NEWS: Local community join city leaders at candlelit vigil for killed schoolboy Dea-John Reid

Words by Erdington Local editorial team / Pics by Joe Marchant

On Friday 31 May, the Kingstanding and local community stood in silence at the exact spot where 14-year-old Dea-John Reid was stabbed to death in 2021 – at a special memorial event held three years ago to the day the schoolboy was killed in broad daylight on College Road.

Those attending the candlelit vigil include Dea-John’s friends and family, alongside local community leaders, Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, Edgbaston MP Preet Gill, Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster, and Birmingham City Council Leader John Cotton.

The mood was mournful but defiant, unlike the vigil a week after Dea-John’s death in 2021 which pulsated with anger after hundreds of protestors descended on the area from across the country.

The racial tinderbox which could have exploded in the aftermath of the schoolboy’s killing never did, due to the hard work of local community members who worked to untie and not divide the Kingstanding or North Birmingham community.

However, the subsequent not guilty verdicts from the highly publicised murder trail sadly did little to quell the growing frustration and anger.

But that anger turned to action, and the ‘Justice 4 Dea-John’ campaign has been working to make changes to the judicial process that they feel let them down in 2021.

Addressing the crowd at the 31 May vigil on College Road, the ‘Justice 4 Dea-John’ campaign informed how they want to create ‘Dea-John’s Law’ – which would see jury members reflect the racial make up of an area.

In the 2021 murder trial, 11 jurors in Dea-John’s case were white in a city of 52% ethnic minority residents.

Bishop Desmond Jadoo and Dea-John’s mother, Joan Morris, led prayers at the spot where the teenager died.

Bishop Jadoo told Erdington Local: “This evening has been a success. I was pleased to see the Leader of Birmingham Council and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner here today, as well as MPs.

“What happened here three years ago, if filmed it would have been something like Mississippi Burning, and though it is important to remember Dea-John’s name and honour his memory we have to try and change the system which let him down.”

He added: “To have the backing and help of the University of Birmingham is also really important to our campaign. We have got support from young people who want to get involved, they want to see the

“We are campaigning for a civil rights law too. We cannot forget the horrific injustice which Dea-John suffered on the last day of his life and when the verdict was passed by 11 white jurors.”

At 7.34pm, a minute’s silence was held for Dea-John and then balloons were let off into the sky followed by chants declaring: “Say his name, Dea-John Reid”.

Birmingham City Council Leader Councillor John Cotton told Erdington Local: “I came to show solidarity with Dea-John’s family and stand with the community today. What happened here three years was a terrible racist murder.

“We are a majority minority city and I think the campaign is important because I believe public institutions need to reflect the communities they make decisions about.”

He added: “I think juries should reflect their communities.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster also told: “I think it was necessary to pay our respects to Dea-John and give our condolences to Dea-John’s family.

“Any change to the criminal justice system should be done after evidence led academic study. I think Birmingham University coming on board with the campaign which will give it an academic rigor which is needed.”

PICTURE GALLERY: Candlelit vigil for Dea-John Reid on third anniversary of schoolboy’s death

For more on the ‘Justice 4 Dea-John Reid’ campaign visit www.facebook.com/Justice4DeaJohnReid

NEWS: ‘Justice 4 Dea-John’ campaign to hold candlelit vigil on anniversary of schoolboy’s broad daylight killing

Original pics by Ed King

A candlelit vigil is set to be held in honour of schoolboy Dea-John Reid, three years to the day after the teenager was killed in broad daylight on a busy Kingstanding road.

Weeks after the tragedy, on Sunday 6 June 2021, an immediate event was organised to bring the community together called ‘Shine-a-Light vigil for Dea-John Reid’.

To see the Erdington Local PICTURE GALLERY from the 2021 vigil for Dea-John Reid, click here.

Now on Friday 31 May, at 6:30pm, people are invited to gather once again at the very spot Dea-John died on College Road – just opposite the McDonald’s fast food outlet.

Organised by the ‘Justice 4 Dea-John’ campaign and led by Bishop Desmond Jaddoo MBE – a prominent Kingstanding resident and local spokesperson who supported the family of the killed youngster after his death and throughout the subsequent trail – the peaceful memorial will be attended by Dea John’s family and friends.

Also attending will be local politicians, religious leaders, police representatives, and campaigners demanding a change to the law after the Crown failed to secure a murder verdict back in 2021.

After being arrested and charged with murder of schoolboy Dea-John Reid, the three juveniles and two adult men accused were eventually cleared – following days of CCTV footage being shown to the jury, including the moment the stabbing took place.

The teenager who delivered the fatal blow, a single stab wound with a large kitchen knife to the chest, was eventually found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six year and a half years in custody – with an order to serve half of it in a juvenile detention centre.

The three youngsters accused of murder were brought to trial under joint enterprise, a heavily contested legal doctrine which the House of Commons Justice Committee describes as “a form of secondary liability” where co-defendants can be “liable for all criminal acts committed” by the “principal defendant… in the course of their joint criminal venture.”

The Birmingham Crown Court jury consisted of 11 white members, which Dea-John’s family and advisor Bishop Desmond Jaddoo believes affected the verdict.

Since the trial, a campaign titled ‘Justice 4 Dea-John Reid’ has been fighting to change the legal system under a newly proposed ‘Dea-John’s Law’ – which would allow legal representation to challenge the makeup of a jury, currently selected at random from the electoral register, so they can better represent aspects of the crime.

The campaign has even attracted the attention of academics at Birmingham University, with Associate Professor Katharina Karcher publishing a paper earlier this year titled: ‘Re-examining CCTV Footage and Re-imagining Justice through a Critical Black Gaze: The ‘Justice 4 Dea-John Reid’ Campaign’s Dark Sousveillance.’

In a social media post about the upcoming vigil on 31 May, Bishop Desmond Jaddoo MBE said: “Please join us as we remember Dea-John, as we continue supporting his family, and as we tell you the next steps in the justice campaign as we launch our quest for ‘Dea-John’s Law’”.

Bishop Jaddoo further told Erdington Local: “This vigil is being held in the middle of a General Election campaign so we will be calling on the major parties to back ‘Dea-John’s Law’.

“The vigil is being held three years to the day Dea-John was killed after being hunted by racists.

“And it is also being held the day after the Kingstanding by-election, which is being held because a ward councillor was caught tweeting vile and racist messages and was forced to resign.”

Joan Morris, Dea-John Reid’s mother, also does not want her son to be forgotten.

She added: “Upon reflection, I will never see Dea-John become a footballer or the dentist that he dreamed off. Nor see Dea- John get engaged and married; nor see Dea-John have children; nor his own home… or even just simply have a conversation with him face-to-face.

“The final act of love I could show to my son was to ensure he had the send-off which he deserved.

“Whilst members of the perpetrator’s family will be able to visit their loved one and eventually see him released back in the community, my only visit to Dea-John is to a grave in a cemetery.”

She continued: “He was hunted by a lynch mob, reminiscent of a scene from Mississippi Burning, being called a ‘n**er’ and as evidence was given a ‘black b**tard’ and ‘bang him out’.

“A jury that was not reflective of Birmingham, who bought the stories given by the defendants in this case, and delivering a verdict against this young man in the dock of merely manslaughter.”

The candlelit vigil to remember Dea-John Reid and inform people about the “next steps” in the ‘Justice 4 Dea-John Reid’ campaign is reported to include songs and speeches, with candles being lit at the exact moment the teenager died of on the Kingstanding road.

Bishop Jaddoo said the Leader of Birmingham Council, Councillor John Cotton (Labour, Glebe Farm and Tile Cross), as well as senior members of West Midlands Police, will be attending the event.

The vigil will be held at 6:30pm on Friday 31 May, on College Road in Kingstanding – opposite McDonald’s, near Watney Grove and Wooton Grove.

For more on the ‘Justice 4 Dea-John Reid’ campaign visit www.facebook.com/Justice4DeaJohnReid

NEWS: Pype Hayes resident launches petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’

Words by Ed King

Pype Hayes resident, Daniel Edge, has started an online petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’ – amassing hundreds of signatures a day from people across the city.

Launched on 10 January, the petition set a target of 1500 signatures which it is well on course to reach.

At the time of writing, only five days after the petition went live on the recognised campaigning website Change.org, 1358 people had put their name down in support – with 228 recorded in a single day.

To access the petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’ on Change.org, click here.

Birmingham City Council (BCC) has recently come under question after they wrote to the government last year, to get Westminster to allow the beleaguered local authority to increase Council Tax above the legal limit of 4.99% without holding a referendum.

Current laws limit the amount a local council can increase their yearly Council Tax charge to residents without a public vote on the matter.

But following BCC’s financial crisis, after the city issued a Section 114 notice in September 2023 – effectively declaring itself bankrupt – the drastic step has been taken to get government approval to jump those restrictions, meaning Birmingham residents could face an increase of up to 21% on their Council Tax bills over the next two years.

The decision to approach central government to allow such a significant hike in Council Tax, without the legally required public consultation or vote, was approved by BCC in a full Cabinet meeting in December 2023 – with Council Leader John Cotton stating it would only be implemented “if necessary”.

Cllr Cotton added: “It’s clear that we’ll need to seek exceptional financial support from the government in order to bring the council’s budget back into balance.

“These are obviously very tough times, we’ve got some difficult and challenging decision ahead of us in shaping this budget.”

On 5 September 2023, Birmingham City Council issued a Section 114 notice after facing a budget shortfall of around £84m for their next accounting year.  

There were also reported debts over equal pay liabilities amounting to an estimated £760m and costs surrounding the Oracle IT system of up to a further £100m – although these figures have been questioned by some sources in the city.

With a team of commissioners now overseeing Birmingham’s bank balance, local residents are worried they will end up footing the bill for BCC’s mistakes – seeing “unfair” increases in Council Tax and losing services.

Speaking to Erdington Local about his decision to start a petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’, Daniel Edge explained: “I was moved to create the petition because of the unfairness and injustice of the proposed council tax hikes.

“Birmingham has 1.1M citizens of various socio-economic groups and a large proportion of those will be significantly impacted by these above inflation increases.

“It is simply not fair that the council tax payers are picking up the pieces of over 10 years of financial mismanagement. I’m happy for a 4.99% increase, the most the council can do without seeking government approval, but not a penny more.”

One signee of the petition comments: “I’m a resident of Birmingham and the councillors should be held to account for their mismanagement of finances over the years as opposed to this ridiculous increase in council tax.”

Another adds: “Daylight robbery! Stealing from the poor full stop for mis-management of public funds.”

Whist a further supporter of the petition ends their comment by saying: ”… I am being penalised for being a good resident and paying my way. I am not prepared to be a cash cow.”

To read more on the petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’ visit: www.change.org/p/stop-birmingham-city-council-s-unfair-council-tax-increase

NEWS: Birmingham City Council agree Financial Recovery Plan which could see Erdington assets sold and a rise in Council Tax

Words by Ed King

On Monday 25 September, Birmingham’s elected officials approved a Financial Recovery Plan which could see assets from Erdington and across the city sold to pay off the Council’s debt, as well as a potential rise in Council Tax introduced.

In a heated four hour Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), councillors from the city’s ten constituencies debated the two Section 114 notices recently issued – which effectively declared the city ‘bankrupt’, highlighting Birmingham City Council (BCC) does not have enough financial reserves to balance its books – before voting on a four point strategy presented by BCC Chief Executive Deborah Cadman.

The first recommendation in the BCC Financial Recovery Plan was to ‘Agree to accept the Section 114 notice issued on 5th September 2023’, allowing the Council to move forward and work with government appointed commissioners. The vote was carried.

The following three recommendations outlined approaches that could either save or generate money for BCC, including an ‘Assets Review to identify options to raise funds’ – which could pave the way for Erdington’s libraries, parks, community hubs, and leisure centres being sold on the commercial market, alongside other BCC assets from across the city.

Also included were spending control measures until emergency and balanced budgets could be approved, a potential ‘Organisational Redesign’ of ‘services around citizens’, and an ‘Income Review to maximise sustainable income from all sources’ – including Business Rates, Council Tax, and Grants. The vote for these recommendations was also carried.

According to BCC’S official list of property published in 2019 – the latest Erdington Local could find – the Erdington constituency has 464 assets owned by Birmingham City Council, excluding social housing and operational public highways.

These include social hubs such as both Erdington and Kingstanding Leisure Centres, Highcroft Community Centre, Elim Pentecostal Church, the Magnet Centre, The British Legion Social Club in Perry Common, Stockland Green Sports Centre, and Lakeside Childrens and Family Learning Centre.

These Erdington facilities could now be sold to address the financial crisis faced by Birmingham City Council.

Birmingham City Council could also look to sell the green spaces in its portfolio, which according to the 2019 published portfolio includes allotments across Erdington – from Castle Vale to Wyrley Birch – Erdington Playing Fields, Twickenham Road Playing Fields, Short Heath Playing Fields, Spring Lane Playing Fields, and Yenton Playing Fields.

Larger public spaces such as Brookvale Park, Rookery Park, Highcroft Park, and Pype Hayes Park could also be sold – alongside Perry Common and Witton Lakes.

Also back under question is Erdington Library, which recently fought off a proposal from BCC that would have seen its entire facility squeezed into the corner children’s library area, and Erdington Baths, which was recently promised £2m from BCC to aid the development of an Enterprise Hub – as delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA).

Birmingham City Council is facing a projected deficit of £87m for 2023/24 and legal bill of ‘between £650 million and £760 million’ for new claims over equal pay, having already remunerated thousands of historic claimants over £1bn in liabilities.

In response to the growing financial crisis faced by BCC, the first Section 114 notice was issued by Birmingham City Council’s Interim Director of Finance, Fiona Greenway, on 5 September.

A following notice was then issued on 21 September, alongside a further Section 5 notice from the City Solicitor, after calls of inaction over plans for a workable job evaluation scheme.

Ahead of commissioners coming to take over Birmingham’s finances – as appointed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – a Financial Recovery Plan was published by the BCC Chief Executive, Deborah Cadman, on 25 September.

An Extraordinary General Meeting was held that evening, with all councillors requested to attend, to debate and vote on the recommendations presented.

Council Leader John Cotton (Glebe Farm and Tile Cross, Labour) was the first elected official to speak, stating “(Birmingham City) Council is at a crossroads” and recognising the “severe challenges that we face”.

Cllr Cotton went on to “apologise to the people of Birmingham” for the “stark choices” and “worrying times” as the City presents a plan to save itself from financial ruin.

Erdington Ward councillor and Leader of Birmingham Conservatives, Robert Alden, was next to speak, acknowledging the “sad day for the city” and “tragic” circumstances Birmingham City Council now found itself in, following a “shameful amount of inaction across the summer” from the Council leadership.

Cllr Alden further presented a litany of official opportunities and advice given to BCC to address the equal pay liabilities over recent years, as well as highlighting the debt accrued was “a council issue” and that “the city of Birmingham has a bright future ahead of it; the city of Birmingham is full of amazing people.”

Alden added:  “And the city will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of this mess that’s been created by the Labour administration.”

A total of 30 local councillors stood up to address the Lord Mayor and Council Chamber during the EGM on Monday, 25 September – including Cllr Alden’s counterpart in the Erdington Ward, Cllr Gareth Moore.

Cllr Moore was quick to admit he was “quite frankly embarrassed and ashamed” over the “unprecedented” financial crisis facing the city.

He added: “Birmingham is an amazing city full of passionate people with a rich and diverse history, and yet the reputation and finances of this Council have been ruined by chronic mismanagement by the Labour leadership”.

No councillors from any of the remining six political Wards in the Erdington constituency spoke at the EGM, although time cut short the requests from six elected officials who were not given the chance to address the Chamber.

Commissioners appointed by the DLUHC will now begin working with Birmingham City Council to address the financial crisis.

NEWS: Erdington Ward Councillor issues open letter to Council Leader asking for ‘transparency and honesty’ about cuts to services or selling of assets following Section 114 notice

Words by Ed King

Erdington Ward Councillor and the Leader of Birmingham Conservatives, Robert Alden, has issued an open letter to the Leader of Birmingham City Council (BCC) calling for “transparency and honesty” over plans to save the City following the Section 114 notice issued on 5 September – including any proposed cuts to services or selling of Council assets.

Sent to Cllr John Cotton (Glebe Farm & Tile Cross, Labour) earlier today, the letter identifies 13 separate requests for information and documentation – asking for all to be included in the “document pack” issued ahead of an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on 25 September.

Click here to download a PDF of the letter issued from Cllr Alden to Cllr Cotton on 19 September

Following the issuing of a Section 114 notice, the Labour run Birmingham City Council declared it was unable to meet the financial requirements to run the city – citing a projected deficit of £87m for 2023/24 and legal bill of ‘between £650 million and £760 million’ for new claims over equal pay.

The EGM on 25 September will be when the Council will meet to discuss the Cabinet’s plans to pull the Local Authority back from financial ruin – including any potential cuts to public services and any assets within the City’s portfolio that could be sold.

Included in the letter sent by Cllr Alden to Cllr Cotton are calls for “all correspondence” between the Cabinet “relating to the issuing of the s114 notice”, including the date and times of phone calls.

It also asks the Council Leader to release “reports and briefings to Cabinet Members” from the last four years about the Job Evaluation Scheme, a “list of dates and times Officers have emailed” to the Leader’s office about equal pay in the last six years, and “the public and private cabinet reports of 2017 and 2019 relating to the waste dispute resolution”.

There are further specific requests to see any “proposals” sent to the Department of Housing, Levelling Up, and Communities (DHLUC) since Cllr Cotton was elected as Council Leader in May 2023 – alongside any “financial measures including solutions/savings/cuts/sales” that have been suggested by the City as part of the recovery package.

After the shock announcement of the Section 114 notice on 5 September, concerns have been mounting across Birmingham about where the money will come from to balance the Council’s books – as managed by an external team of commissioners, appointed by the DHLUC.

Birmingham City Council Chief Executive Deborah Cadman has already outlined aspects of the City’s £2.4bn property portfolio which could be sold, including museums, art galleries, and even the newly built Library of Birmingham.

In Erdington, public assets previously earmarked for community use and constituency redevelopment initiatives are now once again under threat – despite commitments from Birmingham City Council to finance and support the projects.

Public buildings in Erdington that could now be sold include Erdington Library, which recently fought off plans to decimate its facilities to make way for a developments led by Adult Social Care.

Erdington Baths could also find itself on the commercial market, despite recently securing funding from BCC and the West Midlands Combined Authority to become a new Enterprise Hub – designed and delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA).

Campaigners for Short Heath Playing Fields are also preparing to once again fight off potential developments on the green space that do not pertain to community sports – after a three year battle to stop BCC’s previous plans to build an 84 strong housing estate on the parkland.

Before leaving office, previous Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward had issued a license agreement to SHFT giving them responsibility for Short Heath Playing Fields until May 2024. Cllr Ward further stated in a letter to Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton that regarding any potential sales BCC’s “intention will be to market it as a sports field.”

A spokesperson for SHFT told Erdington Local: “For the last three years our community battled to save these playing fields and be in a position where they are secured for future use.

“There are few places left for us to use for sporting activities and we are very concerned that this will result in promises made being broken, and our playing fields being sold off for something other than sporting activities.”

In a separate statement issued today, Cllr Alden added: “Birmingham Local Conservatives are clear the sale of cultural and heritage assets would be totally unacceptable, they were left for the people of Birmingham to enjoy in perpetuity not for a Labour Council to flog off to fix their mistakes.”