NEWS: West Midlands has its first Labour Mayor as Richard Parker wins by narrow margin

Pics sourced from candidates and Erdington Local archives

The West Midlands has a Labour Mayor for the first time.

Labour candidate Richard Parker narrowly beat the two-term Conservative Mayor Andy Street, the only man to previously hold the role after winning the first contest in 2017.

Due to a recount and technical difficulties, the announcement at Birmingham International Convention Centre was delayed by over seven hours.

This was also the first time the Mayoral election was decided by the First Past the Post voting system, unlike the second preferences style poll in previous elections.

But once the final results were verified, Labour’s Richard Parker clinched 225,590 votes to the Conservative’s Andy Street’s 224,082 votes – in an astonishingly close result.

Independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob, who Erdington Local was amongst the first to profile in their race for West Midlands Mayor, was the clear third place choice – clocking up 69, 621 votes.

Reform UK’s Elaine Williams came fourth with 34, 471 votes.

Coming in fifth was Gravelly Hill resident and Green Party candidate Siobhan Harper-Nunes, who earned 31,036 votes.

Ms Harper-Nunes fought a fierce campaign without major backing or finances from her national party, and previously told Erdington Local she believed “just running is winning” as it allowed her to place what she felt were important issues on the agenda.

To read a full our LOCAL PROIFILE with Siobhan Harper-Nunes, click here.

The Liberal Democrats came in last with Sunny Virk convincing 12,176 people to put a cross next to his name.

There were 4,757 rejected ballots in the Mayoral elections, compared to 23,000 in the Police and Crime Commissioners election which was announced earlier in the day and saw Labour’s candidate Simon Foster re-elected.

The results from both elections, held on 2 May, mean this is the first time since the West Midlands Mayor and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) offices were created that the same political party holds both offices.

However, the result in the race for West Midlands Mayor could have been a more conclusive for Labour without the impact from independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob – who galvanised communities across the West Midlands who felt anger over Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on refusing to call a ceasefire in Gaza last year.

Mr Yakoob won his third place through on a prominent social media, anti-Labour, pro-Palestine, George Galloway backed campaign, that only began four weeks ago but was helped by experienced ex-Labour councillors and members.

However, one the votes were counted, and recounted, the job of West Midladns Mayor and Chaor of the West Midlands Combined Authority went to Labour’s Richard Parker. After being declared the next West Midlands Mayor, MrParker said: “This is the most important thing I will ever do.

“This week people voted for the person and the party. They recognised that a Labour mayor can make a positive difference in this region.

“I believe a Labour Mayor working with a Labour Government will get this region back to its best again.”

Acknowledging his party’s massive loss of trust of the Muslim community, who voted for Mr Yakoob in unprecedented numbers for an independent candidate, Mr Parker further pledged to: “Build back trust within the Muslim community.”

Offering warm words to his vanquished opponent, he added: “Andy Street. You’ve led this region through a number of great challenges.

“You deserve credit through building up the combined authority into the powerhouse it is today, through the economic shocks and for leading this region when it came out of covid.

“I absolutely believe that whilst our politics are different, Andy, we both have the best interests of the West Midlands at heart.”

Mr Street responded: “I wish you all strength and wisdom as you take over the reins.

“It has been my honour to serve and to lead this place for the last seven years. I hope I’ve done it with dignity and integrity and I hope I’ve bequeathed to Richard a combined authority – and indeed a role – to which young, aspiring leaders will want to aspire one day.”

Whilst the delayed results to the count were coming in, there was frustration online as the West Midlands Combined Authority live election stream cut out after a day of gaffes, glitches, and technical difficulties which meant viewers could not see the speeches of Mr Street, Mr Yakoob, and other candidates.

However, after the final count was in Mr Yakoob told Erdington Local: “This has been an incredible four weeks. Imagine if we had started three months ago, we started with what people called was just a TikTok campaign.

“Well, we got nearly 70,000 votes and almost lost Labour what should have been an easy victory.

“Thanks to everyone for voting, I believe I got more young people registered and voting than any other candidate.

“Thank you for everyone in Erdington who supported my campaign, we had plenty volunteers from Erdington, and it looks like a lot of voters too.”

An official poll card for government elections and a UK photo driving licence as prove of identity.

Mr Yakoob added: “You wait till the General Election; I will be back.”

The next General Election is set to be held before January 2025.

The turnout for the West Midlands Mayoral election was 29.8% across the West Midlands, and in Birmingham it was 28.5 per cent.

For more on Richard Parker visit www.facebook.com/RichardParkerWM

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: New life for Erdington Baths

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

After almost six years of perseverance and the tireless support of our community and stakeholders, we were delighted to finally secure the £4million needed for the first phase of works that will breathe fresh life into the former Erdington Baths.

The Baths are almost a century old, and have stood empty since they were closed in 2014. Many residents have already shared their treasured memories of growing up and visiting the Baths with family and friends, and I’m certain we will hear many more as the project develops.

With work expected to start later in the year, the first phase will see funds invested into the overall fabric of the building to restore the roof, undertake essential repairs, create a main reception area, and convert the pool hall into a co-working space, studio pods, events and community space.

Situated between Erdington Library and the Erdington Skills Centre, it is a great opportunity to create a Learning, Skills and Enterprise Quarter in the heart of Erdington.

Complex projects such as these are only possible with the support of many stakeholders – our community, local businesses and partners. We want to thank Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Combined Authority for investing in the project.

We are particularly appreciative of the Council’s leadership for taking this brave decision, especially as it deals with its financial challenges. Mayor Andy Street continued to back the project even against the backdrop of three failed funding bids to government.

The late Jack Dromey and more recently Paulette Hamilton MP have been huge advocates, and Cllr Robert Alden has been on this journey with us right from the outset. Thank you!

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.

NEWS: West Midlands Mayor Andy Street set to invest £400m in social housing in Stockland Green and across the region

Words and pics by Erdington Local editorial team

West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, has secured £400m from Central Government in an ambitious new plan that will see the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) invest hundreds of millions in social housing across the region.

Mr Street announced the new policy at social housing provider Nehemiah Housing Association, an organisation based in Great Barr and with properties in the Erdington constituency.

Launching his mayoral election campaign at Stockland Green School on 21 March, the West Midlands mayor further identified Stockland Green as an area the WMCA will be looking at on “how to improve the housing stock”.

The plan, which was secured ahead of the mayoral election on 2 May, will be the first time the West Midlands Combined Authority has directly funded the building of social housing.

It became possible after Mr Street petitioned Government for £400m investment into the WMCA Affordable Housing Programme, which had reportedly previously only been allocated 50% of that budget, as part of the Deeper Devolution Deal agreed last year.

 

Having secured the multi-million pound social housing investment fund, which will be overseen by the West Midlands Mayor, Mr Street hopes the new plan will attract national media attention and become the blueprint for social housing provision across the country.

Mr Street told Erdington Local: “I want to do this because housing is key to solving so many problems in our region. People might find it strange a Conservative Mayor would care so much about social housing, but I know we could do so much more.”

He added: “The £400m I secured is key, it was a red line for me when signing the Deeper Devolution Deal with the Government.”

The chronic lack of quality social housing across Birmingham is a major factor why Erdington became a hotspot for Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs), assisted living properties, and exempt accommodation.

Now a widely reported and recognised national concern, Erdington Local first covered the frightening reality of those living in HMOs and Exempt Accommodation in August 2020 – with a series articles written by a reporter who has lived experience of the problems facing thousands across the country.

(Click here to read the first story in the series, titled ‘EXPLOITED: HMOs – when greed meets vulnerability, carving up communities for a profit’.)

Following the initial article published by Erdington Local, many other media outlets then covered the topic in depth – with titles from Birmingham Mail to The Guardian all shining a much needed light on the issue.

Mr Street continued: “This kind of plan is a real third term policy as we have been working towards this since I was first elected.

“Housing has always been top of my agenda, prompted by Erdington Local’s investigation into HMOs and assisted living I lobbied the Select Committee in Parliament to look into the problem.”

He added: “This policy is about building new homes, but we will continue to look at how to improve the housing stock in places like Stockland Green.

“This is about building quality social homes for rent for people who want to have a home to call their own – people like key workers, nurses, and young families.

“By partnering with organisations like Nehemiah, we will be building real communities too – that are nurtured by supportive housing associations.”

Despite securing the funding, the WMCA will not actually be building new homes or improving existing social housing themselves – but would instead partner with organisations who have experience in the sector, such as Nehemiah Housing Association, Witton Lodge Community Association, or The Pioneer Group on Castle Vale.

Using funding from the Affordable Homes Programme, Mr Street has promised to triple the current rate of 500-700 homes built by housing associations in the West Midlands to 1,700 per year by 2028.

Mr Street launched the policy at Nehemiah Housing Association, which the organisation’s website describes as providing ‘quality, affordable housing together with wellbeing services to ethnically diverse communities across.’

The housing association has more than 1,250 properties serving the multicultural African, Caribbean, Asian, Irish, and European communities across the West Midlands, including Erdington.

Martin Levermore, Vice Chair of Nehemiah Housing Association, said: “We are celebrating our 35th anniversary this year. Social housing is so important but Government policy changes so often it can be hard to keep up.

“It’s incredibly important that we build enough Social Housing, and the devolution of funding for Affordable Housing could be a game changer for the region. Housing associations like Nehemiah not only build homes, we build communities; so we look forward to seeing how we can play a role going forward.”

For more on Andy Street visit www.andystreet.org.uk

For more on the West Midlands Combined Authority visit www.wmca.org.uk

Click here to learn more about the West Midlands Mayoral elections on 2 May.

NEWS: Responsibility for crime fighting strategy in Erdington to stay with Police and Crime Commissioner after courts reject Home Office appeal

Words by Erdington Local editorial team / Pics by Ed King

The responsibility for a strategy to fight crime in Erdington and across the West Midlands will stay with the Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC) office, after the Court of Appeal rejected a Home Office appeal which would have seen the role taken over by the West Midlands Mayor.

On Friday 22 March, judges at the Court of Appeal denied legal requests made by the Home Office that countered a previous High Court ruling, made earlier in March, blocking the Government from amalgamating the PCC’s office into the West Midlands Combined Authority’s portfolio.

The argument presented by the Home Office was that the Mayor’s office could be more effective in supporting a crime strategy, alongside their other roles and responsibilities across the region.

However, the legal battle began when Labour’s incumbent PCC for the West Midlands, Simon Foster, challenged the Home Office over their decision to combine the roles – arguing the required consultation had not been honoured and repeatedly calling the move a “hostile takeover.”

At the time, Mr Foster said: “The Mayor’s hostile takeover of PCC powers represents nothing more than his own personal vanity project and it is in no-one’s interests, save that of the Mayor. I am concerned that this hostile takeover will mean more cuts, more chaos and more crime.”

He added: “This is a matter that is entirely of the Mayor’s own making. I have repeatedly advised him against this shocking waste of taxpayers’ money. The Home Secretary and the Mayor are more than happy to spend taxpayers’ money on legal costs when it suits them.

“The people of the West Midlands will be rightly concerned that the Mayor’s cynical, divisive, unnecessary and undemocratic power grab, that has never secured a local democratic mandate in the West Midlands, would waste up to a shocking £3.5 million.”

England and Wales saw the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) in 2012, following campaign pledges made by both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to reform policing procedure in the 2010 General Election.

Mr Foster was voted as PCC for the West Midlands in May 2021, retraining the role for Labour since it first came into being in 2012.

However, last November the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, agreed with requests made by the West Midlands’ Conservative Mayor, Andy Street, for the West Midlands Combined Authority to absorb the PCC’s responsibilities – which became possible following the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act passed in 2023.

Most local police forces are represented by a Police and Crime Commissioner, but since the change in legislation last year, London, Manchester, and West Yorkshire have all devolved the powers of the PCC to the regional Mayor’s office.

But in what could be seen as an overtly political move, to take regional policing powers away from the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner and transfer it to the Conservative Mayor, has created frustration on both sides of the aisle.

Richard Parker is the Labour candidate for Mayor and if he beats Andy Street in the elections on 2 May, he will now be in the position of having fewer powers due to a Labour PCC’s legal challenge.

A Labour source told Erdington Local: “Simon Foster’s legal challenge was the last thing we needed.

“It has confused the optics of the election. We are favourites to win the mayoral election so it is not about Mr Street but about the office of Mayor.

“And if we win it feels like we have shot ourselves in the foot before starting on our first day.”

The source added: “Simon (Foster) had a good run as PCC, especially as he was a Corbyn man who stayed long after the party had changed, and sometimes you should just accept time’s up.”

Erdington Local met with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street on Thursday 21 March, at his first public address on his re-election campaign – held at Stockland Green School on Slade Road.

When asked about the challenge made my Mr Foster over the region’s police and crime responsibilities being moved over to the Mayor’s office, he said: “This should have been straightforward. Mayors in London, Manchester, Leeds, and soon Sheffield, all have the powers of the PCC now. However, we have got ourselves into a process which involves a legal battle.

“I have no interest in processes, I just wanted to get on trying to cut crime in the West Midlands because the PCC has around for 12 years and obviously does not work because crime has gone up.”

He added: “I am deeply disappointed with Simon (Foster) for legally challenging the Home Office decision. This is not my legal case, or appeal, the Home Office lodged the appeal. And now we are all in the courts hands, but it is no way a done deal and I am confident they could win.

“People are worried about crime. This would have made sense in the battle against crime in the West Midlands. The mayor, just like in London and Manchester, is in the best position to deliver policies in fighting crime.”

NEWS: Andy Street announces £2.4m careers advisor fund during mayoral election campaign visit to Stockland Green School

Words and on location pics by Erdington Local

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street chose Stockland Green School to make his first major policy announcement of his election campaign.

Mr Street visited the Slade Road secondary on the first day of his official campaigning for the mayoral election to announce if re-elected on 2 May the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will pay for 40 careers advisers for schools in some of the region’s most challenged areas.

The plan has been costed at £2.4m with funding already identified by the WMCA.

Mr Street announced the policy at Stockland Green School due to its successful careers programme, which was launched after the legacy of lockdown saw work experience plummet and face-to-face careers sessions with pupils drastically decline.

Mr Street told Erdington Local: “This school has been praised by Ofsted for its commitment to careers advice, but sadly across the West Midlands the same not can be said for all schools.

“There are still too many young people who are not getting the right opportunities and guidance during the critical years when they are deciding what to do for work.”

He added: “30 per cent of our children have not had work experience; one in six have never had face-to-face careers advice. And as usual it’s the schools in the most challenged areas which have these problems.”

Mr Street, who credits his economics teacher as the catalyst for his journey into the business world – which saw him run the department store giant John Lewis from 2007 to 2016, before entering politics – is concerned youngsters will turn elsewhere for crucial advice if denied access to careers experts.

He continued: “In a world where youngsters are getting their career advice from people like Andrew Tate on social media, having trusted local grown-ups in schools is more important than ever.

“I spoke to children in this school today and they all had a spark, a passion, and an idea what excited them concerning jobs – and for children like these, they need help to give them advice about how to get to where they want be and fulfil their aspirations.”

As announced today, if Mr Street is re-elected as West Midlands Mayor schools which score high on the pupil poverty indicators will be able to apply to the WMCA for funds to employ a dedicated careers officer.

Stockland Green School, which is part of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, was praised last year by Ofsted for the “tenacious” approach of staff in driving up student aspiration.

Assistant headteacher, Katerina Lee, is also responsible for the careers advice in the school. She said: “The pandemic caused so many problems with work experience, and with careers advisors not meeting pupils we wanted to do something about it.

“We work with local companies to get our pupils the routes to the jobs and careers they want. However, it is hard. And it would be wonderful to have a full time careers advisor… in fact we could do with lots, their work is so important.”

She added: “It is not like in previous years, where pupils would be given a pathway to industries which would open their doors for work experience and then a job offer would be at the end of it.

“We have to work hard identifying the needs of pupils, like our SEN (special educational needs) children, it is very important to identify their needs very early on.”

Headteacher Rebecca Goode began working at Stockland Green School 16 years ago before getting the top job in 2022.

She said: “Our pupils enjoyed telling Mr Street their aspirations and what they want to do when they enter the job market. Giving them access to careers advice is a really important part of making that happen.”

Mr Street, who won the previous two West Midlands mayoral elections, promised to keep the region’s youngsters and children at the top of his agenda. He believes improving their economic prospects is key in both their success and that of the wider West Midlands.

He added: “This is one of those areas where we just haven’t had the budget, powers, and responsibility to sort this until now. But I will get a grip of career education if I’m re-elected in May.

The West Midlands Mayoral election is being held on Thursday, 2 May. Candidates include the incumbent Conservative candidate Mr Street, Labour’s Richard Parker, Reform UK’s Elaine Williams, and Sunny Virk for the Liberal Democrats.

For more on Andy Street visit www.andystreet.org.uk

For more on the West Midlands Combined Authority visit www.wmca.org.uk

Click here to learn more about the West Midlands Mayoral elections on 2 May.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Social Economy Cluster launches at Witton Lodge Community Association

Words by Witton Lodge Community Association

On 24 October Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) were delighted to welcome the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, to officially launch the Social Enterprise Cluster.

Part of a £2 million support package through the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) using unspent Commonwealth Games money, this initiative has been created to help level up some of the region’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The Cluster is being led by key social businesses in all the Combined Authority’s seven constituent council areas of Birmingham, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell, Coventry, and Solihull.

Each organisation will receive seed funding to help them develop plans to identify specific projects that will improve the local area and act as a springboard to bring in further investment.

Witton Lodge CA was co-funded by Power to Change as the first local cluster and is now joined by a dynamic mix of social businesses including CWCDA, iSE, Colebridge Trust, SWEDA, Access to Business, and Provision House, all of whom have excellent experience in developing and supporting their respective communities.

This is a valuable opportunity to learn from each other and create a sustainable eco-system for social organisations and their communities to flourish.

Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer at Witton Lodge Community Association, said: “We were delighted to welcome everyone involved with the Social Enterprise Cluster to Witton Lodge for the launch of this fantastic initiative. This investment will give us the much-needed resources to do the job we are trying to do, to improve the local area and economy to generate wealth and retain it in our communities.

“It’s a great opportunity for the community to decide what’s right for us, and help create change that makes a real, tangible difference.”

The WMCA’s Social Economy Growth Programme is being funded by the WMCA’s Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund, which was established in response to the Games coming in under budget.

Following discussions with the Mayor and the WMCA, the UK Government agreed to invest the £70 million underspend back into the region to enhance the legacy of the Games and ensure the benefits continue their positive impact for years to come.

Watch Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street discuss the importance of social economy with Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer, and Linda Hines MBE, Resident Director/Chair of WLCA.

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: NBER Business Engagement & Growth workshop at Perry Common Community Hall

Words by Steve Sharma / Pics supplied by Witton Lodge Community Association

The latest North Birmingham Economic Recovery (NB:ER) Group Business Engagement & Growth workshop provided invaluable insight into the importance of strategic marketing and branding.

Hosted by Witton Lodge Community Association and held at Perry Common Community Hall in January, attendees learned how to coordinate and implement outbound and partner marketing as well as the value of Public Relations and Branding.

A series of presentations also examined why effective marketing is a crucial part of any business plan and how emotions and meaning behind branding have an enormous impact on the success of marketing.

Formed in response to Covid-19 to support both businesses and individuals recover from the pandemic, the latest NB:ER workshop was part of the group’s continuing commitment to ‘creating effective routes into skills training and sustainable jobs for those currently facing barriers and/or exclusion.’

Guest speakers included Lyndsey Thomas and Heidi Salmons from IM Properties and Winvic Construction, who engaged with the audience to draw out the concept and power of branding.

“It was a pleasure to deliver and be a part of the latest NB:ER Business Engagement & Growth workshop talking to attendees about how consistent and genuine marketing, branding and social value are essential components of a successful business,” said Lyndsey.

“The attendees were really engaged and interacted throughout our session asking considered questions and making valuable connections with other small businesses during networking in between presentations and after the session – a well organised event by the NB:ER team!”

Emma Rhymes from Winvic Construction talked about how to use CSR and Social Value to grow your business while Linda Jones, from the Salus Fatigue Foundation, spoke about the journey of a local successful enterprise.

NB:ER coordinator, Jobeda Shahed, said feedback from those attending the workshop was very positive.

“It was great to see so many people taking part, with many commenting on how they picked up useful tips on how to create meaningful and impactful marketing,” she said.

“Thank you to everyone who attended and supported the event, especially our partners for their great presentations.”

The North Birmingham Economic Recovery (NB:ER) Group is formed of businesses and institutions with a vested interest in North Birmingham, including Aston Villa Foundation, IM Properties, BMET, and Witton Lodge Community Association.

The NB:ER Task Force is chaired by Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, who took over the role after the passing of Jack Dromey MP – who was a ‘driving force’ behind the group’s inception.

NB:ER is further endorsed by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority, who are a member organisation to the group.

For more on the North Birmingham Economic Recovery (NB:ER) Group & Plan, visit www.northbirminghameconomicrecovery.co.uk

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

NEWS: £2m investment into new Enterprise Hub on old Erdington Swimming Baths site

Words by Steve Sharma

Bosses at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have pledged £2million of financial support to help Witton Lodge Community Association transform the former Erdington Swimming Baths, Mason Road, into an Enterprise Hub for social entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Planning approval has now been granted by Birmingham City Council, who have submitted a revised Levelling Up Fund application to Central Government for regenerating Erdington High Street.

It is hoped the proposed new state-of-the-art facility will be the catalyst for economic growth and investment in the constituency.

The WMCA has now revealed that funds secured as part of its nationally acclaimed 2018 brownfield and housing delivery programme, have also been earmarked for the scheme.

Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer at Witton Lodge, said: “I’m delighted that we have achieved these important milestones in the creation of this exciting new hub.

“A first for North Birmingham, it will create jobs, promote enterprise and entrepreneurship, and offer relocation opportunities for existing businesses.

“Combined with other local facilities in the area we will create a Learning and Enterprise Quarter that will act as a catalyst for the wider transformation of Erdington Town Centre.”

The ambitious project is the latest in a series of WMCA housing and land investments using Government funds to provide new homes, jobs, and commercial spaces on brownfield sites, helping to support the region’s economic recovery from Covid-19 and to unlock private investment while reducing pressure on the green belt.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, added: “Transforming this site into a thriving enterprise hub will breathe new life into the heart of Erdington.

“It will create opportunity with brand new jobs that will regenerate the local community.

“It will also give local entrepreneurs and SME’s the chance to develop and grow, fuelling the reach and impact of social enterprise in the city.

“This is an example of how, across the West Midlands, the Combined Authority is committed to working in partnership with public, private and third sector organisations to unlock the potential of neglected buildings and locations to restore pride and aspiration.”

Both the High Street and old swimming baths regeneration plans also have the backing of MP for Erdington, Paulette Hamilton, who has worked with Witton Lodge and other constituency stakeholders since being elected in May.

Paulette Hamilton MP reiterated how vital it is that Erdington finally gets the financial recognition it needs to help fulfil its potential, to provide local residents and businesses with economic stability and success.

Sahe told: “These amazing plans have the potential to transform Erdington High Street and make it a destination again.

“The proposal to turn the former swimming baths site into a thriving business hub is exactly the sort of forward-thinking innovation we need in our area.

“Witton Lodge Community Association already do so much fantastic work in our community and I’m sure the new hub would bring enormous benefits for local people looking to develop their skills.

“Our High Street desperately needs this boost, and I’m crossing my fingers that Ministers will give it the green light.”

For more on the new Enterprise Hub visit www.erdingtonbaths.webflow.io

NEWS: Rt Hon Michael Gove MP visits Erdington High Street to see locations earmarked for regeneration in rejected Levelling Up application

Words by Erdington Local election news team

On Monday, 28 February, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP took a tour of Erdington High Street with Conservative Councillor and MP hopeful Robert Alden – looking at the locations earmarked for regeneration in the recently rejected multi mullion pound Levelling Up Fund application.

Michael Gove MP is the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and ultimately responsible for allocating funds from the £4.8 billion pot of Government money for regional investment into local infrastructure.

Erdington was the only Levelling Up Fund application made by Birmingham City Council in October last year that failed to progress to the next round – whilst millions are now on the horizon for other projects across the city, not a single penny was spared for the proposed regeneration of Erdington High Street.

The Levelling Up Fund application for Erdington High Street was at £12,700,000 – with further investment coming from the private sector, including the transformation of Central Square into a destination venue of shops, cafes, bars, and apartments.

Birmingham’s other bids, which all made it through the first round, included £19,941,000 for the A457 Dudley Road Improvement Scheme, £17,145,000 for the Birmingham Wheels site remediation, and £15,539,000 for Moseley Road Swimming Baths.

The Levelling Up Fund bid for Erdington High Street was the only application without match funding from Birmingham City Council, despite the local authority finding up to £17m in match funding for other projects.

In Birmingham for a visit to Birmingham Energy Innovation Centre in Tyseley – as part of a tour of the West Midlands – Michael Gove MP joined Erdington Ward Councillor and MP hopeful Robert Alden for a tour of Central Square and the old Erdington Baths – two locations that played key roles within the Levelling Up Fund application.

In a previous opinion piece written by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and published by Erdington Local on Saturday, 26 February, Michael Gove MP stated:

“If Robert Alden is elected as Erdington’s next MP, you’ll have a local champion making the case for Erdington directly to Cabinet members like me.

“This is what Erdington really needs — someone willing to stand up for the area and make sure residents are heard.

“He has been a vocal proponent for Levelling Up Funding to transform Edington’s high street, and I’m currently working with him to get this bid over the line.”

Erdington Local was made aware of Mr Gove’s visit after CCTV footage of the group entering and exiting Central Square had been sent to the newsroom.

After contacting the West Midlands Conservatives office for comment, and pictures from the visit, Cllr Robert Alden told Erdington Local:

“A key part of my plan for Castle Vale, Kingstanding, and Erdington is securing investment to regenerate Erdington High Street.

“That’s why I wanted to bring the Levelling Up Minister to see first hand both the need for investment but also the exciting plans that we have pulled together with the community to regenerate the High Street.”

Robert Alden added: “While Birmingham Labour have voted against investing in Erdington year after year, I will continue to campaign and work constructively to bring partners to the table to try and secure investment for Erdington High Street.”

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

The 12 candidates contesting the 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).

CCTV footage of Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP visiting Central Square with Cllr Robert Alden

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

ELECTION NEWS: Conservative big hitters celebrate ‘enormous potential’ in Erdington and push for ‘improved funding pitch’ to regenerate High Street

By Erdington Local election news team

With 100 days to go until the local elections on 5 May, Conservative Party big hitters have been celebrating Erdington’s “enormous potential” – with one leading cabinet minister calling for an “improved funding pitch” to secure millions for the High Street.

Following a special visit to Erdington, Conservative Party Co-Chair Oliver Dowden said:

“Seeing Erdington first-hand showed the enormous potential of this town centre – there is a huge range of shops with relatively few empty units, and some great independent traders generating footfall.

“So, there is a real opportunity here to build on what has been achieved by local businesses and the BID and secure a better future for Erdington.

“I was struck by the passion and vision that Cllr. Robert Alden has for the centre and there is no doubt he is a strong advocate for Erdington and attracting the investment that is needed.

“The Government is committed to Levelling Up communities like Erdington, and I look forward to an improved funding pitch being submitted, which could help unlock the High Street’s potential.”

Mr Dowden was on a tour of the constituency with Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden, who is also Leader of Birmingham’s Conservatives.

Meeting with local residents, campaigners, law enforcement, and the local business community, the visit was arranged to help understand the needs and concerns of people who live and work in Erdington, ahead of the upcoming local elections.

Erdington is also facing a by-election where local voters will decide the next constituency Member of Parliament, following the sudden death of Jack Dromey MP on Friday, 7 January.

Cllr. Robert Alden, who represents the Erdington Ward along with Cllr. Gareth Moore, is also a local resident and has been involved in many constituency campaigns – including recent applications for regeneration money from the Government led Future High Street and Levelling Up funds.

Whilst both bids were initially rejected, due to reasons that span the political divide, there is still hope a renewed application for the Levelling Up Fund could ultimately be accepted – which, if successful, could see millions invested into Erdington High Street.

Cllr. Alden added: “I was pleased to showcase Erdington’s potential to Oliver, a leading member of the Government. We have all been disappointed that the previous Council bids have not had everything we need in them, but we know what needs to be addressed.

“We have already met with the Council and the Department and are fighting to get the changes needed to successfully reapply in the next round.

“Regenerating Erdington will ensure that it has a secure future as a place that local people actively choose to want to come and spend their time.

“We are working positively with Government and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street who has been another supporter of Erdington, including calling it out as a priority in his manifesto.”

Mirroring the hopes and aspirations of the Erdington councillor, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street added:

“I am very struck by the strength of community support, including from organisations like Witton Lodge Community Association, the BID, and Cllrs. Robert Alden and Gareth Moore for regenerating Erdington.

“I’m committed to continuing to work with the local team in securing investment into Erdington.”

But on the High Street itself, there are people who see day after day the problems facing local shoppers and businesses. Erdington Street Warden John Lynch, who met with Oliver Dowden during his visit, told Erdington Local:

“There will always be a problem with shop lifters, and we do need to target the shop lifters – at the moment the police don’t often come out for shoplifters unless they’re violent and aggressive. Even then it’s a struggle.

“I would like to see more police presence on the High Street.”

Another local resident, who didn’t wish to be named, added: “If we’re not talking about shop lifting, then personally I think it’s the littering and dog fouling – people need to take more pride (in the area) – the High Street is for everybody to enjoy.”

But as sun follows rain, there was one positive note from Magdolena Gal – when asked what the biggest problem facing the thoroughfare was, she told: “I have no problem, I think the High Street is good.”