OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As your MP and a local resident, I am often told of your concerns about crime and antisocial behaviour in the area, particularly knife crime.

Worryingly, the B23 postcode had the highest number of reported knife crime incidences in Birmingham last year, according to the latest figures. This is not a coincidence, but it is the direct result of the Tory Government’s failure to tackle the root causes of knife crime.

Under the Tories, knife crime has gone up by 77% since 2015. Ministers have slashed funding for vital public services, such as education, health, and youth work. They have cut 21,000 police officers since the last Labour Government, leaving our streets less safe and less protected.

However, this can change. Labour has a plan to invest in our communities and give our young people their future back. Labour will:

  • Extend the ban on zombie knives to ninja swords.
  • Establish an end-to-end review of online knife sales.
  • Close the loophole that allows online marketplaces to sell dangerous knives.
  • Introduce a new Young Futures programme to establish new youth hubs, with both mental health workers and youth workers.

For too long, the Tories have been soft on knife crime and soft on the causes of knife crime. Labour would put the safety and security of our community at the heart of its government.

Together, we can end the knife crime epidemic and build a better future for Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale.

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

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

I hope everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale had a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful new year.

I’d like to congratulate Renata from SS Mary and John Catholic Primary School for winning my Christmas Card competition. And well done to the runners-up, Valentina and Burham, whose cards were fantastic.

2024 is both a year of opportunity and challenge. For more than 13 years, the Tory government has let down people in our communities, failing to address the key issues that affect us, such as the rising cost of living, the lack of GP and dental appointments, the surge in crime, the proliferation of HMOs and the decline of Erdington High Street. They ignored our repeated applications to the Levelling Up Fund, which would have revitalised our High Street.

Making matters worse, the Tories’ shameful Rwanda plan is in tatters, and they have no clear plan to fix the broken system they created. They have squandered billions of pounds on vanity projects and crony contracts, while cutting vital public services and support for the most vulnerable.

This year, our country will face a crucial choice: more neglect and chaos with the Tories, or credible leadership with Labour. Labour has a plan to rebuild Britain, invest in our NHS, create good jobs, make our communities safer and stronger, and get Britan’s future back.

As your local MP and a proud resident of this area, I will always stand up for you and our community.

Together, we can make 2024 a year of hope and change.

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

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As 2023 comes to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my work as your Member of Parliament for Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale over the past year.

As your representative in Parliament, I have spoken 39 times to raise a variety of issues that matter to you. I have spoken six different times about the problems on Erdington High Street, which is the beating heart of our community.

I have raised concerns about the lack of GP appointments, along with mental health services, the mortgage crisis, knife crime, antisocial behaviour, HMOs, the cost of living crisis, levelling up, and much more. I have always done my best to be your voice in Westminster and to hold the government to account, and I will continue to do so.

As your local MP, I have also been working hard to help you with your individual problems and concerns. I have responded to 1,975 pieces of policy casework and sent out over 9,000 emails to assist you with various local issues.

I have also visited local schools, businesses, charities, and community groups to hear your views and support your ambitions.

As someone who lives locally, I am proud to represent our community in Parliament and in our constituency. I will continue to work hard for you and to fight for a better future for all.

Finally, I want to wish everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

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

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As your local MP representing Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale, I care about the issues that affect you and our community. Here are some of the things I have done in the past month:

I recently hosted a meeting with Simon Foster, the Police and Crime Commissioner, Chief Superintendent Richard North, local traders, and officials from Birmingham City Council. 

We discussed the ongoing issues of crime and antisocial behaviour on Erdington High Street.

Importantly, they heard concerns from our traders, recognising the need for more robust measures to enhance security and enforcement, and the need to work more closely to combat crime in the area.

I was also approached by traders on Slade Road who raised concerns about issues they were experiencing, including theft, antisocial behaviour, and the presence of sex workers. I empathised with the challenges facing local traders and will be following up on their concerns and working towards a constructive solution. 

I recently participated in a National Day of Action for Safer Streets to prevent road accidents, injuries, and deaths. As part of this effort, I’m backing the campaign to reduce speeds to 30mph on local roads. I would urge everyone to have their say by taking part in the consultation – please do get in touch if you want to know more. 

Despite 13 years of Conservative cuts to policing, I will not give up on fighting crime and antisocial behaviour in our area. I will keep working to secure the resources we need to keep our community safe. 

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

NEWS: Meeting held to tackle “endemic” crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre

Words & pics by Ed King

A meeting was held last week between West Midlands Police and High Street retailers, looking at ways to tackle the “endemic” crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre.

In attendance from West Midlands Police were the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, and Chief Superintendent Richard North – alongside Inspector Shameem Ahmed and Seargent Nicola Hooper, who oversee the Erdington police teams.

The meeting was held at St Barnabas Church, Erdington High Street, and was closed off to members of the public.

Representing the local retail community were managers and staff from a handful of High Street businesses including Superdrug, Card Factory, Erdington Pet Centre, The Church Tavern, and BoyleSports UK – the latter petitioning the local police to tackle alleged drug dealing outside their outlet at 210A High Street.

“Why can’t we have a dispersal order?” questioned a senior staff member from BoyleSports UK, asking the police directly what they are doing to challenge the alleged dealers.

“I don’t want these people outside my shop…” she continued, “they need to be gone, they’re a blight on the High Street. It’s relentless, they start dealing from 8am.”

Organised by the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton and Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), last week’s meeting was the continuation of conversations between the High Street business community and law enforcement representatives that began in February this year.

But whilst many retailers welcome any attempts at addressing the issues affecting the High Street, many others have pulled back from the meetings – telling Erdington Local they have stopped engaging with local police or politicians, who they feel are failing to get to grips with the problems or offer any effective solutions.

When the lack of local businesses in attendance was raised at the recent meeting, one longstanding High Street retailer explained: “The shop keepers have been at the first and fourth meetings, and they don’t see any change. What’s the point of calling the police when it takes them over one hour to respond.”

Another retailer supported the frustrations reportedly felt by many High Street businesses, telling the group: “There are no consequences to what they (the shoplifters) do. And there’s a lot of apathy from (High Street) retailers… nothing seems to get done.”

However, Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, who’s office invited local business to attend the meeting last week, was resolute that local businesses had been given adequate chance to be involved. She told: “We went to virtually every shop on the High Street… the people who aren’t here don’t want to be here. We can only work with what we’ve got.”

Further addressing the local businesses, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster – who has visited Erdington High Street several times – told: “It’s (crime and anti-social behaviour) endemic… we’re hearing about problems again and again. The issue is not being gripped… for a variety of different explanations.”

He continued: “A big part of the answer is making sure we rebuild community policing… visible policing helps keep families and communities safe,” before warning retailers “don’t underestimate the task” the police had in front of them to tackle crime on Erdington High Street.

Chief Superintendent Richard North also confirmed he had “seen some of the challenges and appreciate the frustrations”, and that he would “defend the officers here who are dealing with crimes across the constituency”.

He further told how West Midlands Police were recruiting new officers, but it would take time to train any incoming staff “up to independent control status”. Although Chief Superintendent Richard North did confirm that “going forward” there should be “more officers” deployed into Erdington.

He added: “As recruitment settles down, we should be in a better position.”

Outside of recruiting and training new police officers, there is also a ’10 Point Plan’ currently being worked through by Birmingham City Council to address issues on the High Street from street lighting to police presence.

Ending the meeting everyone in attendance was invited to comment, with Erdington Ward Councillor Gareth Moore telling: “It’s great that we met today but there needs to be more progression… I don’t want to meet again in a couple of months and be talking about the same things.”

Paulette Hamilton MP added: “I want to be able to walk up and down that High Street and feel as safe as I used to.”

The next meeting, which is open to all retailers in Erdington Town Centre, is scheduled for February 2024.

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As your local MP for Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale, I am committed to fighting for the future of Erdington High Street, which faces many challenges. One of the biggest concerns I hear from you is about the impact of gambling on our High Street.

That is why I recently objected to the plans of a betting shop to extend their opening hours as I’m concerned it would fuel crime and anti-social behaviour in our area. I have urged the planning committee to reject this application.

Another issue that I was contacted about was the future of the New Inns Pub, which is a historic landmark and a vital community hub for our area. In response to my letter, I’m glad the owners have confirmed the building will remain a local pub and continues to serve our community for years to come.

I have also invited the West Midlands Chief Constable, to join me for a walk along Erdington High Street. I want him to see and hear the challenges that our local businesses and residents are facing.

Our High Street continues to be let down by the Tory Government, who earlier this year rejected our Levelling Up Fund Bid.

This fund should have helped areas like ours that have been left behind. Instead, affluent areas like the Prime Minister’s own constituency received millions of pounds in funding.

Erdington is my home, and I will continue to fight each and every day for the investment our area deserves.

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

NEWS: Birmingham City Council agree Financial Recovery Plan which could see Erdington assets sold and a rise in Council Tax

Words by Ed King

On Monday 25 September, Birmingham’s elected officials approved a Financial Recovery Plan which could see assets from Erdington and across the city sold to pay off the Council’s debt, as well as a potential rise in Council Tax introduced.

In a heated four hour Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), councillors from the city’s ten constituencies debated the two Section 114 notices recently issued – which effectively declared the city ‘bankrupt’, highlighting Birmingham City Council (BCC) does not have enough financial reserves to balance its books – before voting on a four point strategy presented by BCC Chief Executive Deborah Cadman.

The first recommendation in the BCC Financial Recovery Plan was to ‘Agree to accept the Section 114 notice issued on 5th September 2023’, allowing the Council to move forward and work with government appointed commissioners. The vote was carried.

The following three recommendations outlined approaches that could either save or generate money for BCC, including an ‘Assets Review to identify options to raise funds’ – which could pave the way for Erdington’s libraries, parks, community hubs, and leisure centres being sold on the commercial market, alongside other BCC assets from across the city.

Also included were spending control measures until emergency and balanced budgets could be approved, a potential ‘Organisational Redesign’ of ‘services around citizens’, and an ‘Income Review to maximise sustainable income from all sources’ – including Business Rates, Council Tax, and Grants. The vote for these recommendations was also carried.

According to BCC’S official list of property published in 2019 – the latest Erdington Local could find – the Erdington constituency has 464 assets owned by Birmingham City Council, excluding social housing and operational public highways.

These include social hubs such as both Erdington and Kingstanding Leisure Centres, Highcroft Community Centre, Elim Pentecostal Church, the Magnet Centre, The British Legion Social Club in Perry Common, Stockland Green Sports Centre, and Lakeside Childrens and Family Learning Centre.

These Erdington facilities could now be sold to address the financial crisis faced by Birmingham City Council.

Birmingham City Council could also look to sell the green spaces in its portfolio, which according to the 2019 published portfolio includes allotments across Erdington – from Castle Vale to Wyrley Birch – Erdington Playing Fields, Twickenham Road Playing Fields, Short Heath Playing Fields, Spring Lane Playing Fields, and Yenton Playing Fields.

Larger public spaces such as Brookvale Park, Rookery Park, Highcroft Park, and Pype Hayes Park could also be sold – alongside Perry Common and Witton Lakes.

Also back under question is Erdington Library, which recently fought off a proposal from BCC that would have seen its entire facility squeezed into the corner children’s library area, and Erdington Baths, which was recently promised £2m from BCC to aid the development of an Enterprise Hub – as delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA).

Birmingham City Council is facing a projected deficit of £87m for 2023/24 and legal bill of ‘between £650 million and £760 million’ for new claims over equal pay, having already remunerated thousands of historic claimants over £1bn in liabilities.

In response to the growing financial crisis faced by BCC, the first Section 114 notice was issued by Birmingham City Council’s Interim Director of Finance, Fiona Greenway, on 5 September.

A following notice was then issued on 21 September, alongside a further Section 5 notice from the City Solicitor, after calls of inaction over plans for a workable job evaluation scheme.

Ahead of commissioners coming to take over Birmingham’s finances – as appointed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – a Financial Recovery Plan was published by the BCC Chief Executive, Deborah Cadman, on 25 September.

An Extraordinary General Meeting was held that evening, with all councillors requested to attend, to debate and vote on the recommendations presented.

Council Leader John Cotton (Glebe Farm and Tile Cross, Labour) was the first elected official to speak, stating “(Birmingham City) Council is at a crossroads” and recognising the “severe challenges that we face”.

Cllr Cotton went on to “apologise to the people of Birmingham” for the “stark choices” and “worrying times” as the City presents a plan to save itself from financial ruin.

Erdington Ward councillor and Leader of Birmingham Conservatives, Robert Alden, was next to speak, acknowledging the “sad day for the city” and “tragic” circumstances Birmingham City Council now found itself in, following a “shameful amount of inaction across the summer” from the Council leadership.

Cllr Alden further presented a litany of official opportunities and advice given to BCC to address the equal pay liabilities over recent years, as well as highlighting the debt accrued was “a council issue” and that “the city of Birmingham has a bright future ahead of it; the city of Birmingham is full of amazing people.”

Alden added:  “And the city will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of this mess that’s been created by the Labour administration.”

A total of 30 local councillors stood up to address the Lord Mayor and Council Chamber during the EGM on Monday, 25 September – including Cllr Alden’s counterpart in the Erdington Ward, Cllr Gareth Moore.

Cllr Moore was quick to admit he was “quite frankly embarrassed and ashamed” over the “unprecedented” financial crisis facing the city.

He added: “Birmingham is an amazing city full of passionate people with a rich and diverse history, and yet the reputation and finances of this Council have been ruined by chronic mismanagement by the Labour leadership”.

No councillors from any of the remining six political Wards in the Erdington constituency spoke at the EGM, although time cut short the requests from six elected officials who were not given the chance to address the Chamber.

Commissioners appointed by the DLUHC will now begin working with Birmingham City Council to address the financial crisis.

NEWS: Erdington Ward Councillor issues open letter to Council Leader asking for ‘transparency and honesty’ about cuts to services or selling of assets following Section 114 notice

Words by Ed King

Erdington Ward Councillor and the Leader of Birmingham Conservatives, Robert Alden, has issued an open letter to the Leader of Birmingham City Council (BCC) calling for “transparency and honesty” over plans to save the City following the Section 114 notice issued on 5 September – including any proposed cuts to services or selling of Council assets.

Sent to Cllr John Cotton (Glebe Farm & Tile Cross, Labour) earlier today, the letter identifies 13 separate requests for information and documentation – asking for all to be included in the “document pack” issued ahead of an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on 25 September.

Click here to download a PDF of the letter issued from Cllr Alden to Cllr Cotton on 19 September

Following the issuing of a Section 114 notice, the Labour run Birmingham City Council declared it was unable to meet the financial requirements to run the city – citing a projected deficit of £87m for 2023/24 and legal bill of ‘between £650 million and £760 million’ for new claims over equal pay.

The EGM on 25 September will be when the Council will meet to discuss the Cabinet’s plans to pull the Local Authority back from financial ruin – including any potential cuts to public services and any assets within the City’s portfolio that could be sold.

Included in the letter sent by Cllr Alden to Cllr Cotton are calls for “all correspondence” between the Cabinet “relating to the issuing of the s114 notice”, including the date and times of phone calls.

It also asks the Council Leader to release “reports and briefings to Cabinet Members” from the last four years about the Job Evaluation Scheme, a “list of dates and times Officers have emailed” to the Leader’s office about equal pay in the last six years, and “the public and private cabinet reports of 2017 and 2019 relating to the waste dispute resolution”.

There are further specific requests to see any “proposals” sent to the Department of Housing, Levelling Up, and Communities (DHLUC) since Cllr Cotton was elected as Council Leader in May 2023 – alongside any “financial measures including solutions/savings/cuts/sales” that have been suggested by the City as part of the recovery package.

After the shock announcement of the Section 114 notice on 5 September, concerns have been mounting across Birmingham about where the money will come from to balance the Council’s books – as managed by an external team of commissioners, appointed by the DHLUC.

Birmingham City Council Chief Executive Deborah Cadman has already outlined aspects of the City’s £2.4bn property portfolio which could be sold, including museums, art galleries, and even the newly built Library of Birmingham.

In Erdington, public assets previously earmarked for community use and constituency redevelopment initiatives are now once again under threat – despite commitments from Birmingham City Council to finance and support the projects.

Public buildings in Erdington that could now be sold include Erdington Library, which recently fought off plans to decimate its facilities to make way for a developments led by Adult Social Care.

Erdington Baths could also find itself on the commercial market, despite recently securing funding from BCC and the West Midlands Combined Authority to become a new Enterprise Hub – designed and delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA).

Campaigners for Short Heath Playing Fields are also preparing to once again fight off potential developments on the green space that do not pertain to community sports – after a three year battle to stop BCC’s previous plans to build an 84 strong housing estate on the parkland.

Before leaving office, previous Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward had issued a license agreement to SHFT giving them responsibility for Short Heath Playing Fields until May 2024. Cllr Ward further stated in a letter to Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton that regarding any potential sales BCC’s “intention will be to market it as a sports field.”

A spokesperson for SHFT told Erdington Local: “For the last three years our community battled to save these playing fields and be in a position where they are secured for future use.

“There are few places left for us to use for sporting activities and we are very concerned that this will result in promises made being broken, and our playing fields being sold off for something other than sporting activities.”

In a separate statement issued today, Cllr Alden added: “Birmingham Local Conservatives are clear the sale of cultural and heritage assets would be totally unacceptable, they were left for the people of Birmingham to enjoy in perpetuity not for a Labour Council to flog off to fix their mistakes.”

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

I hope you enjoyed the summer break. As for me, August has been another busy month, tirelessly working to get the best for our community.

Recently, I proudly stood with residents to oppose the latest planning application for a 7-bed HMO on Gravelly Lane, which would have made it the 209th HMO in our area. It’s no secret that our communities in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale have been grappling with an influx of HMOs, and the associated problems that follow.

Thankfully, our campaign successfully persuaded Birmingham City Council to reject the application, making it clear that we don’t need any more HMOs in our neighbourhoods.

Another matter that was bought to my attention was the speculation of the future of Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre in Kingstanding. The Centre holds a special place in my heart as it’s where I first worked as a district nurse, so I know how important the Centre is for local people.

I wrote to the CEO of NHS Birmingham and Solihull seeking clarification. His swift reply provided assurances that the Centre will stay at its current location for the foreseeable future, however, concerns remain about the state of the building that are under careful observation.

Places like Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre provide vital services to local people. Sadly, after 13 years of Tory neglect, our local NHS centres are at risk. Only a Labour Government can fix this mess, save our NHS, and prioritise the health needs for communities like ours.

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

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

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

I hope everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale is looking forward to the summer break and spending some valuable time with their family. Although Parliament is in summer recess, my work in our community will continue throughout.

Recently, I was made aware of a planning application that proposed to convert the Royal Oak Pub into a 10-bed HMO. The property is located in Stockland Green ward, in an area that already has a significant number of HMOs. I led a campaign calling on local people to object to the planning application, and our petition collected the support of 398 concerned residents.

I’m delighted that Birmingham City Council listened to residents’ concerns and refused the application. This shows what can be achieved when a determined community works together.

Also in July, our amazing NHS marked its 75th Anniversary. I’m proud to have worked in the NHS as a nurse, first training as a district nurse in Kingstanding and then dedicating 25 years to supporting people across Birmingham. Living in Erdington, I still rely on and cherish our local NHS services.

The NHS was Labour’s greatest achievement, founded in 1948 and continues to provide care to everyone free from the point of use. Sadly, after 13 years of Tory mismanagement, we have seen a huge decline in our health service, making it impossible to book GP appointments, creating long operation waiting times and worsening staff shortages. Our NHS is broken, and it will take a Labour government to save it.

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