COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Engaging with residents about our future plans

Words and images supplied by The Pioneer Group

Later this year we will be celebrating 20 years since the Housing Action Trust transferred our homes on the Vale to what was then called Castle Vale Community Housing Trust. This was then known as Castle Vale Community Housing Association and later renamed The Pioneer Group in 2015.

I can’t begin to capture all the changes that have happened since that time. The early days were all about delivering on promises to invest in homes and develop good landlord services.

Today we continue to deliver on those promises, reinvesting in schemes like our window and door replacement programme and taking steps to reduce our homes impact on the environment.

Decisions about how we invest in our homes and services is set out in a document called our Corporate Plan – the current five-year plan runs until April next year and has been focused on great safe homes and strong vibrant communities.

Over the next three months we will be engaging with all residents, our service users and stakeholders on our next corporate plan. We want to know what you think makes a great landlord and help set our priorities for the next three years.

With continuing economic pressure, it is likely that there are going to be some difficult choices to make, so it’s important that you have your say.

I would encourage you to get involved, have your say and genuinely influence what we do for you and your community.

If you want to come along to a focus group or have some thoughts to share please get in touch through our website (see below) or call into the High Street office.

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

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

Words and pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

In the early hours of Friday 5 July, millions of people across the country woke up to the news that they had elected a Labour government, putting their faith in change after 14 years of Conservative chaos.

Closer to home, in Erdington, Kingstanding, Castle Vale, and South Oscott, I was proud to be re-elected as your Member of Parliament for the place I call home.

I want to thank everyone who put their trust in me and voted for change. And even if you didn’t vote for me, I will still be your MP and my door is always open.

In my acceptance speech, I emphasised my commitment to continue listening to the voices of local people. A key concern was around Erdington High Street and the work has already started to address the issues, by working with the local police, council, traders, residents, and community groups.

However, I recognise the need for additional support. Improving our High Street remains a top priority for me, which is why I will be raising this issue with the new government.

I will also fight for better funding for the area, support for local residents facing rising costs, more police on the streets, and easier access to GP and dentist appointments. Additionally, I aim to continue confronting the challenges posed by HMOs that are blighting our neighbourhoods.

While the scars of Tory neglect run deep after 14 years of chaos, a new dawn has broken, giving millions across our country hope for the future.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

LOCAL Q&A: Paulette Hamilton retains Erdington for Labour as constituency makes a historical political shift

Lead pic supplied by Birmingham Labour – additional pics by Claire Taylor and Ed King

On 4 July, people across the country took to the ballot boxes to vote in their Members of Parliament and to determine the political elite who would in turn run the country. The Conservative Government was toppled, and Labour won by a landslide. But not without both losing significant ground to Independents and minor parties up and down the UK.

Paulette Hamilton retained the Birmingham Erdington seat and kept the red flag flying over the traditionally Labour stronghold. But Reform UK stepped over the Conservatives to be the constituency’s official opposition, marking the first time in Erdington’s history the political battle was not just between red and blue.

Erdington Local caught up with Paulette Hamilton to find out some of the MP’s thoughts on the recent General Election, and what the new political playing field could mean for the future of Erdington.

Congratulations on securing the Birmingham Erdington seat in your first General Election. What are your priorities now you can continue to serve as Erdington’s MP?
“Thank you. Firstly, I want to express my gratitude to everyone who participated in this democratic process by casting their vote. Regardless of whether you voted for me or not, I am committed to working tirelessly on your behalf, and my door is always open if you need assistance.

“It is an honour to be re-elected as your local MP on the priorities I outlined during the election. These priorities include assisting struggling families with the cost of living, investing in our NHS to expand dental and GP appointments, increasing police presence on our streets, building more affordable homes, addressing the HMO issue and tackling the problems we face on Erdington High Street. These are the issues that residents consistently bring to my attention, and I remain focused on addressing them.”

Are you disappointed not get a place in Sir Keir Starmer’s cabinet?
“My commitment first and foremost is to the people of Erdington, Kingstanding, Castle Vale, and South Oscott. I entered politics to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Having lived in Erdington for 37 years and raised my family here, and with 25 years of experience as an NHS nurse where I started my career in Kingstanding, I am deeply connected to our community. Local people have elected me to be their voice in Parliament, and that remains my top priority.

“I’m delighted that Labour have been given the opportunity to serve and I will continue to support Keir and all my colleagues in Government. My place is in representing our community and fighting for their needs and that commitment drives my actions.”

With a Labour Government now in Westminster, and MPs familiar to your constituency with key cabinet positions, what changes do you hope this could bring to the people of Erdington?
“Our area urgently needs investment, opportunities, and hope for future generations, which it did not have under the Conservatives.  With a Labour Government now in Westminster, I am committed to using every opportunity to highlight the challenges our community faces.

“Although it’s still early days, I’ve already begun speaking up for our area. Rest assured; our voices will be heard in Parliament and Government.”

And how will the change in Westminster affect the wider city’s ongoing financial crisis?
“Our country faced over a decade of Tory austerity, resulting in a £1 billion cut from Birmingham City Council’s budget. Youth services, police numbers, and public finances were severely impacted. The Tories’ unfunded tax cuts crashed our economy that resulted in higher mortgage rates, higher bills, and surging inflation.

“I am under no illusion that the state of our economy inherited by the Labour Government presents a huge challenge. While promising overnight improvements would be neither honest nor responsible, the Labour Government is focused on economic growth to enhance spending on public services. Their approach includes providing multi-year funding settlements to councils, ending wasteful competitive bidding, and supporting local audit system reforms to ensure better value for taxpayers.

“Councils across the country are facing crisis, and the Labour Government has a comprehensive plan to address these challenges and work for the benefit of local communities.”

For the first time in the constituency’s history, the two leading parties are not just Labour and Conservative – with Reform UK taking 22.9% of the votes for second place. What is your response to the new opposition party in Erdington?
“The Conservatives’ track record has left many communities feeling let down, leading to frustration at the ballot box. In contrast, Labour secured a huge mandate with 411 seats nationwide, and a substantial majority of 172. Here in Birmingham Erdington, our majority doubled.

“The results in places like Erdington highlight the frustrations. Local people have experienced years of failure under the Tories, and this shift reflected their desire for change.”

Dr Shaukat Ali stood as an Independent, achieving 6.7% of the votes and virtually coming in joint fourth with the Green Party candidate. Independent candidates did well in the 2024 General Election, challenging some seats and taking others – such as Perry Barr. What can you now do to address the concerns of voters who feel disillusioned with the main political parties?
“To address the concerns of voters who feel disillusioned with the main political parties, I commit to actively listening to feedback. I understand that some voters were frustrated and felt unable to vote for me or any of the major parties.

“Under a Labour Government, I want to see communities brought together, rather than divided. My message to you is this: I hear your concerns, and I am dedicated to continuing to engage with you, listen, and work together toward addressing the issues that you care about.”

What do you feel about the reports of aggressive campaigning and intimidation that have arguably besmirched parts of this General Election?
“Where it is established that intimidation and aggressive behaviour towards candidates and campaigns has occurred, it must always be called out and condemned, and if necessary, investigated by the authorities.

“I’m proud to live in a country that values democracy. Here in Birmingham Erdington, the conduct of other candidates in our area was not reflective of that in other parts of the city. While we can have our political differences and debates, they need to be put forward respectfully. That’s the minimum standard expected from the people we want to represent.”

Crime is a constant issue for our readers and Erdington residents, and you have been vocal about your concerns over the approach to the region’s policing under Chief Constable Craig Guildford. The Reform UK candidate Jack Brookes is also clear on his concerns over crime and policing. What will you now look for from the PPC’s office to really address these concerns?
“Since 2010, police funding has been stripped. The country has seen significant cuts to police numbers and services by the Conservative Government and in the West Midlands, we have lost over 2,000 police officers and hundreds of police staff.

“I know that local people are seeing the results of these cuts, especially on Erdington High Street, which is the main reason people contact me and my office.

“The PCC has prioritised to rebuild community policing by putting more neighbourhood police officers on the front line. Labour has committed to an extra 13,000 police back on our streets, and I will be working with the PCC to ensure our area gets its fair share to combat the issues we face.”

Many Erdington Local readers also raise concerns about how ‘present’ politicians are in the area, and how their focus is on winning elections and not supporting their constituents. Now you have a clear four years ahead, what can you do to build confidence in your constituents?
“As an MP, I’m elected to represent our area in Parliament and I am usually there from Monday to Thursday. But Erdington is my home, where I have lived for the past 37 years and where I raised my family. I shop on Erdington High Street and get my groceries on Slade Road. I bought my first house in Erdington and started my career as a nurse at Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre.

“I want to be a voice for the people in our community and hold regular advice surgeries in every corner of the constituency. To date, I have opened over 4,000 new cases for constituents and am committed to being present at community events, local schools, and advocating for better services. In the years ahead, I aim to strengthen our relationship by standing by your side and fighting for the things that matter to you.”

The final question comes from Jack Brookes, the Reform UK candidate. He asks: “As Paulette Hamilton seems so impressed with this country’s foreign policy stance on Vladimir Putin, if conscription is introduced would she be happy for her children to be sent to the front line to fight Russian soldiers?”

“I’m proud of our brave armed forces and the incredible service they provide to keep our country safe. We should never lose sight of this, and they deserve our utmost gratitude and respect.

“Labour is the party of NATO and will continue to meet the challenge of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine by strengthening our armed forces and protecting our national security – because it is the right thing to do.

“The security of our country and the safety of our citizens is the first duty of any government, whether facing down Putin’s aggression or a threat from anywhere else.”

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Birmingham Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Paget Rangers return to the Vale

Words and lead image supplied by The Pioneer Group / Supporting pics by Ed King

Birmingham-based Paget Rangers have come home to Castle Vale, playing on Saturday afternoons at Castle Vale Stadium as per league fixtures.

Since leaving the estate in the late 90s, the football club are already re-engaging with the local community by welcoming them to their home games.

The team are also preparing to provide free football training at the stadium, for those living in Castle Vale and surrounding areas.

Dave Travers, Stadium Manager at Castle Vale Stadium, said: “We are delighted to have brought back Paget Rangers to the stadium, as a new club with a big community focus.

“With a junior section of teams from ages 7 to 18, they have a clear pathway into first team football and are producing their first own team players.”

Lee Woods, Stadium Duty Officer, added: “It’s exciting to welcome Paget Rangers back home and see how the club drives forward.

“All of us at the stadium and wider organisation, The Pioneer Group, look forward to the future of this new, bright partnership.”

Almost 25 years ago, Paget Rangers moved to their home, Vale Stadium in Castle Vale, for the start of the 1998/1999 season, after five seasons ground sharing with Sutton Coldfield Town.

Unfortunately, this did not work out – however, The Pioneer Group bought the stadium, maintaining a community sport and social hub for Castle Vale residents.

Sean Feeney, Chairman of Paget Rangers, said: “We believe that Castle Vale Stadium can be the heartbeat of this football club and residents of the local community can be our 12th man.

“We look forward to supporters joining us, so we have decided to offer all residents from Castle Vale a discounted season ticket this year.”

For more from Paget Rangers visit www.pagetrangers.co.uk

For more information about Castle Vale Stadium, visit  www.castlevalestadium.co.uk or follow the venue on Facebook @Castle Vale Stadium

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

The Pioneer Group, Castle Vale Community Housing, 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

Words and pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

At the end of May, Rishi Sunak, in a last-ditch attempt to save his premiership, called a general election ahead of his own Conservative Party attempting to replace him.

The Conservatives want your vote, but ask yourself, after 14 years of Conservative government, do you feel better off?

The country and our community in Erdington, Kingstanding, Castle Vale and South Oscott are left with a simple choice. Do we continue the chaos with the Tories, or do we turn a page in our country’s history and vote for change with Labour?

Our NHS is broken, and local people find it impossible to get GP and dentist appointments. Energy bills have skyrocketed, and after the Conservatives crashed our economy, mortgages have gone through the roof. Our tax burden is the highest it has been since the 1960s.

Nothing is working. Our community deserves better. We all deserve better.

Labour has a fully costed plan to fix what the Conservatives have broken. An extra 13,000 police on our streets, 1.5 million new homes, and 40,000 more NHS appointments will just start to repair the damage that has already been done.

Two years ago, I was honoured to be elected as your Member of Parliament to represent the area where I have raised my children for more than 35 years and call home.

I’m proud to be standing again as your local Labour candidate to continue the work we’ve done together to improve our community.

Give change a chance and let’s end this chaos.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Castle Vale Community Safety Summit

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group & Castle Vale Community Housing / Pics supplied by The Pioneer Group

In May, I was pleased to represent The Pioneer Group at the Castle Vale Community Safety Summit called and organised by Cllr. Ray Goodwin.

The event was a part our response to residents’ concerns that crime and anti-social behaviour was getting worse on the Vale. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, it was testament to the strength of feeling that nearly 40 residents attended and took an opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences.

There was clearly some frustration in respect of the police presence and how thinly spread resources are. Though it was pleasing to hear evidence that crime was actually less prevalent in the Vale than in some surrounding areas.

We continue to play our part in this important issue having recently supported the local policing team to maintain a presence on the Vale, working from one of Pioneer’s local office hubs. Our recent investment in digital upgrades to the CCTV camaras means that they’re all working well.

Residents were supportive of the summit and shared ideas around placement of cameras and the potential for ANPR systems on main access and exits to the neighbourhood and were invited to join a new community speed watch group.

There was a real consensus that we would continue to work in partnership to strengthen the offer around youth work and provision for young people on the Vale.

We remain committed to listening to and acting on feedback from our most important stakeholders, our tenants and residents.

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

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

The Pioneer Group, Castle Vale Community Housing, 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

Words and pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

This month, I have been pleased to support Erdington Friends of the Library in their campaign to protect and preserve our local library, following a consultation by the Council.

Our libraries serve as essential hubs for learning, community engagement, and have historical relevance. As a local resident of Erdington who has used our local libraries for decades, I understand how important these local facilities are to our community.

These spaces promote knowledge, creativity, and social connections, and we must preserve them for future generations.

I wrote a letter to the Council expressing my strong opposition to any closures of our libraries and also attended the library consultation event in Erdington, where I was heartened to see so many passionate individuals coming together to voice their concerns.

I signed Erdington Friends of the Library’s petition, urging the council to carefully consider the views of local people about the future of their libraries.

I would also like to extend my warmest congratulations to our new Mayor of the West Midlands, Richard Parker.

His leadership and vision will undoubtedly benefit our community and region. I look forward to meeting him soon to discuss how we can work together to fulfil one of his key pledges: revitalising our High Streets and making it a thriving destination once again.

Results like these send a clear message that people in Erdington, Kingstanding, Castle Vale, and across the country deserve better. After 14 years of Tory chaos and mismanagement, it’s time for change.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

OPINION: A view from the Vale – Cllr Ray Goodwin

Words by Cllr Ray Goodwin (Castle Vale Ward, Labour)

It’s been a busy few weeks on Castle Vale.

Work is about to start shortly on Filton Croft and by the time you will have read this we will have held our Crime and Community Safety Summit.

A lot has been said over the last few weeks about politicians not listening to the communities they represent, but one of the things I have done over the last two years has been open and accessible to residents – this is why my regular estate walk abouts are so important, it means I can talk to residents to listen to their concerns and issues and deal with them straight away where possible.

My commitment is to continue to do this and talk to as many people as possible on a daily and weekly basis and discuss what matters to them most, Castle Vale!

I want local democracy to be at the heart of everything I do, and this is the best way to do this. I see residents on a daily basis for appointments. But, also, I hold a monthly advice surgery for residents as well.

Whilst over the last two years a lot of good things have happened – including securing a new bus route to the fort shopping centre.

There is now, however, more to do, and I will be leading the charge to the West Midlands mayor that there is a train station and that station is called ‘CASTLE VALE’.

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

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: New Mayor, new approach to housing supply

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group & Castle Vale Community Housing / Pics supplied by The Pioneer Group

With a new Mayor elected in the West Midlands I very much look forward to seeing a reinvigorated approach to the need for more social housing across the region.

The new Mayor, Richard Parker, speaking in Inside Housing made clear his commitment to “having the biggest social housing development programme we’ve seen for 40 years in the West Midlands”.

Whoever had been elected the combined authority is set to get new devolved powers to deliver central governments affordable homes programme from 2026 and a £400m investment to transition to that implementation date.

This hopefully will help Mr Parker deliver on his commitment to build 2,000 social rented homes by 2028. Social rent is usually set at about 60% of market rent and is therefore the most affordable tenure on the market.

Here at Pioneer we will support not just the combined authorities priorities in this area but also continue to work with Birmingham City Councils ambitions to work in partnership to deliver more homes in the City.

As I Have discussed previously the city has a chronic shortage of such homes leading to huge waiting lists.

I wish Mr Parker and all the newly elected officials across the region all the best in their new roles and look forward to their ambitions for the region being delivered.

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

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

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

BACK TO WORK: Fort Dunlop based Precision Micro launches 2024 apprenticeship drive

Words by BTW editorial team and Precision Micro / Pics supplied by Precision Micro

World leading, Erdington based, engineering company Precision Micro is looking for a fresh cohort of 16-21 year olds for its 2024 apprenticeship drive.

Based on Vantage Way, a stone’s throw from the Fort Shopping Park and Castle Vale, the internationally renowned photochemical etching company has been training young people for years – giving them the specialist skills they need for a career in precision engineering.

Providing opportunities for local young people, Precision Micro has welcomed students from Greenwood Academy through previous apprenticeship drives – getting them set on a lifelong career path at the cutting edge of engineering.

Throughout their comprehensive four-year program, apprentices will gain invaluable hands-on experience across all departments within Precision Micro – refining the crucial skills necessary for producing precision-etched metal components.

A global player in chemical etching, Precision Micro plays a key role in critical applications across many sectors, including lifesaving surgery, military jets, luxury cars, surveillance drones, and more.

Applications for the Precision Micro apprenticeship 2024 drive will be accepted until 31 May.

Successful candidates will commence their apprenticeships in September 2024 while pursuing a Level 3 qualification in engineering through Birmingham Metropolitan College – James Watt Campus.

A proud management-owned business situated at Fort Dunlop, Precision Micro’s commitment to investing in its workforce is underscored by Director and Co-owner Mick Taylor, who embarked on his career journey as an apprentice himself thirty years ago.

Mick shared his enthusiasm, telling Erdington Local: “With substantial investments in our facility and equipment in recent years, there has never been a more exciting time to join Precision Micro.

“Our previous cohort of apprentices have flourished, contributing to our culture while gaining invaluable insights into our business and the industries we serve.”

In 2022, Greenwood Academy students Clayton and Kyle started out on the Precision Micro apprenticeship program – taking their first steps into the world of work with the Erdington based engineering company, just as the firm’s current Director and Co-owner Mick Taylor did three decades ago.

Clayton told Erdington Local: “I have gained a vast amount of knowledge that helps me in different situations to either solve problems, guide jobs around the process or to work on the different projects that are incomplete”.

Kyle added: “Everyone at Precision Micro is so kind, helpful, and approachable, meaning you never have to feel scared to ask questions.

“My time here so far has helped me to grow as a person, in confidence and knowledge, so I can’t thank the business enough for this opportunity.”

Since 2019, Precision Micro has invested more than £7million in upgrading its Erdington based facility – including £1.8 million in 2024, building a second etch room that significantly increases capacity and underpins its ambitious growth strategy.

Across 2024, the world leading engineering firm has plans to grow by a further 20%, with existing and new apprenticeships playing an integral role in the company’s long-term success.

Precision Micro’s 2024 apprenticeship drive is open to local young people aged between 16-21 – anyone interested should register their interest before 31 May.

To make an application visit www.resources.precisionmicro.com/apprenticeships

For more on Precision Micro visit www.precisionmicro.com