NEWS: St Barnabas Church celebrates 200 years in the heart of Erdington with special events and historical display

Words by Estelle Murphy / Pics by Ed King and Joe Marchant

St Barnabas Church is celebrating 200 years at the heart of the Erdington community with a series of special events and activities, before a special bi-centenial birthday service on 23 July.

There will also be a special display of the church’s history, from the Erdington Historical Society, in situ at St Barnabas until the double century celebrations are over.

Despite not being readily accessible to members of the public, after St Barnabas closed its café due to financial constraints in June last year, the display can however be seen during the church’s regular programme of community events and worship.

A Grade II listed building, situated on the corner of Church Road and Erdington High Street, St Barnabas Church was first consecrated on 23 July 1824 – with this year marking its 200 year anniversary.

The church was famous for its 16 stained glass windows, and cost £5000 to build at the time – over £1000 of which was from public donations. St Barnabas is the Patron Saint of Peacemakers and is often invoked against quarrelling and hailstorms.

Bi-centenial celebrations were launched on 8 June with an arts and crafts event, and the presentation of Erdington Historical Society’s display of St Barnabas Church history.

The display details the early plans for the church, which was originally built as a chapel of ease to the Aston Parish Church – meaning locals didn’t have to travel to Aston every Sunday to worship. At first St Barnabas could only conduct burials and baptisms, and weddings could not take place there until Erdington became a parish in 1858. The display also shows records of former clergymen and women, bells, and graveyard extensions.

But marking a sad point in the Erdington parish history, on 4 October 2007 arsonists set fire to the St Barnabas Church, destroying all but one of its stained glass windows and much of the roof – leaving only the clock, bell tower, and walls standing. Rebuilding took place between 2011 and 2012, it the church was rededicated in December 2012.

The display form the Erdington Historical Society also shows images of the former stained glass windows and the war memorial lost to the fire, whilst also providing more details of the fire.

Ahead of its 200 year anniversary, St Barnabas is hosting series of events and activities to mark the occasion. Erdington Arts Forum and Ceol Agency also hosted a special musical event on 29 June, bringing musicians and artists together in the church to celebrate it’s importance to the community.

On Saturday 13 July there will also be a Celebration of Relationships held at 2pm – a service to rejoice in all the bonds of love, from friendship and community to marriage and partnership.

Saturday 20 July will see a family fun day with arts and crafts, workshops, and refreshments, held in the community hub from 11am till 3:30pm, which people can attend without booking.

Then on Tuesday 23 July at 7pm, St Barnabas will host a special dedication service, to celebrate the building’s 200 year history and shine a light on everything that is good in the community of Erdington.

Reverend Emma Sykes at St Barnabas told Erdington Local: “It was consecrated on 23 July 1824, which is why we are holding a dedication service on that day.

“Leading up to that day, we have a whole range of events that celebrate Erdington and highlighting the good things here”.

Erdington Historical Society meet at the community hub area at St Barnabas every second Tuesday of each month, with a small fee for attendance.

For more on St Barnabas visit www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk

For more on the Erdington Historical Society visit www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk/erdington-historcial-society

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

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 

NEWS: Castle Vale Councillor to hold ‘Crime and Community Safety Summit’ at Greenwood Academy on 18 May

Words & pics by Ed King / Profile pic supplied by Cllr Ray Goodwin

Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin (Labour) is to hold a special ‘Crime and Community Safety Summit’ to address concerns of crime and policing on the estate.

Scheduled for Saturday 18 May, the event will be held in Greenwood Academy’s main school hall from 1:30pm – open to all and free to attend.

Local residents and community groups will be invited, as will the local police force, representatives from the estate’s main housing provider The Pioneer Group, and the Erdington constituency MP Paulette Hamilton.

Cllr Goodwin has informed Erdington Local he will further be inviting the sitting West Midlands Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner, who will both begin their new terms in office from 2 May.

Cllr Goodwin has organised the public meeting after being “fed up” with the “hands off approach” to policing on Castle Vale, and the dangers a lack of visible police presence can allow.

Having held a previous public meeting about safety on the estate in 2023, Cllr Goodwin has pushed forward this year’s ‘crime summit’ after police seemingly ignored local witness reports of gun shots following a “violent disorder” on the High Street on Thursday 5 April.

According to the police’s initial statement issued on Friday 6 April, the attack, which took place in broad daylight in and around the Nisa convenience store, was isolated to “four masked men – understood to be carrying machetes”.

However, multiple Castle Vale locals reported hearing what they believed to be gun shots and took to social media to warn others about the incident.

Cllr Goodwin repeatedly petitioned police to escalate their investigation and take seriously the potential involvement of firearms, even taking them to where spent shotgun cartridges had been found near the scene of the crime.

Days later and after heavy rainfall, police returned to continue with forensic investigations, stating they had received “a report of a firearm being discharged” and were “keeping an open mind” about the nature of the assault.

Cllr Goodwin told Erdington Local: “Like many residents, I am fed up with what feels like a hands off approach from the police when it comes to crime on Castle Vale. I understand budgets have been cut, but the lack of police presence on the estate is a serious concern.

“Plus, the seeming unwillingness to listen to local residents is totally unacceptable – we should be working together to keep Castle Vale safe; residents should not have to push the police into action over reports of serious crime.”

Crime on Castle Vale is often a cause for concern amongst the local residents, businesses, and civic stakeholders who live and work on the estate. In a recent Ward meeting, one of the action plan points was how to make Castle Vale ‘bold and safe’ – with a formal request to see the estate’s CCTV upgraded featured on the meeting minutes.

The absence of a local police station in Castle Vale has also often been criticised, following its closure after West Midlands Police announced an initial 28 community stations were getting axed in 2015. The building, situated at the end of Castle Vale High Street, has now been converted into apartments.

But whilst the impact of crime and the loss of community policing is felt across the city, there are a mix of opinions about how these issues directly affect life on the north Birmingham estate.

One Castle Vale resident told Erdington Local: “I don’t think the policing on Castle Vale is any worse than other areas of Birmingham. The recent incident (on 5 April) highlighted the fact that the police need to listen to the residents more and take on board what they say. 

“If it hadn’t been for Cllr Ray Goodwin and Erdington Local, they would not have investigated the firearms involvement. A bigger police presence would be appreciated at night when the street cruising and racing around the estate is rife.”

However, another Castle Vale local and young mother added: “I can’t let my children play out on the estate due to the amount of violent crime which goes unchecked. If there was a more visible police presence there wouldn’t be as many teenagers out to cause trouble. 

“Youngsters on motorbikes race round the estate and, even if reported, the police don’t come to investigate or find them. We also need the CCTV system to be fully functioning and monitored 24 hours a day.”

Organised by Cllr Ray Goodwin, the ‘Crime and Community Safety Summit’ will be held at Greenwood Academy from 1:30pm on Saturday 18 May – free to attend and open to all.

Updates will be posted online at www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale and on Erdington Local

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Words and pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

I hope everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale enjoyed the Easter break and could spend some valuable time with your family. Easter is a time of hope, renewal, and joy – a time for us to come together, reflect on what matters most.

This spring, it was heartwarming to see our communities come together for Easter, Eid, Vaisakhi and Passover, sharing festivities and traditions, and strengthening the community spirit that makes our area so unique.

These important bonds extend to our amazing local organisations, as was evident during my recent visit to Erdington Court Bowls Club. There, I had the pleasure of congratulating them on receiving the Shared Prosperity Fund from Witton Lodge Community Association.

This grant has funded a new bowls-friendly wheelchair, ensuring that bowling can be accessible to even more members of our community. This is a testament to the power of local organisations working together for the common good.

It’s this spirit that makes me incredibly proud to call our area my home and reminds me of how my own journey began, working as a district nurse in Kingstanding to serving our community as a governor at Yenton Primary School.

But there are so many unsung heroes in our community who work tirelessly, to help others and it is in that spirit that I would like to celebrate this Easter.

I will be finding unsung heroes across Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale and telling them how much they mean to me. Why don’t you do the same.

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)

Castle Vale is a community rich in talent with good and decent people who look out for each other – and this became really apparent over the last few weeks with the high-profile incident on Castle Vale High Street. 

It is because of the amazing community that Castle Vale is resilient and will bounce back bigger, better stronger.

However, I won’t be resting on my laurels and I will be making sure Castle Vale is getting the best deal possible. I will be holding a ‘Crime and Community Safety Summit’ on the 18 May 2024 at Greenwood Academy from 1.30pm onward.

I will be inviting a representative from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, the West Midlands Mayor’s office, and the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton. The Pioneer Group housing association has already agreed to attend.

My biggest ask is that we reopen a visibly present police station.

The Pop-Up Police Station is great, but it’s not enough. We need to ensure that the incident that occurred on 5 April on the High Street is an isolated incident, and that we do more to not only tackle crime but to deal with the issues that lead to crime.

I won’t be taking no for an answer, and I won’t allow Castle Vale to be treated like second best.

I will stand up be counted and do what needs to be done to represent this amazing community.

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

NEWS: Mother issues warnings after daughter attacked by dog off leash at Witton Lakes

Words by Jake Morgan / Pics from Erdington Local archive

A local mother has made public warnings about a dog and their owner after her daughter was attacked by the animal earlier this week at Witton Lakes, suffering bites and scratches to her face and neck.

At 2:15pm on Tuesday 2 April, the young girl was playing with friends on the grass at the popular Perry Common/Erdington parkland when what is believed to be a French bulldog approached her.

After trying to ward away the animal, which was off the lead, she was attacked by the dog as it leapt up, scratched her neck, and bit her lip.

The girl’s mother, Lisa Brown, told how the dog’s owner reportedly quipped “he smells fear” as the reason for the attack and did not enquire about the young girl’s condition.

After tending to her daughter’s injuries, the she then reported the owner and dog to West Midlands Police before posting a warning to others on social media.

Lisa Brown said: “My daughter got attacked by a dog which was a Frenchie beige colour in Witton Lakes.

“She was sitting on the grass with a friend and the dog come up to her jumping up her she tried to push the dog away but the dog scratched all her neck and bites her lip.

Lisa added: “All the owner said was he smells your fear not a sorry made sure my daughter was ok nothing. The owner couldn’t control the dog which was off the leash. He was an older guy with an accent. I’ve reported it to the police but please be aware if you walk in this park.

“My daughter is 12, she was in a public place and should have been safe.”

Lisa’s post sparked a massive reaction on social media with nearly 100 comments made on her Nextdoor post alone at the time of writing. Many people rushed to wish her daughter a speedy recovery, as other parents revealed their fears about dangerous dogs in Erdington’s parks.

Shahnaz Miah said: “This is why I don’t go to parks, it does not happen every day but it just takes that one occasion doesn’t it? Your poor daughter, I hope she is OK. All I have is curses for these dog owners.”

Whyhad Hussain said: “The problem with some of these idiots who walk with their dogs off the lead. Many times I have been down Witton Lakes and their dogs off their lead. I am sure by law they are supposed to be on a lead.”

Anita Kumar said: “I hope the police find the owner he should be ashamed of himself and the dog should not be let off lead if he can’t control himself.”

Solomon Harris said: “Irresponsible dog owners, shouldn’t be allowed to have dogs. If a dog is scratching and biting her of course she will be scared. Let someone attack him and then say, I can smell your fear!

Mike Medlam added: “Ban the frenchies. Rule for one and another rule for the other. Muzzle them up… I bet that won’t happen will it.”

Deaths by dog attack in England and Wales have risen dramatically over the last few years, with the Office of National Statistics reporting 16 fatalities in 2023 – as opposed to five in 2021 and two in 2019.

The American Bully breed has been found to be responsible for around 50% of the fatal dog attacks in the UK from 2021 and 2023, resulting in a ban on breeding the animal and legislation requiring existing owners to obtain an official exemption from the courts.

Previously, breeds including the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and the Fila Brasileiro were also made illegal to own without a court order – following the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and its subsequent amendments in 1997.

However, campaigners and dog lovers the UK have constantly challenged the increase in laws around dogs – with many arguing it is the irresponsible owners and not the breed that make certain dogs a danger to humans.

West Midlands Police have been approached for a comment regarding the attack in Witton Lakes.

NEWS: Official investigation finds Kingstanding councillor earned over £6000 whilst working in “a voluntary capacity” for Council SEND support service

Words by Ed King / Pics from Erdington Local archives

An official investigation has found Kingstanding’s Labour Councillor Des Hughes earned over £6000 whilst working for the Council’s criticised SENDIASS service – in what he claims was intended to be “in a voluntary capacity for a few weeks”.

SENDIASS is a Council run statutory service that supports young people with special educational needs and disabilities, which was found to be “85% non-compliant” in a 2022 review conducted by the National Children’s Bureau (NBC).

A report presented to the Council’s Standards Committee earlier this month, by public law barrister Matt Lewin, identifies the payments were made to Mr Hughes despite him having officially resigned from SENDIASS on the run up to Council elections in 2022.

It further identifies failings by Cllr Hughes to declare his roles as trustee on two local charities, Kingstanding Regeneration Trust (KRT) and SHIME@NechellsPOD – with the latter cited in the report as receiving over £120,000 from SENDIASS for office space rentals from 2020 to 2022, as discovered in a separate review of the service by KPMG.

The report continues to state that “no procurement process had been followed” over the rental agreements and highlights the Council’s exiting portfolio of available office space. It adds, “there were no signed contracts in existence” between the charity and the Council.

The investigation also addressed and held true allegations that Cllr Hughes used his access to HR management software to extend the contact of 21 agency workers at SENDIASS, whilst holding the elected position of Kingstanding Ward councillor.

It also found that Cllr Hughes “failed to disclose his continuing interests at SENDIASS” whilst attending Council meetings, with a focus on his position on the Education, Children and Young People Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

First employed by SENDIASS in April 2019, Des Hughes held the paid position of Parent Partnership Support Officer, working at least in part out of office space at the Nechells POD community hub.

Mr Hughes was not an elected Council member when first recruited by SENDIASS.

After being selected as Labour’s candidate for the Kingstanding Ward in March 2022, Mr Hughes followed official protocol and resigned his city officer role at SENDIASS – allowing him to campaign and, if elected, sit as a Kingstanding councillor without a conflict of interests.

However, findings from Mr Lewin’s investigation show Mr Hughes continued to work for SENDIASS until “at least” the end of August 2022, with invoices issued to his home address showing he received a further £6,189.96 from the service – referenced as ‘SALERY OVERPAYMENT RECOVERY Late Leaver’.

Whilst Cllr Hughes did not deny his continuing work with SENDIASS, both during his local elections campaign and subsequent role as Kingstanding Ward councillor, he told the investigation he was only intending to support a “good bunch of people” in a voluntary capacity and felt that “just running… and leaving them with” his cases to “share out and hand over just seemed a bit inconsiderate in the circumstances.”

When further questioned about the £6,189.96 he received after his official resignation, Cllr Hughes claimed he had not seen the invoices before.

He added: “…this might sound flippant, but if there’s money in the account when I go to the cashpoint, I tend not to investigate further.”

Addressing the rental payments made by SENDIASS to SHINE@NechellePOD, the Lewin report states “there is nothing in the evidence… that suggests any direct involvement in this agreement” by Cllr Hughes – but confirms rental payments to the charity are first seen on their accounts in 2020/21 after Mr Hughes’ appointment.

Des Hughes was a Labour councillor for the Kingstanding Ward from May 2010 to May 2014, and again from May 2015 to May 2018.

In March 2022, Mr Hughes was again selected as a Labour’s candidates for Kingstanding in the 2022 Council elections – alongside running mate Naziah Rasheed. He was elected on 5 May 2022 with 1350 votes, this highest of any candidate, and represents the ward alongside Conservative Councillor Rick Payne.

Complaints were made reportedly against Cllr Hughes last year, with the Kingstanding councillor formally notified of the allegations in August 2023 and an investigation beginning in September that year.

Following the allegations, Birmingham Labour party told Erdington Local they had placed Cllr Hughes under “administrative suspension”.

Only recently made public, following a Standards Sub-Committee meeting on 22 March, the investigation report presented to the Council prompted their decision that “Cllr Hughes had breached the Code of Conduct” for elected officials – citing seven individual cases, including points where Cllr Hughes brought “his role and the Council into disrepute”.

The Committee’s recommendations included stripping Cllr Hughes of his role of trustee at the Barry Jackson Trust and as the Council’s representative on the Board of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The Committee’s ‘Decision Notice’ further recommended Cllr Hughes makes an official apology to Council, and that “all reasonable steps to recover the outstanding overpayment of salary.”

Erdington Local has contacted both Cllr Des Hughes and Birmingham Labour for further comment.

For more on Cllr Des Hughes visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk/councillors/165/des_hughes

For more on Birmingham SENDIASS visit: www.birminghamsendiass.co.uk

NEWS: Erdington teenager found not guilty of Cody Fisher Boxing Day murder

Words by Ed King

An Erdington teenager accused of murdering footballer Cody Fisher (23) on Boxing Day 2022 has been found not guilty, as the highly publicised trial came to an end at Birmingham Crown Court earlier today – 25 March.

Reegen Anderson (19) from Erdington was cleared of murder, but found guilty on a separate charge of affray.

Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, affray refers to violent conduct in public setting ‘such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness… to fear for their own personal safety’ and could carry a sentence of up to three years following a conviction.

Anderson’s co-accused, Remy Gordon (23) from Rednal and Kami Carpenter (22) from Kings Norton, were both found guilty of murder and could be facing life imprisonment. Remy Gordon was also found guilty of affray.

All three will be sentenced at a later date.

(l-r Remy Gordon, Kami Carpenter, Reegan Anderson)

Cody Fisher was fatally stabbed at Crane nightclub, Adderley Street, Digbeth, on Boxing Day 2022 – pronounced dead at the scene despite the best efforts of emergency services attending the incident.

He had been a semi-professional footballer from Redditch who had been part of the Blues Academy and played for teams in Bromsgrove, Stourbridge, and Stratford.

Following the killing, Remy Gordon and Kami Carpenter were initially arrested – with Erdington’s Reegan Anderson the last to be formally charged on 12 January 2023.

During the trial, the jury at Birmingham Crown Court heard how the defendants targeted Cody Fisher after a “minor altercation” at Popworld in Solihull, two days before the fatal stabbing.

Evidence showed Remy Gordon had used social media to try and identify Cody Fisher, and that both Gordon and Carpenter discussed how they could potentially smuggle a knife past security at Crane nightclub, where it was believed Cody Fisher would be on Boxing Day.

Further evidence showed Remy Gordon and Kami Carpenter approaching Cody Fisher on the dancefloor and “immediately being aggressive towards him”, where he has fatally stabbed through the heart and the murder weapon left “embedded” in his chest.

The jury also heard how Reegen Anderson had not known his co-accused for long and had met them through social media.

He told the jury: “I was added to a Snapchat group chat called Ravers Assemble. I’m not thinking these lads carry knives, I thought it was people who liked going out to raves.

“I had known these lads (Gordon, Carpenter) for two months.”

When questioned by Matthew Brook KC, he added: “These are not really my close friends, I have other friends I chat to on social media, I’m not always on this Snapchat group.

“I just went out for a good time.”

In a statement issued by the CPS following the verdict, David Parsons said: “Cody Fisher was an innocent party who was just trying to enjoy a night out with his girlfriend and friends when he was senselessly killed.

“The defendants showed a complete disregard for his life and their actions have robbed Cody Fisher of his future and caused immeasurable pain to his family.

“These two men (Gordon, Carpenter) lied and denied their involvement in Mr Fisher’s murder but we were able to present clear and compelling evidence including that from DNA, messaging on social media, witness testimony and CCTV footage which proved the murder was premeditated and that all three defendants were responsible for Mr Fisher’s death.

“The jury’s verdict reflects the gravity of their actions. Our thoughts are with Cody Fisher’s loved ones.”