NEWS: “Throw good money after bad” – concerns raised over the real cost to fix Birmingham’s Oracle IT system

Words by Ed King

(The following article is part of an ongoing investigation with Birmingham Dispatch, looking into Birmingham financial crisis and governance issues. For more on The Dispatch, and to subscribe to their daily content, visit www.birminghamdispatch.co.uk )

Birmingham City Council remains shocking unclear as to just how much money – and time – it will take to fix their beleaguered IT system, as the reality of the Oracle scandal starts to come to light.

In a fraught audit committee meeting on Wednesday 21 February, the projected costs outlined to aid with the “reimplementation” of the financail management programme came under fierce scrutiny, with Cllr Meirion Jenkins (Con, Sutton Mere Green) asking “a straight forward question” about how many more paid consultancy days were needed until the problems was solved.

Cllr Meirion underpinned his concerns by reminding the committee “these people are coming in at £1000 per day… possibly more”, mirroring more widespread concerns over the City’s arguably exuberant expenditure on outside consultants.

He further compared the local authority debacle to the private sector, where, he argued, commercial companies would decide “we don’t want to throw good money after bad.”

In response, the City’s Interim Finance Director and Section 151 Officer, Fiona Greenway, admitted the Oracle recovery team “are getting to grips” with the situation and pulled back on providing “a set of numbers and deadlines… only to come back and say, actually they’ve changed.”

Greenway, the Council officer who issued the Section 114 Notice in September 2023 – effectively declaring Birmingham as bankrupt, has recently been appointed as the Council’s Senior Oracle Responsible Officer working underneath Oracle Programme Lead, Philip Macpherson.

Macpherson, who sat on a table alone with slumped shoulders throughout the 21 February Audit Committee meeting, further confirmed his team still has “a lot of work to do” and whilst “estimates” have been put into the Council’s budget to pay for the Oracle fiasco they may have to “refine those”.

Having already reportedly cost Birmingham City Council and its taxpayers £86m, in recent budget proposals for 2024/25 and 2025/26 a further £45m was allocated across the two years to help support the Oracle recovery.

But those projected costs now appear to be more wishful thinking than a concrete cashflow forecast, as an “options analysis” is still being done to decide the best way forward with Oracle.

Greenway further stated the need for an interim financial management system to avoid “a number of risks from manual workaround” as one of the “fundamental issues”, but did not clarify the cost for putting a new system in place “through due procurement process.”

Perhaps the only point that can be agreed upon is the importance of having a functioning system in place, as no financial recovery plan is fully possible without auditable accounts. The Commissioners appointed by Central Government to clean up Birmingham’s financial mess, led by Max Caller CBE, have cited the “Oracle recovery” as one of the “fundamental elements” of their plan to save the city.

But in the same statement, made ahead of the Audit Committee last week (21 February), Commissioners also call out Birmingham City Council for not having “demonstrated the ability and capability” to follow the advice to do so.

After bringing in external auditors Grant Thornton, recommendations over Oracle made to Birmingham City Council on 31 January 2024 again highlighted “a lack of Oracle knowledge” leaving the local authority “without the capability and expertise” to properly balance their books.

But the viability of the entire system is now seemingly under question, which since it’s initial ‘go live’ date nearly two years ago has never operated successfully – leaving the UK’s largest local government to manually “adjust inaccuracies” in its ledger.

Questioning whether the City had now in fact reached “the point of no return” with Oracle, Councillor Paul Tilsley CBE (Lib Dem, Sheldon) went on to challenge previous decisions not to pull the plug on the defunct system as it could have been “cheaper for (the Council) to start again”.

Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington) also questioned the strength of any previous analysis, which was reportedly conducted after the first failings in the Oracle system were addressed, asking that “when the new options appraisal is shared, we can make sure the old one is shared too.”

However, Mark Stocks, Grant Thornton’s Head of Public Sector/Not for Profit Audit and author of their recommendations made to Birmingham City Council on 31 January, explained the Council were still “a way away from making that decision” – leaving the future of the Oracle system, and the costs involved in fixing or replacing it, hanging in the balance.

Erdington Local has asked Birmingham City Council for a breakdown to the costs for the Oracle recovery to date, and to clearly identify how much of the projected budget would be allocated to outside consultants or technical support.

It is expected the ongoing financial and logistical concerns over the Oracle system will be addressed at the Cabinet meeting held today, on Tuesday 27 February.

If you would like to get in touch about any of the issues raised in this article, or around Birmingham City Council’s ongoing financial crisis, please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

Our local Libraries in North Birmingham are vital community hubs helping to support residents of all ages. Erdington Library in particularly has a brilliant children’s library, excellent staff and services. While the building itself, a Carnegie Library, is listed and a key heritage site on our High Street.

A recent investigation has revealed in the last two years 92,950 people have used Erdington Library while 31,586 people have a membership and 67,779 books have been issued. Making Erdington Library one of the busiest libraries in the city.

As residents you will know Cllr Gareth Moore and I have been fighting over the last few years for the repairs and investment into the Library that are required to ensure that the service is what residents would rightly expect.

Sadly having effectively bankrupted the Council, through their equal pay crisis and botched IT rollout, the Labour administration have now announced that they are closing 25 libraries across the city. Meaning that Erdington Library, along with all the rest in North Birmingham are at risk of closing and being sold off.

Cllr Gareth Moore and I are clear that Erdington Library, along with Kingstanding and Perry Common libraries, must be saved. It would be totally unacceptable for it to close and so we have launched a campaign to protect and save Erdington Library from closure.

Residents can rest assured we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to save our libraries.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

 

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

Sadly, January has seen the Labour Council announce they are putting up Council Tax by up to 21% across the next two years.

That means since the 2012 election, when the Labour administration was elected on a promise not to increase Council Tax, the average resident is paying £855 more, (a 77% increase in Council Tax) since 2012 by the end of next year.

It’s disgraceful that residents are being made to pay more for less services to make up for the failure of the Council Administration.

Before Christmas we had the pleasure of attending many of the wonderful Christmas events that were held; including those at Erdington Abbey Church Hall and St Barnabas School. Thank you to everyone involved with events to share the season with residents, it is really appreciated. 

Frustratingly it’s been another year of botched Christmas refuse collections. The Council advertised a new way of collecting the waste this year – effectively everyone had two collections across three weeks.

However, the dates they published didn’t match the date collections occurred meaning many residents missed refuse/recycling collections. We’ve raised this with the Council.

In what seemed like a trial for Labour imposing fortnightly collections in the future it instead proved why it would cause a massive increase in litter on the streets, e.g. Jarvis Road became covered in uncollected waste.

We’ve demand improvements from the Council and for rubbish to be cleared.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

Last month saw the latest Police All Out Day on Erdington High St, which Cllr Gareth Moore and I are pictured taking part in.

We’ve been working with the local Police and partner agencies to try and increase the enforcement of the Public Space Protection Order and secure increased visibility of Police locally. The regular Police All Out Days are a key part of increasing that visibility and thank you to the local officers for their efforts in recent months. 

Gareth and I were proud to once again help switch on the Christmas Lights this year at the Erdington BID Christmas Light Switch on event. Thank you to John, the BID manager, for his work in pulling the event together again.

Thank you to everyone who supported my campaign against the recent attempt to convert a terraced house on Orchard Road into a children’s care home. The Council policy is clear that terraced houses should not be used due to the impact it has on the surrounding area and, thankfully, the Council rejected the application following the campaign.

Residents will recall that Labour’s equal pay crisis has caused the Council to become effectively bankrupt. We will be doing all we can to protect local services and sites from Labour’s axe when they announce their new budget.

Finally, December brings a wide range of amazing community events to celebrate Christmas in Erdington – Gareth and I look forward to seeing you at some of them during the next few weeks!

We wish you all a Merry Christmas.

(This column was written for initial publication in the Erdington Local newspaper – published on 8 December)

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Recent weeks have seen further developments in the effective ‘bankruptcy’ at Labour run Birmingham City Council, with the external auditors and press raising concerns about what appears to be inappropriate and intimidatory behaviour and toxic working relationships between the Labour Party and senior officers. 

Locally, Cllr Gareth Moore and I have been monitoring the progress of the improvements to the play area and outdoor gym in Rookery Park (pictured inspecting the work recently).

The play area work has been funded by money we secured from the redevelopment of Rookery House, and we supported the Friends of Rookery Park to secure funding for the outdoor gym equipment.

We have continued our work to help keep Erdington safe and are delighted that attempts by an amusement arcade to secure 24 hour opening hours on the High Street have been rejected. This would have attracted ASB and was totally unnecessary.

We have also seen a number of other successes recently with our campaign to retain the Erdington Police Station as the base for local Police teams. This will ensure the building is retained allowing, a possible reopening of the front desk in the future, while also ensuring our Police teams are based locally. 

We are also delighted to announce that we’ve successfully fought to keep Ticket Offices at Erdington, Chester Road and Gravelly Hill Train Stations open following the recent consultation about closing them. 

Thank you to everyone who signed our petitions as part of these campaigns.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

I was honoured to join, along with local school children, the Erdington Rotary Club this month for the opening of their Peace Garden at Spring Lane Playing Fields.

Thank you to all the volunteers who helped build this lovely addition to our local area.

Much of Cllr Gareth Moore and my work this month has been connected to the damning section 114 notices about the Council effectively being declared bankrupt due to equal pay bills and the Leader of the Council refusing to act to prevent the Council collapsing despite warning from auditors, the opposition, and officers at Birmingham City Council.

Therefore, we have been meeting with officers to discuss protecting Erdington Library and to try and ensure plans to regenerate the former Erdington Baths site continue to go ahead.

We have also been meeting with officers to discuss what plans the Council have for other assets locally, such as office blocks, and to stress they must not sell any of them for exempt accommodation.

We are clear that our heritage/cultural assets and green spaces must be protected. They were left for the people of Erdington to enjoy in perpetuity, not to be flogged off to pay for the mistakes of the Labour administration. 

We have also been pressing the Council to ensure the improvements to Rookery Park we secured still happen. We are delighted to confirm they will still go ahead, following a short delay, and work begins in early October. 

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

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.”

NEWS: Erdington Rotary Club open Peace Garden at Spring Lane Playing Fields – Thursday 21 September

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Erdington Rotary Club

On Thursday 21 September, Erdington residents and people from across the district are invited to the opening of a new Peace Garden at Spring Lane Playing Fields – organised by Erdington Rotary Club (ERC).

Anyone interested in attending has been asked to arrive at around 1pm, ready for the ceremony to begin in full at 1:30pm. The event is free and all ages are welcome, with light refreshments served by the ERC.

Unveiled in line with World Peace Day, the ‘place of peace and reflection’ will be housed in the playing fields’ ‘tiny forest and ecological area’ and is the first stage of an ongoing commitment which will ‘develop over the coming years.’

Dignitaries honouring the event will include Erdington Ward Councillor and Leader of Birmingham Conservatives Robert Alden, alongside the Rotary Club’s Immediate Past District Governor (IPDG) John Parkinson and Past District Governor (PDG) Margaret Morley.

Participants will be invited to plant a Peace Rose to commemorate the occasion, with dignitaries present further invited to address the crowds. Once open to the public, ERC are also keen to bring young people into the Peace Garden’s development, hoping ‘community participation’ will further underpin the project.

Peace Gardens are described by Collins English Dictionary as ‘a public park that is dedicated to peace’,  and have an international legacy of representing nations and states situated together in a natural setting.

Whilst reports of the first ‘Peace Garden’ vary, many have been proposed and bult in the shadow of major conflicts, disputes, or disasters.

One of the most prominent Peace Gardens in England is located in front of Sheffield’s Town Hall, first built in 1938 and now containing several memorials for citizens of Sheffield who were killed in conflicts including in the Spanish Civil War and the Korean War – alongside both World Wars.

Sheffield’s Peace Gardens also contains a memorial to those killed at Hiroshima, after an internationally sanctioned atomic bomb was dropped on the city by North American forces in 1945 – reportedly killing up to 150,000 people.

Sponsored by the supermarket chain Tesco, who have an Express outlet at Six Ways near Erdington High Street, the Peace Garden at Spring Lane Playing Fields is part of the local Rotarian’s ‘Create Hope in the World’ agenda which sees the Club support many local charities and projects.

The project was further supported by £250 that ERC were awarded for environmental work with The Queen’s Green Canopy Project.

The idea for a Peace Garden came after ERC were awarded a peace pole for the work they do supporting Erdington Cricket Club and encouraging young people to play sport.

A spokesperson for Erdington Rotary Club told Erdington Local: “Club members decided to build the garden because we were awarded a peace pole by our District Leadership Team, this was in response to our very successful cricket project at Spring Lane.

“We all felt that it would be lovely for the community to have a place to meet within the local green space.

“We will be installing a bench so that people will have somewhere to sit for a while and in due course we will be planting a rose garden there as well, these will be Peace Roses and Rotary Roses.

“The garden will also be used as an educational opportunity to introduce young people to the concept of positive peace. We feel that such a facility is much needed in the modern world.

“This is a Rotary/United Nations project and has no religious or political affiliations, we hope that everyone will use it and that it will become a genuine community asset.”

Click here for more on Erdington Rotary Club – or visit their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100087397171800

For more on Spring Lane Playing Fields visit www.sports-facilities.co.uk/sites/view/6007466

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

The last few months have seen progress on Cllr Gareth Moore and my efforts to tackle crime and disorder across the Erdington Ward. We both supported the recent police all out day on the High Street.

This has seen approximately 800 illegal vapes seized from two premises which have been referred to trading standards with a view to further action, while during July over 20 PSPO tickets have been issued to individuals.

As a director of Erdington Town Centre Business Improvement District I’m delighted we’ve been able to secure an additional High Street warden.

Police have been able to act on intelligence from residents and a local Neighbourhood Watch group to be able to raid a property on Dunvegan Road and remove over 250 cannabis plants. This follows recent seizures and arrests on Chester Road.

We always urge residents to report any information they have to the police as, while it may not instantly lead to something happening, this intelligence is added to other reports and can lead to arrests like those above.

Everyone in Erdington can help make our area safer by reporting anything suspicious to the police.

This month saw the return of travellers to Rookery Park. We secured their eviction and a deep clean of the park and have had concrete blocks placed to prevent the gates being broken open again whilst a longer-term solution is found to keep the park secure.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

(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.)