NEWS: Safer Streets host Community Litter Pick and Fun Day in Stockland Green

Words & pics by Ed King

The Safter Streets team are organising two events across March and April, hoping to bring local residents together whilst making Stockland Green and cleaner and safer place to be.

On Saturday, 26 March, people are invited to take part in a special Community Litter Pick – starting at the Highcroft Centre from 10am, with free cake and coffee for anyone taking part.

The community clean up is being held following an ‘all out day’ on Friday, 25 March  – where Birmingham City Council  workers will tackle the waste left by illegal fly tipping, with locals following up the next day.

Safer Streets hope the combined two day effort will make a real impact to an area of Stockland Green blighted by dangerous street waste and uncollected refuse.

Community Partnership Manager Ned Crosher-Markwell, who delivers the Safer Streets project in Stockland Green on behalf of The Pioneer Group, said: “It will be great to get the community together to do something positive, help our neighbours and our environment and take pride in our neighbourhood.

“Stockland Green is filled with lots of wonderful people who care passionately about their home, it seems fitting that we come together to try and make that home a little nicer for everyone.

“Hopefully with a combined effort between the Council and community can start to turn the tide and remind people why they should love their street.”

Safer Streets is a Government funded initiative that brought £423,000 to Stockland Green, to help tackle street level crime, anti social behaviour, and to provide residents with home security equipment.

Money was also made available from the Safer Street fund to support community projects and action groups in the area.

The nearly half a million pound pot of money was secured following after a joint application from Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster.

Earlier in March, the Safer Streets team have been distributing free home security and crime prevention kits to local Stockland Green residents, living on and around Slade Road, including personal alarms, home security support, and items to combat vehicle theft.

Then on 16 April, Safer Streets are also hosting a special Fun Day, delivered in partnership with The Pioneer Group and West Midlands Police.

Ned added: “It is a day where you can meet your local policing team, learn a little about safety but also have some fun and entertain the kids.

“We will have a bouncy castle, face painting, and a chance to win some sweeties. We also hope to have a visit from the Fire Service with their fire engine and an opportunity for local community groups to have a stall and promote their causes.”

For more information on the Safter Streets Community Litter Pick or Funday email saferstreets@pioneergroup.org.uk

ELECTION NEWS: Conservative MP candidate Robert Alden will “work closely” with Policing Minister to tackle crime in Erdington

By Erdington Local election news team

Cllr Robert Alden has stated he will “work closely with the (policing) minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel” to ensure people will be safer on the streets of Erdington, during a visit from Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP.

Out on the campaign trail, ahead of the by election on 3 March, local lad and Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden brought the Policing Minister to Erdington – to see first hand the problems he wants to tackle in the constituency.

Previous visits have seen Nadhim Zahawi MP (Secretary of State for Education) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (Minister of State for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency) also join Robert Alden in Erdington.

On the streets of Stockland Green with Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP, Cllr Alden was speaking after a walking meeting around Slade Road.

The Conservative MP candidate and Policing Minister were discussing how the Government’s Safer Streets funding is being spent in the area and Robert Alden’s plans to tackle crime.

Safer Streets is a government led initiative that has recently seen £432,000 invested into Stockland Green – addressing issues over street crime and public safety, alongside grant funding for projects by local community groups.

Currently the Ward Councillor for Erdington, if elected MP Robert Alden would be responsible for all areas across the constituency.

If elected, Alden has stated his intention to fight for more police officers on the ground, continued support for the Safe Streets programme, and to challenge planning laws and licensing around HMO and exempt accommodation providers.

Cllr Alden also wants to explore more Public Space Protection Orders like the one recently reinstated in Erdington Town Centre, giving the police extended powers to tackle street level anti social behaviour.

“I was delighted to welcome Kit Malthouse to Erdington constituency today to discuss crime and the impact it is having here,” Robert said.

“We had a constructive talk on how to tackle things like anti-social behaviour and drugs crime which can be a blight on lives around here.

“He was on board with my plans to make the area safer such as lobbying for more police officers here as part of the Government’s 20,000 officer recruitment programme.

“I also told him how I want to work with various organisations and the police here to tackle some of the crime issues in areas like Stockland Green and Kingstanding and expand on the positive impact from the Government-funded Safer Streets scheme around the Slade Road area.

“But ultimately, I can only work closely with the minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel to put my plans into action if I am elected MP next month.

“People in Castle Vale, Erdington and Kingstanding have talked to me about their worries surrounding crime during this campaign and the way my plan to keep streets safe can make a difference.

“I want to be our MP so I will be able to implement my plan, tackle these issues and make sure everyone who lives and works here feels safer on the streets and in their homes,” he added.

Erdington will elect its next Member of Parliament on Thursday, 3 March.

The 12 candidates contesting the Birmingham Erdington seat are: Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Labour), Cllr Robert Alden (Conservative), Dave Nellist (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), Lee Dargue (Liberal Democrats), Michael Lutwyche (Independent), Jack Brookes (Reform UK), Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Green), Thomas O’Rouke (Independent), Mel Mbondiah (Christian People’s Alliance), Clifton Holmes (Independent), David Laurence Bishop (Militant Bus-Pass Elvis Party), The Good Knight Sir NosDa (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party).

For more on Cllr Robert Alden and the Erdington Conservatives visit www.erdingtonconservatives.org.uk

EXPLOITED: Erdington Councillor Robert Alden warns selective licencing is a ‘blunt tool’ against the ‘toxic’ rise in Exempt Accommodation

Words & original photography by Ed King

Erdington Councillor Robert Alden has called selective licensing a “blunt tool” in tackling the “toxic situation” caused by Exempt Accommodation in Birmingham, as it “simply displaces the problem to other parts (of the city).”

In a letter written to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee on Friday, 28 January, the Erdington ward representative and Leader of Birmingham’s Conservatives called for “the ability to impose city wide selective licensing before severe problems appear”, warning anything less would leave officials “forever chasing the issue around the city.”

28 January marks the last date for evidence submissions to the LUHC Committee, who are currently leading an inquiry into Exempt Accommodation – following widespread reports of how the supported housing loophole is manipulated by providers.

Cllr Alden’s letter also offered a further list of solutions to the LUHC Committee’s Exempt Accommodation inquiry, including reforms to the UK’s planning laws and benefit system to stop “perverse incentives for unscrupulous landlords to offer this type of accommodation”.

He further suggested “the provision and development of supported housing” should be “the remit of local councils, based on a duty to assess local need” – giving priority to “those who cannot remain in their local area due to exceptional circumstances (e.g., escaping domestic violence)”.

Cllr Alden’s concerns over Exempt Accommodation are mirrored by many across the community, people who have watched the suburbs they grew up become shattered and hostile.

And whilst the problems may lie heavier from one postcode to another, fears are the systemic ills will only continue to spread.

Estelle Murphy from Short Heath Residents Action Group explained: “There are a lot of issues surrounding HMO’s and Exempt properties. The dire conditions people are forced to live in and the effects to the surrounding area can be extremely distressing and stressful to all concerned.

“My worry is that unless legislation is changed, what is one area’s problem today, like Stockland Green, will be another area’s problem tomorrow. Once one area becomes blocked to them (Exempt Accommodation providers) they just move somewhere else.”

Exempt Accommodation began in 1995, identifying local housing for tenants needing ‘care, support and supervision’ – from people on bail to those escaping domestic violence – that could bypass existing rent regulations.

The legislation opened up the commercial market to offer shared social housing, but also allowed private landlords to jump over the Housing Benefit restrictions and charge a surplus to the Local Authority – who would in turn seek reimbursement from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

In Birmingham, Exempt Accommodation providers have been found to charge over £200 per week for a tenant living in accommodation Birmingham City Council would cap at £50-100.

Recognising the cost implications of the current system in his letter to the LUHC Committee, Cllr Alden further added:

“In Birmingham the average Local Housing allowance shared accommodation rate is £57.34, the social housing general needs average weekly rent for Birmingham is £95.05 yet the Birmingham average exempt housing rent is around £200 per a week and they are able to charge this by simply providing one hour of unregulated support a week.

“With 22,000 individuals in Birmingham currently placed in exempt accommodation, this is a cost to the treasury of £228.8m per year just in Birmingham.”

Alden’s letter continues to challenge a “a lack of cooperation between local authorities”, which has seen people from other cities moved into Exempt Accommodation in Birmingham – often exacerbating neighbourhood issues over crime, infrastructure, streets safety, and litter.

He states: “Exempt accommodation, as currently operated, serves neither its users or local communities well. It also fails to deliver value for money for the taxpayer with all the associated problems driving up costs across different public sector organisations.

“Existing planning laws and problems with the Benefits system combine to create a toxic situation where local neighbourhoods are becoming unrecognisable, with rising crime and ASB and loss of family housing whilst trapping ex-offenders and drug users in a vicious cycle and increasing pressure on public services from the police to waste collections.”

Erdington’s neighbouring ward of Stockland Green is one of the most affected suburbs in the UK by Exempt Accommodation, with the number of citywide claimants reportedly doubling in the past three years alone.

Stockland Green Councillor Josh Jones had been working on a plan to tackle the Exempt Accommodation crisis with the recently deceased Jack Dromey MP, outlining “action points… back in the summer of 2020”.

He told Erdington Local: “Exempt Accommodation is not something that’s going to be solved easily. It needs to be attacked in multiple ways.

“There needs to be mandatory licensing for all rented accommodation, whether that’s in the private sector or registered social landlord sector.

“The housing regulator needs to staffed better than they currently are, there needs to be… in every region round the country, particularly where there are big cities, there needs to be an office with additional staff put there to properly regulate the sector.

“Too many people are looking at Exempt Accommodation in isolation, it needs a whole holistic approach to deal with it – it needs to look at the NHS, community policing, mental health funding, and housing in general. It needs to be a whole area and a whole sector approach.”

But the sharp end of the supported living stick is also hurting tenants, often leaving vulnerable people living dangerous accommodation.

A current Slade Road resident, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear their housing provider would evict them, told Erdington Local:

“I have a chronic health condition and was registered homeless, eventually being moved up to Birmingham from London.

“They (the housing provider) don’t care about the welfare of their tenants; they’re only interested in money. They get around £233 per week from me living here.

“We only get two hours of heating a day and there is a list of improvements that need to be done – including allowing a fire exit at the back of the building – that have not been looked at in months.

“Plus, there is a couple living here and the police have been called out several times over domestic violence. But they’re both aggressive.

“Sometimes I have to lock myself in my room; it’s not a safe place to live.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article, we want to hear your side of the story – email: mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

VOX POP: Remembering Jack – “He was a Birmingham man; he was a local man. And he cared.”

VOX POP quotes & pics taken by Claire Taylor / Intro words & pics by Ed King

Soon after the announcement of Jack Dromey’s death on Friday 7 January, flowers and messages of remembrance started to appear outside his constituency office on Mason Road. – with further tributes flooding social media.

Many were in shock at the sudden and unexpected news, sharing their stories and grief both online and off.

Erdington Local took to the High Street he fiercely championed and asked for comment from some of his constituents – for our weekly VOX POP.

(Ed’s note… we used the headline quote to show how Jack Dromey was perceived, by many, as a ‘local man’ – despite being born in Middlesex. The full quote is the last in the VOX POP, which we felt was a testament to the fervour with which Jack represented his Birmingham constituency.)

Holding a position where concerns and complaints were part of the day to day, Jack Dromey heard first hand about the issues affecting people across Erdington – with many looking to his office for answers.

From large scale employment strategies to supporting school fundraisers and independent retailers, the ‘to-do-list’ in the local MPs office was often as varied as it was unending. But as Erdington’s elected voice in Parliament, it was down to Jack Dromey and his colleagues to work through it with tireless dedication.

When Erdington Local asked for comments on Jack Dromey’s death, and life, many people had many things to say – but not all were comfortable having their condolences captured on camera.

Thank you to everyone who stopped to share thier thoughts and stories with us, and to all who agreed to be featured in the article.

Remembering Jack memorial service on Sunday 16 January

A wider public memorial service is being organised by the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce on Sunday 16 January, to be held outside the Co-op supermarket on Erdington High Street from 1:30/2pm.

Speakers will include colleagues from Jack’s constituency office, alongside figureheads from local organisations and community support groups such as Witton Lodge Community Association, Urban Devotion, Erdington Street Pastors, and Spitfire Advice and Support Services.

Jack Dromey’s political peers will also be attending, with further public condolences and remembrance coming from Liam Byrne MP (Hodge Hill), Jess Phillips MP (Yardley), Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Hollyhead, Birmingham Conservatives Leader Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington), and Birmingham City Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End).

The memorial for Jack Dromey is open to all members of the public – with the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce inviting people to gather by the Co-op from 1:30pm, with the service scheduled to begin at 2pm.

A spokesperson for the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce told Erdington Local:

“On behalf of the people of Erdington, partners of the Erdington Covid-19 Task Force have come together to organise this tribute event for Jack.

“His legacy went beyond politics. His tireless campaigning on behalf of constituents touched so many lives so we wanted to create a fitting tribute to a man who was progressive and impactful in positively changing lives and communities.

“It’s a chance for the people of Erdington to pay their respects to Jack, to reflect on his work and to share memories of him.

“It should be a great occasion, celebrating the life of a man whose commitment to improving lives made him a hero for the community he served with such passion and honesty.”

Here are a few more memories and messages of condolences from people on Erdington High Street.

Harriet Spencer, Oikos Café, Erdington High Street

“He used to come relatively frequently into Oikos and he would always order a strawberry milkshake, which we used to love.

“He was such a champion of the café and enjoyed that we were hear and all the things we did, especially the music event. It’s really a shock to the area and all of us.”

___________________

Christine Scarl, Pype Hayes

“I heard that he had died… its such a shame. He was really good at letting us know what was going on in the area, we would always be getting the leaflets through the door and everything. It’s such a shame.”

___________________

Pat Wandby, Stockland Green

“I’m sad that Jack Dromey died… it was a shock, he was a nice chap and he always seemed to be fighting for the workers – to help them keep their jobs.

“Like with the HP Sauce factory, which should never have been closed. And he was always fighting for the Jag (Jaguar Land Rover, Castle Bromwich) and other industries.

“He came to our house once over an issue with some garages at the back… I did have a moan at him about Stockland Green and the potholes on the road, by the chip shop. But since then it’s been done.”

___________________

Vera, Holly Lane, Erdington

“He passed away, bless him. He did a lot for Erdington, as out local MP. He did a lot for Jaguar and everything else.

“He was a Birmingham man; he was a local man. And he cared.”

If you have something to say about any of the issues raised in this VOX POP (or anything else you want to tell us about) please email: mystory@erdingotnlocal.com

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

NEWS: 18 year old arrested on suspicion of murder after fatal stabbing of man on Chudleigh Road

Words & pics by Ed King

West Midlands Police have arrested an 18 year old male following the fatal stabbing of a 25 year old man on Chudleigh Road yesterday.

In a statement made today, WMP confirmed: “We’ve arrested a man on suspicion of murder after another man was stabbed in Erdington.

“A 25-year-old was discovered with serious injuries in Chudleigh Road at around 4.15pm yesterday (29 November). He was rushed to hospital but sadly died a short time after his arrival.

“An 18-year-old man was arrested in the Erdington area on suspicion of murder. He is currently in custody for questioning.

“A cordon remains in place near the junction of Reservoir Road this morning while we investigate what happened and why.”

Emergency services were called to Stockland Green yesterday after a man was found in ‘critical condition’ following reports of a stabbing on Chudleigh Road.

Alerted to the incident just after 4pm, police, ambulance, and air ambulance all attended – with paramedics administering advance trauma care at the scene. A member of the public had been administering CPR before emergency services arrived.

A statement from West Midlands Ambulance Service this morning confirmed: “We were called at 4:20pm to reports of a stabbing in Chudleigh Road, Erdington.

“We sent two ambulances, a paramedic officer, the West Midlands CARE Team and two Midlands Air Ambulance critical care cars with two critical care paramedics and two BASICS doctors onboard. On arrival, crews found a young male in a critical condition with bystander CPR already in progress.

“Crews took over and administered advanced trauma care at the scene and continued treatment enroute to hospital with a critical care paramedic travelling onboard.”

Police blocked off the entrance to Chudleigh Road from Reservoir Road, down to Coniston Road, asking local residents to stay away from their homes until forensics could be taken.

Working at the scene until late at night, investigating officers erected two tents – one over the ground where the victim was found and the other around a vehicle on the opposing side of the road.

Investigations continue at the scene today as police are gathering evidence following an arrest.

Concerns for the victim spread quickly across the area, with some people gathering around the corner of Chudleigh Road and Reservoir Road.

One local resident saw emergency services at the scene at around 4:15pm. They told Erdington Local:

“I didn’t see much, so I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened – but I saw paramedics at the scene administering CPR to someone on the ground. My heart sank, I just hope the person is OK.”

Another Erdington local drove past a couple of hours later.

They added: “I saw a police van and a police car, with uniformed officers keeping people off the street.

“There was police tape blocking off the top of Chudleigh Road, with a small crowd, possibly 10 or so, gathered by the shop. It wasn’t tense, everyone just seemed really concerned about what had happened.”

Detective Inspector Wes Martin, from West Midlands Police Homicide Unit, added: “A young man has tragically lost his life and we’re doing all we can to support his family at this awful time.

“We’ve made some quick progress by arresting a suspect on suspicion of murder.

“However, we remain keen to hear from anyone who may have information. Anyone who may be able to help us needs to contact us.

“We’re reviewing all CCTV possibilities and we’re asking people in the area to check any dashcam or doorbell footage which can help us fully establish what has happened during this terrible incident.”

If you have any information that may help police with enquiries, please contact West Midlands Police via Live Chat at west-midlands.police.uk or call 101 – quoting the reference 20/1673163/21.

Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

EXCLUSIVE: Local campaigners ‘ready to take on any private developer’ after Council halt housing plans for Short Heath Playing Fields

Words & pics by Ed King

In a surprise U-turn, Birmingham City Council have halted their housing plans for Short Heath Playing Fields – returning the site back to the Education Department.

In an email to Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT) from the Birmingham Leader’s office, sent on Thursday 25 November, Cllr Ward informed them Birmingham City Council no longer saw the site as viable for their proposed development of 84 houses.

The news was met with relief and hope, from a community that have been locking horns with Birmingham City Council for over a year to keep the green space for public use – from regular dog walking and sporting activities, to organised events such as the recent ‘pumpkin hunt’ which saw families from Kingstanding to Castle Vale come together on the parkland.

But local campaigners are “ready to take on any private developer”, as moving the land back into the Education Department portfolio could end up with a quick sale in the commercial market and planning applications to build even more houses on their “beloved fields”.

In previous statements made by Birmingham City Council, if the fiercely fought over green space was no longer earmarked for development by Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT): ‘it is anticipated that the land would be sold relatively soon to a private developer.’

In the same message, Birmingham City Council went on to state:

“It is known that private developers would look to maximise the density of any site as far as possible, it is also a known and demonstrable fact that homes delivered by private developers are almost all of a smaller size than any BMHT designed homes, therefore the likelihood is that there would be in excess of 84 homes on the site, and should that developer seek to build apartments on a low rise form, would again most likely exceed 100 plus homes and apartments.”

After receiving the email from the Birmingham Leader, Short Heath Fields Trust told Erdington Local:

“This is a huge win for us all. We at Short Heath Fields Trust are delighted by the news that the Council will not be building on our green space.

“We know this is a battle won, but not the war. We would like to know the results of the environmental surveys and the more detailed look into the grounds actual viability for development which we know we’re undertaken.

“We have taken on Birmingham City Council with its huge legal department and we are more than ready to take on any private developers if needed.

“We will continue to make sure the community gets a say in what happens at our beloved fields. To try to bring the community’s vision of the return of sports for all and to see it given back to the community.

“Considering the Council haven’t paid a penny for this parkland it should be put into the parks department not education, as that is where it belongs, so this community can keep using and enjoying it instead of generations past, present, and future having to keep fighting for it.”

The campaign to save ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ began in August 2020, after a contentious period of initial public consultation which many claim they were unaware of.

Starting with a Facebook page and online petition, local residents eventually formalised into Short Heath Fields Trust – following a community protest that grabbed the attention of politicians from both sides of the aisle.

Leader of the Birmingham Conservative Party and Erdington Ward councillor, Robert Alden, joined local residents in their protest against the Council’s plans – having been already fighting the proposed development from Birmingham’s corridors of power.

Cllr Alden told Erdington Local: “The decision of the Council to finally listen to the thousands of residents locally who have been calling for the site to be saved is a welcome one. Short Heath Playing Fields is a green lung in our area that needs to be preserved.

“However, residents will not forget that the Leader of the Council and the Labour MP stood in front of residents telling them the site had to be built on.

“Therefore, residents will rightly be concerned that the City Council will simply decide to change their minds again next summer, after the all-out council elections.

“That is exactly what they did with Burford Road Playing Fields, Kingstanding, in 2018. They claimed they were saved going into the 2018 elections and then agreed to build on them in 2019.

“Residents can rest assured we will continue to fight and keep the pressure on the Council to preserve Short Heath Road Playing Fields and other green spaces locally.

Erdington MP Jack Dromey has also been heavily involved in the campaign to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’, responding to the growing concerns of local residents, meeting regularly with SHFT, and using his position to broker meetings with Birmingham Council Leader Ian Ward.

On hearing the land was being given back to the Education Department, Jack Dromey said:

“The campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields has been a strong, community-led campaign and the news that Birmingham City Council will not be building houses on the site will be welcomed by the campaigners.

“Since I was first approached about the issue two years ago, I have been working with all those concerned to try and find a way forward that the local community can support, and I’d like to thank everyone involved for the constructive way in what has sometimes been difficult discussions.

“I will continue to work closely with campaigners and the community on the future of Short Heath Playing Fields, that are near and dear to the heart of the local community.”

Despite various alternatives being proposed by SHFT, including putting sports facilities on Short Heath Playing Fields and a list of surrounding brownfield sites on which to develop social housing, the fate of the green space seemed sealed.

During a meeting with local residents on Friday 20 August, the Birmingham Council Leader reiterated the likelihood of a private sale if the land could not be developed by BMHT – urging residents to accept the Council’s proposal.

At the same meeting, Cllr Ward also announced the number of proposed houses to be built would be reduced to 66 from the 84, to make way for ‘a green corridor’ connecting Short Heath Road to Bleak Hill Park.

Commitments were also made of reinvesting up to £1millon from the development back into the local community for health, wellbeing, and sports facilities.

However, if the land is sold to a private developer the size and scope of any development remains to be seen – alongside any possible reparations to the local community.

Erdington Local has approached Birmingham City Council for comment.

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

For more on the fight to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ click here to visit the campaign’s Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/groups/1007069176404521

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.”

LOCAL OPINION: Community spirit is alive and well in Stockland Green

Words by Uzma Shaffiq / Pics by Ed King

“The beautiful thing is that they come from all walks of life and ages, from pensioners to school children – all dedicated to help.” 

Uzma Shaffiq, Community Developer Officer for The Pioneer Group, talks to Erdington Local about the community backbone and neighbourhood camaraderie that supported Stockland Green through the coronavirus crisis. 

Starting my new role at The Pioneer Group in February 2020, I had high hopes of building a strong network of organisations and people who wanted to make Stockland Green a great place to live and work. From these networks, I would be instrumental in creating several initiatives, and 2020 was going to be the best start to my working life.

Little did I realise, COVID-19 was waiting just around the corner, ready to turn everything on its head. The pandemic struck and suddenly residents needed support more than ever.

As for everyone, those first few weeks were a challenge. We needed to mobilise on a scale not seen since World War 2; but as a proud University of Birmingham History graduate, I understood the dedication behind communities in those tumultuous times and I knew our work would provide crucial support to residents during this modern crisis.

Our team works throughout a number of communities such as Stockland Green, Castle Vale and Falcon Lodge – and while each area may have a different programme of specific needs, we still come together to share ideas. Last year we faced the same challenge – we needed to support residents in all communities to ensure that no one was hungry, felt isolated or was left in a vulnerable situation.

With face-to-face interactions gone, the internet was suddenly our saviour and became critical as a tool to communicate in our quest to build a better community. It was no longer about boots on the ground, but rather fingers on keyboards and faces on video calls.

We started by meeting online with residents and community groups to understand their concerns and priorities. There were so many people that want to be actively involved in supporting the Stockland Green community, it was incredibly heart-warming to see how deeply people cared for their friends, family, and neighbours.

Food provision and mental health support was top of the list and once these areas had been outlined, we witnessed a huge mobilisation within the community. The beautiful thing is that they come from all walks of life and ages, from pensioners to school children – all dedicated to help.

Local organisations supplied food parcels and arranged prescription runs to support residents through the months of uncertainty, and an army of residents came forward to help with the deliveries. The whole initiative was so moving; without these wonderful volunteers giving their free time, we could never have helped so many people.

For those that were more isolated and may not have much use of the internet, such as some elderly, wellbeing activity packs were created and delivered to keep recipients busy during lockdowns. Fantastic at raising spirits, boosting morale, and giving those who are staying at home something exciting to do, the packs were also delivered by volunteers, the lifeblood of our community.

2020 also saw the birth of other voluntary organisations such as the Stockland Green Action Group with the aim of making the community a better place. I am always blown away with their efforts as they tackle fly-tipping, unsightly alleyways, and fight for a better tomorrow for Stockland Green. We are pleased to work closely with these members, supporting them with funding bids and various initiatives as they set a shining example of community spirit.

With a keen sense of keeping the Stockland Green passion alive, we also revived the Stockland Green Ward Forum where organisations such as the Local Regeneration Trust, Councillors, the local MP, and residents all come together to work towards a shared vision of a better Stockland Green.

For The Pioneer Group, the commitment to the area has never been stronger. We provide affordable housing and want our tenants and their neighbours to feel safe and secure in their homes which is why we are now working with Birmingham City Council to deliver the new Safer Streets programme; a £432,000 initiative in Stockland Green that will implement a range of measures including street lighting upgrades, six redeployable CCTV cameras, and a crime prevention assessment for all homes.

Over the last 18 months, our community has faced major hardships with a healthcare crisis, job losses and new way of living. We came together to survive. Today we are in a good place to build even stronger community spirit as we say goodbye to 2021, probably the hardest year many of us have faced.

I look forward to 2022 and everything we are doing to make Stockland Green a great place to live and work.

For more from The Pioneer Group, and the work they do across Stockland Green and North Birmingham, visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk

NEWS: Woman arrested on ‘attempted murder’ following vehicle attack on Reservoir Road – man remains in critical condition

Words by Ed King / Pics by Jobe Baker Sullivan

Reservoir Road was shut down today following a disturbance late on Friday night, leading police to cordon off the Erdington/Stockland Green thoroughfare whilst searching for clues.

As confusion grew across the area, with traffic brought to a standstill, West Midlands Police were reticent to issue any information other than the situation “was not fatal.”

Later on, it emerged there had been an ‘attempted murder’ using a vehicle – a 44 year woman has been arrested, whilst a ‘man in his 40’s remain in hospital in critical condition.’

People across the area had seen police presence arrive on Friday night, one Stockland Green resident told Erdington Local: “I saw some flashing lights late last night… but I didn’t think anything of it, there are flashing lights around here all the time.”

Another local resident speculated it may be a hit and run, with someone having wandered into traffic whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

They said: “Most nights, all round the shops, the druggies come and hang out.”

Terry Bracher, who lives on nearby Bleak Hill Road, told Erdington Local: “Whilst walking the dog I saw police and taped off area, but didn’t know what it was.”

Local artist Jennette Hill said: “I saw the police last (Friday) night as I drove through on my way home, at about midnight. I thought it must have been bad.”

Following requests from Erdington Local and other concerned parties, West Midlands Police issued the following statement earlier today: “A woman has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a man has been seriously injured after being hit by a car in Erdington.“

We were called to Reservoir Road at just after 10pm last night (8 October) and found a man with significant head injuries.

“The vehicle left the scene but has since been recovered and a 44-year-old woman has been arrested.

“The woman – who is known to the man – has also been detained on suspicion of driving while unfit through drink or drugs and remains in police custody for questioning. The man in his 40s remains in hospital in a critical condition.

“The road remains closed off while our enquiries continue and anyone with information is urged to get in contact.”

As investigations continue, West Midlands Police are calling to members of the public to come forward with any information that might help shed light on the case.

Stockland Green has just received £432,000 from the Government’s Safer Street initiative, which will be used to tackle street level crime, anti-social behaviour, and public disorder.

Stockland Green stakeholders are in the process of engaging with the community to formulate a Neighbourhood Plan.

The strategy will see local residents, police, strategic partners, and Birmingham City Counmcil join forces and work together to make positive changes in thre area.

West Midlands Police have stated anyone with information about the attack on Reservoir Road can get in touch via Live Chat at www.west-midlands.police.uk or call 101 and quote 20/1792022/21.

NEWS: Erdington Labour and Kashmiri community host post-lockdown Eid Fair

Words by Ed King

On Saturday September 4, Erdington Labour and the constituency’s Kashmiri community will be hosting a post-lockdown Eid Fair.

Held at Highcroft Community Centre, Slade Road, Stockland Green, the event is free to attend and will run from 11am to 4pm.

Observers of Islam across the world celebrate two Eid events each year. Eid al-Fitr (or ‘little/sweet Eid’) is a three day festival marking the end of Ramadan in May. Whilst Eid-al-Adha (or ‘big/salty Eid) is a four day festival to celebrate Ibrahim’s obedience to Allah, starting on the 10th day of the last month in the Islamic calendar  which in 2021 would have been July 9 to 13.

This year, due to restrictions from the Covid pandemic, both Eid’s were celebrated within households and ‘bubbles’ – as many religious festivals were curtailed due to the spread of coronavirus.

But the chance to come together as a community, welcoming all faiths and backgrounds, has not been lost – with Erdington Labour and the Kashmiri community working together to host this special Eid Fair event.

Spearheaded by Naziah Rasheed, Erdington Labour’s BAME Officer, the Eid Fair will have a variety of food stalls, local produce, games, and fun activities for children – such as a bouncy castle and a face painting stall.

Naziah Rasheed told Erdington Local: “Since the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in July this year , we decided to organise a belated Eid Fair for the local community in Erdington.

“Although it’s an Eid event, it’s not only for Muslims but for all faiths to celebrate together.

“The aim of the event is to bring all communities together to have a fun day out and also to promote local small and home based businesses, for them to display their products and services.

“We have food stalls from different cultures and cuisines including Moroccan, Afghan, Kashmiri, Indian a,nd East African to name a few.”

The recently appointed Edington Labour BAME officer is also keen to hear from Erdington’s BAME communities, with a recent survey sent out asking ‘to know the issues the BAME communities are facing’ so she can ‘work towards making change locally and nationally.’

An online version of the BAME survey can be found at www.jackdromey.co.uk/erdington-labour-bame-survey

Open to all faiths, backgrounds, and ages, the Eid Fair will be held at Highcroft Community Centre on Slade Road, Stockland Green – running from 11am to 4pm on Saturday September 4.

For more on Highcroft Community Centre visit www.highcroftcommunitycentre.co.uk

For more from Erdington Labour visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonLabourParty