NEWS: WLCA Chief Officer Afzal Hussain appointed Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands

Words by Steve Sharma / Pics by Ed King

Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer at Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA), has been appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands.

The role comes in recognition of his work and contributions to communities and social enterprise in Birmingham and across the region. He is one of six new Deputy Lieutenants with backgrounds ranging from education, entrepreneurship, homelessness, and music.

A royal appointment, the Deputy Lieutenants participate in civic, voluntary, and social activities within the lieutenancy.

Afzal will support The Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Mr John Crabtree OBE – the Queen’s personal representative in the county – in a number of ways including attending on Royalty during official visits, representation at citizenship ceremonies, supporting the armed forces of the Crown, and encouraging charitable and voluntary work and local initiatives to benefit the community.

“I am honoured to have been appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands,” said Afzal.

“Our many citizens, community and voluntary organisations play a vitally important role in the life of our region and I look forward to promoting and encouraging this further.’

During the pandemic, Afzal convened the Erdington (Covid 19) Task Force and the North Birmingham Economic Recovery Task Force, which have supported thousands of residents and vulnerable groups to access health and wellbeing, housing, employment, training, and enterprise support services.

Afzal is also an active member of several Boards in Birmingham and the West Midlands, providing experience and insight in community-led approaches to tackle deep-seated challenges, as well as capitalising on opportunities that unlock and nurture talent.

Prior to running WLCA, his previous roles include Director of Coventry New Deal for Communities and Deputy Chief Executive of Aston Pride NDC – where he worked with the board, local government, community leaders, and senior officers to successfully re-establish and manage the £54m multi-partnership initiative tasked with regenerating one of Birmingham’s most deprived wards.

In his role as WLCA Chief Officer, Afzal was also a key part in the multi million pound regeneration bids for Erdington High Street and continues to work with local stakeholders at sourcing further investment opportunities.

Working alongside NHS Property Services, WLCA were further responsible for the new Health and Wellbeing Hub that took over the old walk-in centre site on Erdington High Street. WLCA are also developing plans for an ambitions Enterprise Hub at the old Erdington Swimming Baths.

With the Commonwealth Games coming to Perry Barr in July/August – and satellite events held across the region – the recently appointed Deputy Lieutenants for the West Midlands will also support the city in delivering this premiere sporting event.

“The West Midlands is this year welcoming visitors from throughout the world and the West Midlands Lieutenancy is committed to supporting and representing every community in the County,” said Mr Crabtree.

“As the second largest lieutenancy in England and Wales and home to nearly three million citizens, the enthusiasm and additional reach of the new Deputy Lieutenants will complement the great work of my existing Deputy Lieutenants.

The West Midlands Lieutenancy comprises Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. It was established in 1974.

For more on the West Midlands Lieutenancy visit www.wmlieutenancy.org

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

NEWS: West Midlands Crime Commissioner celebrates ‘fantastic job’ by Erdington Street Pastors

Words & pics by Ed King

On Saturday 13 November, the Erdington Street Pastors were joined on their morning patrol by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster – walking with the team up and down Erdington High Street.

Celebrating the efforts of the Street Pastors, Simon Foster told Erdington Local: “My message to the Street Pastors is that they’re doing a fantastic job on Erdington High Street.

“I think it’s a brilliant initiative and I’ve been very pleased to support it as Police and Crime Commissioner.

“It really does help the neighbourhood police teams; helping them prevent crime, protect people, and ensuring that vulnerable people are kept safe.”

Erdington MP Jack Dromey, who also joined the Street Pastors and Simon Foster on patrol and talking to people on Erdington High Street, added: “The Street Pastors reassure the local community that the High Street is a welcoming place that they can go to.

“As Simon (Foster) has said, they reach to and put their arms around sometimes some of the most vulnerable in our community who have fallen through the net and as a consequence of which sometime behave badly.”

A global initiative, Street Pastors are currently active in over 240 cities and town across the UK – including 20 in the West Midlands alone. Twelve Street Pastors have been patrolling Erdington High Street since their ‘commissioning’ on Saturday 18 September.

Working with the police and local community leaders/groups, the Street Pastors help tackle issues around anti-social behaviour and public disturbances, whilst offering a friendly face for anyone who needs help or just wants to talk.

Pastor Rasaq Ibrahim is lead pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Erdington and Chair of the Erdington Street Pastors, who joined with churches across Erdington to bring the inititive to the area.

An active Street Pastor himself, Pastor Rasaq led the Saturday morning team on patrol with Simon Foster and Joack Dromey. He told Erdington Local: “It’s greta to have Simon (Foster) join us on patrol in Erdington, he has been humbly walking with us for two hours – meeting popel and seeing what we do.

“Erdington Street Pastor have been well supported by the West Midlands Crime Commissioner’s office and we look forward to building on that partnership.”

But since 2010 the West Midlands has had £175m pulled from its policing budget, seeing a drop of over 2000 police officers – around 25% of those in active service, and over 50% allocated to community policing..

Recently re-elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for the region, Simon Foster has put this top of his agenda.

He added: “My key campaign pledge is to rebuild community policing in the West Midlands because I think dismantling it was a big mistake; it was counterproductive, it’s a false economy

“It’s really important that we have community initiatives like the Street Pastors, like Neighbourhood Watch, like Street Watch, Speed Watch, Street Wardens, all of those different projects play a really important role in providing that help, reassurance, and support to local communities.”

A very real concern for many across Erdington, Jack Dromey has been hearing about street safety from local residents during sessions at his surgery.

He explained: “If you lose 2000 police officers, if you lose so much of the social fabric that diverts young people from crime, what you see as day follows night is a rising crime and that’s wrong.

“Time, and time, and time again I get people who come to my surgery – people I’ve met today on the High Street here with Simon (Foster) – who say, at the most extreme, we’re afraid to go out at night, we no longer feel comfortable in our community, on our High Street. That is absolutely and fundamentally wrong.”

For more information about the Erdington Street Pastors and to see if you can get involved email Pastor Rasaq at chair.erdington@streetpastors.org.uk

For more on the Street Pastors initiative visit www.streetpastors.org