union, a man who excelled in the art of politics, but one who always understood its ultimate purpose. He was a great collaborator always able to put party differences aside for the greater good. He was inventive, thoughtful, and some might even say a touch mischievous, but always in the name of getting an outcome that he believed was right.

“In recent years it has been a privilege to work with him and experience his unshakable belief in the value of uniting to protect the interests of workers, and nowhere more so than in Erdington. His many battles, campaigns, and passions all bore this hallmark.

“Birmingham has lost a dedicated servant. Parliament has lost a true believer. And we have all lost a generous, inclusive friend who set a fine example.”

Andy Street / Mayor of West Midlands Combined Authority

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“The shocking news that Jack Dromey MP had passed has rocked our local community and wider. From his days as a Trade Union organiser Jack Dromey built a reputation as a formidable organiser and public speaker, skills that went on to serve him well as in his later years he moved into frontline politics. The outpouring of tributes that have been seen since demonstrate the man that Jack was and the regard with which he was held.

“Nationally Jack had a reputation as a passionate defender of worker’s rights, who had dedicated his life to the Labour movement. Eventually going on to serve in the Shadow Cabinet nationally under Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn, and Kier Starmer.

“From Jack’s rise to national fame, for his work organising and supporting the Grunwick strikes, to his most recent work supporting workers at GKN, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Jack always put solidarity with workers first”.

“While over the years Jack and I would often find ourselves as political opponents at election time; during the Covid-19 pandemic, Jack worked cross-party with my colleagues and I on the Council and with community groups to support residents through the Erdington Covid -19 Taskforce and the North Birmingham Economic recovery group working jointly with local stakeholders.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jack’s family and friends at this awful time.”

Cllr Robert Alden / Erdington Ward Councillor & Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

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“Having worked with Jack over the years on a number of issues, not least the pending closure of our site, I can honestly say that it was an honour and a privilege to call him a colleague and a friend.

“Jack was a champion for working people as a trade unionist and as an MP for Erdington he has fought tirelessly over the years for manufacturing, especially automotive in the West Midlands. As Jack would always say once a trade unionist always a trade unionist.

“His passing will be a huge loss to not just his constituents in Erdington but to the larger Labour and Trade union movement. God bless Jack.”

Frank Duffy, GKN Unite convener

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“Erdington Labour Party is devastated by the tragic loss of our brilliant Member of Parliament, Jack Dromey. Jack was a wonderful man who cared deeply about delivering a better life for the people of Erdington, Birmingham and the UK.

“He fought hard every day to work towards a society based on egalitarianism, friendship, commonality, and kindness. He has done so much for the people Erdington and the members of our Party, that we will be forever grateful for the enormous contribution he made to our lives. He will be missed deeply.”

Message from the Erdington Labour Party

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“I can’t really put into words what an inspiration Jack has been to me since I first met him in February 2010.

“He continuously encouraged and supported me in any way he could and always had unconditional belief in me.

“He was an absolutely wonderful man and the world is a much worse place without him in it. He will be sorely missed by many for the brilliant MP, trade unionist and campaigner he was or for his numerous achievements, but I will just deeply miss my friend Jack.”

Cllr Josh Jones, Stockland Green

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“I was privileged to work with Jack for the past eight months. During this time I found him very supportive, motivational, and encouraging.

“He always said to believe in yourself.  ‘There is no mountain you cannot climb, there is nothing you cannot achieve,’ that was his gift to me which will remain with me forever. I will miss him hugely.”

Naziah Rasheed / Birmingham Labour Party BAME Officer

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“It’s a measure of the way Jack lived his life that the last meeting I had with him was to discuss a memorial for Erdington families who have lost loved ones to Covid. His first thought was always to give a voice to the unheard and he genuinely listened to and cared about the community he represented.

“Whether it was campaigning for people’s jobs, highlighting injustice or fighting cuts, Jack was a true Labour man, a man of strong values who was always on the side of the underdog.

“In the last couple of years, he worked closely with the Covid-19 bereaved families and worked tirelessly to give them a voice. He never stopped working for his constituents and the people of Erdington have lost a true champion.”

Cllr Ian Ward / Leader of Birmingham City Council

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“Jack Dromey was quite simply the greatest campaigner most of us have ever worked with. From his very first sit-ins to helping marshal the votes for Harriet’s bid to become Commons Speaker, Jack was not simply a founder member of the feminist husband’s caucus, his life was a crusade for decency pursued quite literally right into the final hours of his life.

“In Birmingham we are stunned. We thought because Jack was invincible, he was indestructible. We are struggling to comprehend our loss. Britain’s second city has lost our leading citizen, our first among equals.”

Liam Byrne MP for Hodge Hill

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“I worked with Jack in Erdington for a number of years, and he was so dedicated to the people in the area. Youth Homelessness is a real problem in Erdington and across the city and Jack organised an annual event with St Basils Youth Homelessness Charity for the young people to hold their own parliament in Westminster.

“He was always striving to ensure that the corridors of power were open for the ordinary people who would not normally get a chance to be heard. He will be so badly missed by all of us in Birmingham but mostly by those in Erdington.”

Jess Phillips MP for Yardley

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“After being elected in 2017, Jack was the person who took me under his wing providing support and regularly checking in on how I was doing. If ever I felt the imposter syndrome Jack had the ability to put me at ease and always pushing me to be my absolute best.

“Jack had a remarkable ability to bring people together. Following the tragic death of my constituent Dea-John Reid, Jack and I went to visit his mother where he was a tower of strength. At the vigil mourners approached Jack and the care he displayed was a symbol of his kindness.

“I was shocked to hear of his sudden death. I had seen him days before. He was a fantastic constituency MP, of the people for the people. Jack’s passing is a devastating loss to the labour movement, Birmingham as the city he endlessly served, and to all who knew him.”

Preet Kaur Gill MP for Edgbaston

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“Jack was always such a good friend and supportive colleague to me. He was truly inspiring. A force of nature that served the people of our Erdington and our city so well for more than a decade.

“His energy and enthusiasm for Erdington was limitless – every day working and campaigning to get the best for the people he represented. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

Shabana Mahmood MP for Ladywood

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“Jack was an inspirational colleague and a generous and decent man. He campaigned tirelessly for the people of Erdington and always had time for everyone, no matter how big or small their concerns. He was a champion for workers’ rights and the real living wage and a bold and fearless voice in Parliament where he constantly spoke up for the interests of Birmingham. We all feel his loss.

“I have lost a great colleague and a good friend, and my thoughts are with Harriet and his family and the loss they have suffered. We will continue to honour his memory by supporting the people of Erdington and backing the causes which Jack worked so hard to promote.”

Steve McCabe MP for Selly Oak

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“Jack made a promise to Short Heath Fields Trust to give us a seat at the table to get our community’s voices heard by BCC and he did. In our last conversation with Jack just before Christmas he made a further commitment to support, help and work with SHFT to give our team the chance to deliver our proposal at the playing fields.

“Jack and I didn’t agree on everything, but what I do know is he was a man of his word, a gentleman and believed our community deserved better, thank you Jack for everything.”

Steve Hughes / Chair, Short Heath Fields Trust

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“Jack gave a voice to our community when many others would or could not, by listening and not being afraid of a fight. We have ruffled each other’s feathers, laughed, smiled, and had verbal tug of wars until we reached a goal we could agree on over the last 12 months. Never once did he raise his voice or be anything other than a gentleman. He gave his word we would be heard, and we were.

“Jack taught me that when people come together to fight for the same cause there is power in that. I thank you for that Jack, and for standing alongside Short Heath Residents in our fight to save our playing fields.”

Estelle Murphy / Short Heath Residents Action Group

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“Jack was a huge advocate for education not only locally but through his work nationally. He always had time for his local schools; supporting leadership, praising teachers, and instilling in our pupils the power of an active and invested local MP. We keep him and his family in our prayers at this time.”

Mr Joseph McTernan / Principal, Abbey Catholic Primary School

“All the Abbey School community were deeply saddened to hear of Jack Dromey’s passing. He was such an enthusiastic supporter of our school and the whole of Erdington, always finding time to support and engage with our pupils. His involvement with our Pupil Parliament, Chaplaincy, and School Council Teams has inspired our children as they seek to be active participants in their communities, living out British values.

“Jack was especially dedicated to supporting our pupils in their campaign against the new Nationality and Borders bill, always replying to children’s letters and showing his deep compassion for the marginalised. We began our week in school with a memorial prayer service to Jack, who we shall miss but are very thankful to have known.”

Message from everyone at Abbey Catholic Primary School

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“Jack was passionate about health issues, working to ensure that his constituents had the best possible offer in health. He was very conscious of the disadvantages that many of his constituents suffered and worked tirelessly to redress the balance.

“He was a frequent visitor to the ExtraCare Village at New Oscott. He would spend time listening, talking, and getting to know what the residents felt about issues and seeing where he could help.  That sounds a bit like it was all serious, but it wasn’t. There would be plenty of smiles and humour to go with the serious chat.

“As a public servant it was a delight and a privilege to work with him. He had the very considerable skill of being able to support, advise and encourage me whilst holding me appropriately to account for excellent service delivery on his patch.

“His gratitude and respect for the NHS was a constant throughout the pandemic and he was a huge supporter of the vaccination programme. He was present, engaged, and supportive; a tireless champion of improving the lot of the disadvantaged and a great example of a politician absolutely driven by his values who lived them out through his love of people.”

Paul Jennings / Retired CEO of NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, Chair of the ExtraCare Charitable Trust

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“I always felt with Jack that he spoke for the Erdington communities with great credibility and confidence, always asked the right questions, was aware of the important things and what was impacting the communities the most. He was able to do his job with great dignity and respect for everyone.

“He always made time for me, valued what I said and I felt he truly cared not just about me but all of the Police family.

“I found him inspiring with his zest and energy; his leadership around the Erdington Task Force was remarkable.”

Haroon Chughtai / Deputy Head, Prevent, Counter Terrorism Policing West Midlands (ex-Inspector for Erdington & Sutton Coldfield)

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“I am deeply shocked and saddened by Jack’s death. First and foremost my condolences go to his wife, Harriet Harman, and his three children.

“Jack stood up for others his whole life and served the people of Erdington tirelessly since 2010. He has been a formidable political figure for decades and a close ally of West Midlands Police.

“Jack was the Shadow Paymaster General but held a number of other Shadow ministerial positions including Shadow Minister for Policing.

“His passing is a huge loss for our region and he will be dearly missed.”

Simon Foster / West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner

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“Throughout our time working for Jack he steadfastly refused to be referred to as our manager and always said we were a team and colleagues.

“Jack was intensely proud of representing working people and the people of Erdington, both as a Member of Parliament and in his former role as Deputy General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, later Unite.

“Without fail, Jack energetically stood up for Erdington and was determined that the communities he represented achieved their full potential and were never left behind. As members of his team this drove us on to be the best we could be for him.

“We will all miss Jack immensely. His kindness, his deep affection for his family and his sheer belief in the labour movement will stay with us forever.”

Message from staff at Jack Dromey’s offices in Erdington and Westminster

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

NEWS: ‘There’s nothing you cannot achieve,’ Jack Dromey’s inspirational final words to friend and colleague

Words & original pics by Ed King – initial image supplied by Naz Rasheed

In a phone call made on the morning he died, Jack Dromey’s final words to a friend and colleague were a last shot of his trademark inspiration.

Speaking to each other early on Friday 7 January, Mr Dromey ended the conversation with words of encouragement for Birmingham Labour’s BAME Officer, telling Naziah Rasheed: “…there’s nothing you cannot do. There’s nothing you cannot achieve.”

An inspiration to many across both the pollical spectrum and his own constituency, with tributes pouring in since the announcement of his death, Jack Dromey’s final words to his close party ally stand as a fitting epitaph to his dedication to help and support others.

Talking exclusively to Erdington Local, Naziah remembered her final phone call with Jack Dromey, where she was seeking help with party business on the upcoming local elections.

She told: “He was at home (Highcroft Villas, Erdington) and was saying he had to jump in the shower as he was running late, because he had to go to Castle Vale to meet Ray Goodwin (Spitfire Services).

“I needed help and advice on Birmingham May 2022 local elections and Jack was my go-to guy if things got tough, I’m on the executive board and there’s a lot of work with selections coming up. My confidence was low, and I was saying: ‘Jack, I’m just not sure I can do this.’

“He listened and just calmly said to me: ‘Naz, there is nothing you cannot do. There is nothing you cannot achieve.’ And that was it. Those were the last words he spoke to me.

“This is something that he always used to tell me. ‘I’ve seen you doing things, I’ve seen you speaking to people. I can see what you can do… and there is nothing you can’t do.’ He used to say that to me all the time.

“There were so many times I thought I won’t be able to do something, but by having him by my side I actually did it. And did it well.

“This is what he was repeating (in our phone call), he was telling me ‘Naz there is nothing you cannot do.’

“It made me feel there was somebody who believed in me, somebody who thought I had the capacity and the ability to achieve things.”

Naziah Rasheed had been appointed Birmingham Labour’s BAME Officer following her work supporting Labour’s West Midlands mayoral candidate, Liam Byrne MP.

One of her first community projects was a belated Eid Fair in Stockland Green, bringing multi-faith communities together at a safe time to celebrate following Covid lockdown restrictions.

Held at Highcroft Community Centre, the Eid Fair was attended by hundreds of people and families from all religious and cultural backgrounds – with Jack Dromey supporting Naziah in her first major outreach event.

Naziah added: “The Eid Fair was a good opportunity to bring the communities together, to celebrate something together. I asked Jack, you know what are your thoughts on this? And he said this is a brilliant idea, something we’ve never done in the past, and I’ll support you.

“We had a really good turnout. And Jack was taking tables in and out of the (Highcroft Community) centre. He helped with the cleaning afterwards, with me, my husband, and the kids.

“He was there until we were done at the centre, even the night before he came to see how the preparations were going. His support was always there for me.

“He was not one of those MPs who just not come back to you, who would just listen to you then forget about it. He would act upon it.

“He was a role model to me. He was a very good friend at the same time. I will miss him tremendously.”

Following Jack Dromey’s sudden death on Friday 7 January, tributes from across the community have flooded in – with people who knew and worked with him laying flowers outside his constituency office on Mason Road.

The first bouquet was laid by Short Heath Fields Trust, a local campaign group who have been fighting Birmingham City Council plans to build house on Short Heath Playing Fields (SHFT) – with Jack Dromey brokering often heated meetings between the Council Leader’s office and SHFT.

Often at professional loggerheads with each other, a healthy respect was fostered between Jack Dromey and the SHFT campaigners – with the long standing union man often celebrating their tenacity and achievements.

Featuring a red rose and a ribbon emblazoned with ‘JACK’, the card accompanying the flowers form SHFT states: ‘Jack, you kept your word. Promised & delivered us a seat at the table’ – reiterating a commitment the MP had once made to the campaigners.

More flowers began to appear outside the constituency office from Friday evening onward.

Further messages thanked Mr Dromey for ‘…listening to us, supporting us, and fighting to make Erdington, Birmingham and the rest of the UK a better place to live and work.’

Another bouquet carried the message: ‘Rest in peace Mr Dromey., You were a legend and legends will live forever.’

Jack Dromey was found dead at his constituency on Friday 7 January, after police were alerted following a missed meeting scheduled for 11:30am.

He is survived by his wife, Labour MP Harriet Harman, and his three children.

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

NEWS: Shock as Erdington MP Jack Dromey found dead at constituency residence

Words & pics by Ed King

Shock spread across Erdington and Westminster as Jack Dromey MP was found dead at his constituency flat earlier today.

Police were alerted after the Erdington MP had not attended scheduled meetings, gaining entry to his flat when concerns were raised by colleagues in his constituency office.

Born on 29 September 1948, the long standing “true Labour man” had held the Erdington seat since being first elected in 2010, following a career on the front line of worker disputes – serving as the Deputy General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union and Unite the Union.

Jack Dromey also became Treasurer of the Labour Party and was called to the front benches as shadow Minister for Housing under the then Labour leader Ed Milliband.

Most recently, Jack Dromey was appointed shadow Immigration Minister by Sir Keir Starmer, working tirelessly with support organisations in the UK and aboard to support people fleeing Afghanistan as the Taliban took over control of the country.

Jack Dromey is survived by his wife, Labour MP Harriet Harman, and his three children. His son, Joe Dromey, posted the following statement on Twitter earlier today: “Our dad – Jack – died suddenly today. We loved him so, so much. Rest in peace big man x”

Current Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer also paid tribute to Jack Dromey today.

He stated: “The proud son of Irish parents, Jack Dromey dedicated his life to standing up for working people through the Labour movement, becoming Deputy General Secretary of the UK’s largest trade union then a Labour MP.

“From supporting the strike at the Grunwick film processing laboratory, when he met Harriet, through to being elected to represent Birmingham Erdington in 2010, Jack lived his commitment to social justice every day.

“Jack was recognised for his determination to stand up for his constituents and he was highly respected and warmly regarded across Parliament.

“My thoughts and those of the whole Labour movement are with Harriet, their children and all those who knew and loved Jack.”

A close friend of Jack Dromey, Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward further added: “”I’m absolutely devastated at the death of my friend and colleague Jack Dromey.

“A true Labour man who served the people of Erdington with passion and dedication, Jack devoted his life to the service of others. He will be sorely missed and my thoughts are with his family at this time.”

In Erdington, Jack Dromey had recently fought alongside workers at the ill-fated GKN factory on Chester Road, voicing their plight in Parliament and brokering meetings between the international owners Melrose PLC and Unite the Union.

Mr Dromey had also been involved in the campaign to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’, brokering meetings between Birmingham City Council and local campaigners fighting to stop the proposed housing development on the green space.

He had also been fighting to get more police officers on patrol in Erdington, following the widespread cuts in law enforcement and community policing.

Just before Christmas, Jack Dromey organised for the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, to walk Erdington High Street with the new Street Pastors to see first hand the problems they faced.

A champion of the arts in Erdington, Jack Dromey was a firm supporter of local creative industries and the impact they made across the constituency – supporting the monthly Evening of Creativity events at Oikos Café and joining hundreds of people at the recent Little Amal event in October last year.

Jack Dromey was also heavily involved in the North Birmingham Economic Recovery Plan, working with regional stakeholders such as Witton Lodge Community Association and The Pioneer Groups to kickstart employment and encourage economic stability following Covid.

On Friday 7 January, the day he was found dead, Jack Dromey was scheduled to work on the Castle Vale estate – meeting with local support agencies and residents to address impact of spiralling fuel and living costs in one of the most affected areas of his constituency.

Ray Goodwin, CEO of Spitfire Services, had planned to spend the morning with the Erdington MP and local Castle Vale residents. He told Erdington Local:

“Jack was the best MP I have worked with; he became a good friend and was a thoroughly decent man.

“What you saw was what you got, there were no angles there. He was a remarkable and honourable man.

“He was at the centre of many community projects; he believed in the strength of people and community, that they were the answer to many things, and he fought for them. I’m heartbroken. I’m going to miss him terribly.”

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

NEWS: Public Space Protect Order hopes to curb anti-social behaviour in Erdington

Words by Ed King

An application is underway for a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in Erdington, giving local police the power to forcibly remove anyone from the ‘Restricted Area’ they suspect is intoxicated or causing anti-social behaviour.

Starting on the corner of Oakfield/Wood End Road, the ‘Restricted Area’ continues down to and up Orchard Road – cuts across Sutton New Road, embracing Abbey Catholic Primary School and Highclare School, then comes back up Summer Road to Six Ways Island.

If successful, the application would see a PSPO come into force on 20 December 2021 – just in time for Christmas and the New Year, when alcohol related and street crime is often known to soar. If enforced the PSBO would run for three years, staying in place until 19 December 2024.

Public consultation is currently being sought, with any ‘interested person’ invited to appeal against the order via the Birmingham Be Heard website by 19 December. An ‘interested person’ is defined as ‘someone who lives in, regularly works in, or visits the restricted area’.

Full details of the PSPO application for Erdington, alongside a place to comment or appeal, can be found here: www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/place/erdington-public-space-protection-order-consultati/

Led by the North Local Partnership Delivery Group (LPDG), the application for a PSPO in Erdington is seen by many constituency stakeholders as an essential step to help clean up the High Street and encourage public safety.

Policing across the West Midlands has suffered cuts of £175m since 2010, resulting in the loss of over 2200 police officers – including 50% of all allocated to community policing. The lack of uniformed officers on patrol has often been cited as the reason anti-social behaviour and street crimes started to spike.

Erdington previously held a PSPO which ran out in 2018, with many questioning why it was not immediately reinstated.

Terry Guest, Erdington Town Centre Manger, explained: “Now, there’s a few stories about why it hasn’t been renewed. One is that someone objected on the grounds that the PSPO included beggars, and there was an objection against the human rights of beggars – because initially the order included the removal of beggars off the High Street.

“It’s a bit of a contentious issue because one of the things I’ve been working with the police with is to help anyone begging if they’re homeless.

“No one should be homeless, and we’ve done quite a lot of work with the police and their partners in helping people who are homeless.

“There’s another aspect to this and that’s professional begging, where people aren’t homeless, aren’t poor, and are begging on the High Street as a crime basically.”

Jack Dromey MP for Erdington recently joined the Erdington Street Pastors and West Midlands Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, on a tour of Erdington High Street.

When asked about the application for a PSPO in the area he told Erdington Local: “I strongly support the reintroduction of a PSPO, I strongly support it. There’s no question of it, one of the problems here on the High Street is street drinking and sometimes the bad behaviour that goes with that.

“Now there is an issue in relation to often vulnerable people who congregate here, therefore there needs to be support for those people to divert them from behaving badly in our community.

“Having said that I’ve just seen earlier today an incident with four people, one of who was clearly drunk – and this is 10am – who blocked the pavement and there was woman trying to get by with her buggy and they wouldn’t let her get by.

“Now that kind of behaviour is absolutely not acceptable, so clamping down on street drinking I think is an essential part in making people feel safe about coming to their High Street.”

As Erdington Ward Councillors, Robert Alden and Gareth Moore have been championing the fight to get a Public Space Protection Order restored in Erdington ever since the previous one expired without the Council renewing it.

Cllr Alden, who is also Director and Vice Chair of Erdington Business Improvement District, said:

“Sadly the Council had not been acting with the urgency required to get the PSPO back in place in Erdington, despite all the efforts of the local Police and BID in providing evidence.

“Therefore, we have been demanding the Council get this moving and recently brought the Chief Executive down to Erdington High Street to meet with the BID, local police team and ourselves to discuss the need for the Erdington PSPO and the need for the Council to work with the Erdington community to help make our High Street safer.

“Thankfully following this visit and meetings with senior officers from Community Safety in the Council we have managed to get the consultation launched for reintroducing the PSPO”.

Cllr Moore added: “We have worked with the Police to also get the area the new PSPO will cover enlarged so that it can help tackle areas of concern in wider Erdington as well, for example down Station Road and Church Road.

“It is vital that residents now take part in the consultation supporting the PSPO for Erdington so that it can be approved to commence before Christmas and help keep residents safe.

“Thank you to the efforts of local Police, Town Centre Manager and businesses for working with us to help force the Council to finally get the consultation launched”.

For more on the application for a PSBO in Erdington visit www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/place/erdington-public-space-protection-order-consultati/

NEWS: Councillor Penny Holbrook found dead at Abbey Road home

Words by Ed King

Stockland Green Councillor Penny Holbrook was found dead at her Abbey Road home on Sunday 21 November, aged 43.

A statement released by Councillor Holbrook’s family said: “We are devastated to announce the death of our beloved Penny. As you will appreciate, this has come as a huge shock to Penny’s family, friends and loved ones.

“Penny was a much-loved daughter, aunt, sister, and friend who always found time to help others and will be missed by so many people. We are heartbroken by this news. As her family, we ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time.”

Joining the council in May 2003, Penny Holbrook was only 25 when began representing the Stockland Green ward.

Cllr Holbrook was re-elected in 2004 but lost out to Matt Bennett (Con) in 2008 by only 72 votes.

Then in 2010 she took back Stockland Green with 1760 more votes than her closest rival, retaining the ward ever since. She also sat as Chair of Housing and Neighbourhoods Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

Set to stand for Stockland Green again in the 2022 local elections, Penny Holbrook had been invited back after members of the local Labour party voted overwhelming to present her again, receiving 28 votes for ‘yes’ and only four votes for ‘no’.

Penny Holbrook was raised in Falcon Lodge, Sutton Coldfield, and attended John Wilmott School.

Having also worked in Erdington MP Jack Dromey’s constituency office, Penny had strong ties with the area and was well known by many local residents.

MP for Erdington Jack Dromey said: “Penny was one of Birmingham’s finest, a fierce champion of her beloved Erdington which she served so well.

“She worked for me in my constituency office and served with distinction as a councillor for Stockland Green.

“Local people loved her and there was no problem too big that she could not tackle to help them.

“The loss of Penny is absolutely tragic but her memory lives on. RIP dear Penny.”

Standing for Stockland Green, Penny Holbrook represented the ward alongside Cllr Josh Jones.

Cllr Jones added: “The loss of a friend and comrade is always hard to take, but the loss Penny is a devastating blow to me as we were not just Ward colleagues but close friends who were there to support each other and have helped each other in our political and personal lives ever since.

“She was a great Councillor who achieved great things in Stockland Green, but more importantly was a wonderful person.

“She will be missed tremendously by the people of Stockland Green, her comrades in the Labour Party, but most of all by her friends and family.”

Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward, who ran against Penny Holbrook to become Birmingham Leader by only one vote in 2015, added:

“I am shocked and saddened at the death of my friend and colleague Penny Holbrook. My thoughts and condolences go to her family and friends at this tragic time.”

NEWS: Workers at GKN Chester Road factory vote ‘yes’ on redundancy package

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Unite, Jack Dromey MP, Google Street View

Workers at the GKN Chester Road factory have voted ‘yes’ to a redundancy package offered by GKN’s owners, Melrose PLC.

After months of fighting the factory’s closure, including the threat of industrial action in September, the 500 plus workforce have now agreed to take the severance pay.

Referring to the Chester Road closure as a “betrayal of a highly skilled workforce”, a statement from Unite the Union told how workers at the GKN Chester Road plant had “little option but to accept a redundancy scheme offered by GKN Melrose after the company refused to reconsider the union’s plan to save the plant despite the government’s request for it to do so.”

Melrose PLC announced their plans to close the Chester Road plant in January 2021, which would see the loss of 519 jobs and major disruption to the local automotive supply chain – GKN Chester Road are a significant supplier to the neighbouring Jaguar Land Rover factory.

Following intervention from Unite the Union, Jack Dromey MP for Erdington, Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward, and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Melrose eventually entered discussions to explore another possibility to the closure.

However, Erdington Local learned the multi-million pound venture capitalists took only a matter of minutes to reject any alternative plans – committing to the Chester Road closure and sealing the fate of over 500 workers.

A further vote was then passed by Chester Road workers to accept the redundancy package from Melrose PLC.

Following the announcement workers would be taking ‘a negotiated redundancy package’, Jack Dromey MP for Erdington said:

“What cannot now be allowed to happen is for the plant and the 519 strong workforce to be thrown on the scrapheap.

“This plant is a site of British manufacturing excellence with a world-class manufacturing capability. The skill and experience of the workforce is irreplaceable and the envy of many in the industry.

“It is utterly shameful that GKN/Melrose have chosen to close the plant and turn their back on this loyal workforce. The loss of 519 good, well-paid jobs in an area of high deprivation – the fifth most deprived constituency in the country – will be a hammer blow.”

“The closure of the plant by GKN/Melrose is a betrayal of the British national interest.

“Never again can our manufacturing base be left so exposed to the greed and short-termism of private equity-style firms who have no interest in the long-term strategic interests of the British automotive industry.

“While the company have chosen to walk away, I firmly believe that the Chester Road site can have a bright future through an alternative use being found.

“I will continue to work closely with the workers’ union, Unite, the Government, the Mayor of the West Midlands and the Leader of Birmingham City Council to explore this option.

“The workers can be assured of my unrelenting support to leave no stone unturned to keep production going and protect manufacturing in the West Midlands.”

Unite national officer Des Quinn added: “For 10 months our members at GKN have fought hard to save this plant but it is apparent that GKN Melrose was never prepared to reconsider its original decision.

“Having failed to get Melrose to change its mind, the government must not fail the GKN workers again.

“The government must play a dynamic role in finding a company to take over Chester Road and save as many jobs as possible in the process because these are the skills our country needs if we’re to step up to the demands of climate action.”

To find out more about GKN Automotive visit www.gknautomotive.com
For more from Unite the Union visit www.unitetheunion.org
For more from Jack Dromey MP for Erdington visit www.jackdromey.co.uk  

NEWS: Plans to Save Short Heath Playing Fields “misinterpreted” during high-level meeting with Birmingham City Council

Words & pics by Ed King (pics taken before current Covid/social distancing restrictions)

Local campaigners were left feeling “misinterpreted” this week, following a high-level meeting with Birmingham City Council to discuss proposed developments on Short Heath Playing Fields.

On Monday 22nd March, members of Short Heath Fields Trust met for the second time with Council Leader Ian Ward – joined by Jack Dromey MP for Erdington, Cllr Penny Holbrook (Stockland Green), and senior officials from Birmingham City Council’s housing and regeneration teams.

The meeting was a chance for proposals from both sides to be heard and discussed, with the local community fighting to save the beloved green space which Birmingham City Council have earmarked for a new housing estate.

But despite being promised “a meaningful discussion” members of Short Heath Fields Trust felt their proposal was all but ignored, with Birmingham City Council pricing their plans for a “basic community hub” and simple sports facilities at a “ridiculous” £6.1million plus running costs – including £2.8m for the land and £1.6m for development contingencies.

Talking to Erdington Local after the meeting, campaigners said: “To be honest it started very well, however that didn`t last – the tone of the conversation became very negative towards us.

“We feel the atmosphere in our first meeting was really positive but felt that some members in this latest meeting were very unengaging. It has been a very hard fight to get our community heard and while the conservation was there with some, we felt others were not listening.

“Some commitments were made for us to meet with the planners and a chance to hash things out. But our community`s proposal was very much misinterpreted – to the extent we could question that it had been read.

“We always knew this was a hard fight, as with any battles there are ups and downs. And whilst we didn`t feel this meeting had the momentum or content we were expecting we still have our ‘seat at the table’.

“However, we do feel that more support could have been offered by those that claim to see the value in our community’s needs and ideas for the green space.”

When asked about the multi-million pound project fee Birmingham City Council gave their proposal, representatives of Short Heath Fields Trust told Erdington Local: “We believe the council’s costings are poles apart from what our community proposal put forward.

“How can Birmingham City Council expect us to find £6.1million – and this when our proposal only talked about painting white lines and erecting goal posts. Even the basic community hub we talked about was costed at £500,000; it’s ridiculous.”

During the meeting, held via Microsoft Teams due to continuing Covid restrictions, assurances did come from Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward that no developments would take place on the site until a compromise had been reached.

In a statement made direct to Erdington Local, Cllr Ward said: “I want to thank the community representatives, who are clearly passionate about the future of the Short Heath Playing Fields site.

“We had a productive meeting, with plenty of common ground and we’ve agreed that nothing will happen on the site until we’ve worked more closely with the wider community.”

Reaffirming the commitment for compromise from the Council Leader,  Councillor Penny Holbrook (Stockland Green) told Erdington Local: “If the residents want to come up with an alternative plan for the housing developments, that’s fine.

“Cllr Ward (at the meeting) spoke very clearly about how this won’t go forward until there’s an agreement between the community and the council.”

However, campaigners also questioned a seeming U-turn by Cllr Holbrook – who having previously stated her support appeared fully committed to the council’s proposal during Tuesday’s meeting.

When challenged about her stance, Cllr Holbrook told Erdington Local: “I absolutely believe there needs to be housing on the site (Short Heath Playing Fields) because we need to change the housing offering in Stockland Green.

“What I am 100% committed to is making sure all the reinvestment is given back to the community – to the Short Heath Fields Trust, they should be in charge of what funding comes out of this and it should be entirely available to community to decide what happens next.”

Short Heath Fields Trust will now be meeting with Terry Webb, Principal Housing Development Officer for Birmingham City Council, to discuss the development and to challenge the £6.1million+ costing for their proposal.

Jack Dromey MP for Erdington also remains committed to the conversation over plans for Short Heath Playing Fields, having spent months bringing the concerns of his constituents to the highest level of local government.

For more information about the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields, visit the group’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/1007069176404521

For more on Short Heath Fields Trust, visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com 

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