OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic by Ed King – from Erdington Local archives

This month saw the Labour Council approve their new bankruptcy budget, leaving residents facing a double whammy of higher taxes and fewer services.

The Conservative opposition put forward a fully costed amendment, approved by officers, which would have saved all local libraries, increased street cleaning, scrapped Labour’s new ‘Rat Tax’ charge on pest controls and protected other services immediately and in the long term, showing how the Council can maintain weekly bin collections, funding in youth/adult services and keep Council Tax lower.

Sadly all 53 Labour Councillors voted against our alternative, instead voting for the Labour bankruptcy budget. Only Labour Councillors voted for Labour’s double whammy which puts up Council Tax by 21% over the next 2 years and closes most libraries.

Rest assured that Cllr Gareth Moore and I continue our campaign to try to save Erdington, Kingstanding and Perry Common libraries. You can sign our petition by visiting our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

Gareth and I are also delighted to announce funding has been secured to refurbish the Tennis Courts in Rookery Park, Brookvale Park and Pype Hayes Park.

The Council are trying to introduce charges for using these tennis courts. Gareth and I have been clear this is totally unacceptable. Thankfully have listened to us and the charges proposed will not happen in Erdington Ward; Rookery Park Tennis Courts will remain free.

In Stockland Green Brookvale will also remain free; however we will continue to fight for proposed charges to also be scrapped in Pype Hayes Park.

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

OPINION: A view from the Vale – Cllr Ray Goodwin

Pic supplied by Cllr Ray Goodwin (Castle Vale Ward, Labour)

I spent a few minutes reflecting on what to say, so here goes; I was hugely humbled to be elected in May 2022 as councillor for Castle Vale.

I promised to work tirelessly to get the best deal possible for Castle Vale, and in the period since May 2022 we have some big achievements – these include:

  • Securing the funding to rebuild Filton Croft Play Area and have a new park, shortly to be installed
  • Securing further funding to renovate all the parks on Castle Vale
  • Hold a fortnightly Pop Up Police Station
  • Campaigned for and secured the 64 Bus service that now runs to the Fort, Erdington High Street, and ASDA Minworth
  • New traffic crossings and road resurfacing – most notable by Sainsburys at Castle Vale and Innsworth Drive have been resurfaced.
  • Monthly Advice Surgeries
  • Weekly estate walks abouts to meet residents and understand their issues

This is just a small flavour of the achievements since May 2022. However, there is much more to come.

I will not be sitting on my laurels; I will be continuing to work hard and fight for Castle Vale – starting with the proposed train station. If the train station is located on Castle Vale, then it needs to be called Castle Vale and nothing else. And I will not be taking NO for answer.

I have said it once and I will say it a million times, Castle Vale is a rich diverse community full of amazing residents and organisations. Not only is it the best of what Birmingham is, it represents the best of all of us and this country.

So yes, I am and will always be deeply proud and humbled to be elected to represent Castle Vale.

For more from Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin visit www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: A long term plan for social housing

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – Castle Vale Community Housing

If you’re a social housing tenant, whatever you feel about the quality of your home and services your landlord supplies (and I hope you’re happy if your landlord is Pioneer), the reality is you have an increasingly precious resource.

In Birmingham alone, there are currently around 23,000 social housing applicants waiting for a home. There are more than 4,500 households in priority need – people in temporary accommodation – and tonight over 400 families will be in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation waiting to be housed.

But this is not just a Birmingham issue, it’s a national housing crisis with 8.5 million people unable to access the housing they need. The total cost of poor housing, on society, is estimated at £18.5bn per year. Compare this to the cost to the NHS which is £1.4bn a year.

Ahead of the next general election, our trade body the National Housing Federation is making a case to all political parties for a ‘long term plan for housing’. By 2035 this plan could fix child homelessness, halve overcrowding, provide a million more social homes for people, deliver warm decent homes for seven million more families and improve affordability and ensure all regions have the homes they need to grow.

Research shows that the economic impact of building social housing would be significant; building 90,000 social rented homes a year could add £51.2bn to the UK economy and create almost 350,000 jobs. Within 11 years the investment in the new homes by the Government would be fully paid back.

It’s not for me to influence how you vote in the next general election, though I would encourage everyone to use their democratic right to vote (remember your ID!), but what I do ask is that you look at what is in the parties manifestos to tackle the housing crisis and perhaps consider the one that comes closest to meeting the huge housing challenges and has a long term plan for social housing.

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: The impact of Council cuts on our communities: and what we can do

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association

Like many of you, we have seen the degree and shape of the Council’s funding and service cuts, and they are devastating. At Witton Lodge Community Association, we are deeply concerned about the impact that they will have on our most vulnerable communities. Local charities, groups, foodbanks, and networks are doing their very best, but are being overwhelmed by a tsunami of demand.

As the Council grapples with its financial crisis, we know that budgets are not just numbers – they represent lives, hopes, and the very fabric of our community. Following a decade of austerity, we are particularly concerned about further cuts to Youth Services and Libraries – they are the frontline of providing support, education, a sense of belonging, and safe spaces for our young people.

We know local charities and support networks play a critical role, and these funding cuts mean that unfortunately, some will go under, whilst others will struggle to maintain the already ‘frayed safety net’ that many vulnerable people rely on.

But, as we did during the pandemic, we will be stepping up to the challenge. We have already distributed over £250,000 to local groups to provide essential support services and will redouble efforts to strengthen local networks to attract further resources.

We have urged the Council to work with us and local partners to protect local assets. At Witton Lodge we have a successful track record of doing this – Perry Common Community Hall, Witton Lakes Eco Hub, and Erdington Baths (our latest venture), are some examples of this. But it is not just about buildings, it is about local voices and services – designing and delivering services differently to meet the needs of our communities, and ensuring the Council gets value-for-money.

Our community and city’s recovery relies on us pulling together, taking action, and advocating for change that works with the grain of communities.

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

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

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: 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

 

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Building community scaffolding with Witton Lodge Community Association

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
The first weeks of 2024 seem to have passed in a blur. Although still early in the New Year, there have already been some notable highlights.

First, we are thrilled to welcome a number of new volunteers who have joined our existing colleagues and are already making incredible contributions. We were also delighted to support 31 local groups and organisations with grant funding to deliver a wide range of services, which we are confident will make a huge difference across Erdington. We will shortly be publishing details of these projects, so do look out for them.

Off the back of this success, we are seeking to work with trusted local groups to establish Digital Hubs across Erdington, where residents can access computers and online services, as well as support to gain new skills.

As many of you will know, Witton Lodge Community Association was setup in response to a housing crisis, and over the past 30 years worked hard to transform Perry Common. But we know there is more to do, and in recent years we have been purchasing empty properties, refurbishing, and making them available to local families.

Many of our residents are still struggling with cost-of-living pressures, which is why our Advice Services, Health and Wellbeing projects, and Job search are so vital, and in demand. We believe this ‘community scaffolding’ will hold us in better stead for the inevitable tough times ahead.

Our approach, at its heart, remains as it did all those years ago… working with and alongside our communities, listening, and harnessing their knowledge and experience to develop services that deliver results.

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

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: “It’s the economy stupid”

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – Castle Vale Community Housing


 
The above is a quote coined by James Carville in 1992; he was a strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful Presidential election campaign that year.

It’s looking likely we’ll have our own General Election this year and whatever your politics or level of interest in it, as a housing provider working in a Government regulated sector where politicians have a big impact on policy and legislation, we can’t escape.

It’s right that we focus more on keeping our tenants safe in their homes following the tragic events at Grenfell and the death of Awaab Ishak as a result of prolonged exposure to damp and mould in his social housing home.

The pace and volume of stronger legislation and regulation coming our way is intense at the moment. But as a responsible community focussed landlord, we welcome this and feel we are getting ahead of the tide.


 
What is slightly frustrating is the lack of discussion about the state of the economy and the day-to-day impact this is having on tenants’ lives. Inflation is coming down and that’s to be welcomed but the simple reality is while the rate of price increases is slowing – nothing is getting cheaper when you fill your shopping trolley or fuel tank or pay your utility bill.

As some politicians seem distracted by Rwanda and ‘culture wars,’ as a landlord we remain focussed on helping those most exposed by the current state of the UK economy. We will be strengthening the support our tenants receive around debt and benefit advice as well as crisis fund and household support again in the year ahead.

We will also continue to work in partnership across our communities with partners who share this focus on our cost of living taskforce; let’s hope as the Election gets closer, the focus of politicians will do the same.

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

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: 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