Monday, November 27, 2006

Maths - the Liberal Democrat way

Cut from the pest control budget in our district

Cost of new Jaguar S-Class for Tory council leader

Why does Acocks Green lose out?

A recent leaflet from another party reported that the clean-up squad had tidied up two sites in Acocks Green this year. Other wards have had up to FORTY-SIX sites cleared in the same period. Why are we so badly served, again?

I had a look around the ward to see if some of the usual dumping sites have been cleared. They hadn’t. These pictures show sites on Gospel Lane, Knights Road and Haybrook Drive. I don’t have space for all the pictures of the rubbish ruining our ward. We deserve better in Acocks Green – this isn’t good enough.
Is it any surprise that we have one of the worst rat problems in the city? If you know of any sites that need a clean up, let me know.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Battle of Francis Road (Round Two)

We won a little victory earlier in the year on this one, but the developer has come back for more as we head towards Christmas. He's revised his plan downwards to just 13 flats, but that doesn't change the core objections - this is just the wrong development in this location. The road can't handle the additional traffic and there are already objections in from the Fire Service. One of the residents told me that she recently had to call an ambulance for a neighbour and the paramedics had to reverse their vehicle all the way down the road. I've submitted another objection in support of the residents and have asked to attend the Planning Committee meeting if (and when) it is decided.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What a waste!

Residents in Acocks Green have been complaining about the rubbish left on the streets as a result of a badly planned recycling campaign devised by the Liberal Democrat/Tory council in Birmingham.

The plan was that every household would get a fortnightly collection of green garden waste during August and September. The rubbish collected would be composted for use in the city.

Unfortunately, many households didn’t know when the bags were being collected, so they were left piled up on the street, filled with rotting grass and leaves. The City Council refused to collect them before the official start date, meaning that some bags were left out for weeks. Even now, our streets are often littered with these green bags and many people don’t know that the collections will now only take place every four weeks.
“This council missed a great opportunity to collect green waste for composting and improve a dire record on recycling. Instead, they’ve left rubbish rotting on our streets.”

Sunday, October 01, 2006

New lighting for Oxford Road

The tired old street lights are to be replaced in a £26,000 project, following on from the work done on Station Road and The Avenue earlier this year. The decision was taken at a recent Acocks Green Ward Committee. John spoke in support of the proposal and adds,
“I’ve had several complaints about the lights down Oxford Road, so I’m really pleased to support this. Residents and other road users will be safer as a result of this long overdue improvement.”
The lights are now being installed and some are already in use.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Meet the Minister

We were lucky enough to have Liam Byrne along to one of our recent meetings. I've got a lot of time for Liam - we stood together as council candidates in Yardley in 2004, but his political career has been rather more successful than mine. He was elected as MP for Hodge Hill in that autumn and won the seat with an enhanced majority last year. He's now a minister at the Home Office - one of the political hot seats with public focus on immigration and crime, but he's also a decent bloke. At an earlier meeting, Liam brought his kids along and they were (generally) well-behaved as he spoke to us about the health issues that were then part of his brief. He's also a cracking local MP, always ready to stand up for his electorate over issues like the Tesco development set to be built on playing fields in his constituency.

He took questions on a range of issues, including identity cards and immigration and even gave me a few minutes of his time afterwards to chat about campaigning.

A decent bloke and definitely one with a place reserved at the Cabinet table. Me? I'll settle for a seat on those benches in the Council House.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ward Advisory Board

Another good meeting tonight, with the business run through in good time and in good humour.

The Ward Advisory Board consists of representatives from local groups in the ward - mostly residents' groups, but there are also political reps from the Tories and the Labour party, plus the three Liberal Democrat councillors, the police and the council team in the ward. The function is to discuss local issues and assess bids that come through for funding under the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund and Community Chest programmes.

I'm not going to go into detail about tonight's bids - they will be discussed at the next Ward Committee meeting in a couple of weeks - but I was a little disappointed at the quality of some of them. Too many bids that I've seen are scattergunned across the city in the hope of picking up some of the funding crumbs from each ward. Many bids are filled with current buzzwords, but that can come at the expense of details of what their plan entails and how it specifically relates to the ward. Give us a simply phrased proposal with clearly measurable targets and relate that to improving our ward and you have every chance of getting the money. Dress it up in flowery language in the hope that we won't spot the weaknesses or the lack of detail and you'll lose out. What's worse, if you don't get it right at this stage, the people of Acocks Green could lose out on a potentially effective project.

One thing I would like to see is greater involvement from local people in the decision-making process. There's a huge amount of experience and knowledge on the WAB, but the membership could do with a balance of younger people. How we get younger people involved in the process is the challenge. It may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but it is important and you get a chance to make a difference.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Successes and problems

As a member of the Acocks Green Ward Advisory Board, I was invited along to the opening of the new Fox Hollies Skate Park this weekend. This has been funded in part by Neighbourhood Renewal Fund money (thanks to the Labour Government) awarded through the Ward Advisory Board and Ward Committee, but largely thanks to a big donation from Sport England.

This is a much-needed facility for young people in the area and allied with the youth services pod across the road will be a major resource for a part of the community that hasn't had much positive focus over the years. We only seem to think of young people in terms of crime and anti-social behaviour - often forgetting that we were young once, although it does seem a lifetime away for me and I think I'm the youngest on the Ward Advisory Board.

Despite the many positives, there are problems. There have been reports of vandalism, drug-taking and other anti-social behaviour in the vicinity - not all of them down to the young users of the park, if truth be told. Part of this is unsurprising - if you give young people a central point to gather, you shouldn't be surprised if they then gather there and some disruptive behaviour is to be expected. That said, it needs to be policed. Some of this will come from the youth workers opposite and hopefully from the community that uses the site, but support will be needed from the Kings Heath police OCU - who haven't been excelling themselves in this particular area lately, thanks largely to the fact that this area is at the extreme end of their patch and they have been known to pass the buck to Solihull, who pass it back again. I've had a number of complaints from local residents about the lack of response on a number of issues - a complete contrast to the support I've had from the team working out of Acocks Green police station.

I've offered to assist and will ask our Labour MP, Roger Godsiff, to get in touch with the OCU commander and see if we can exert any pressure on the police that way. It would be a terrible shame for this great facility to be marred by low-level crime and misbehaviour.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ward Committee - 5 July 2006

This is based upon my own quick notes and shouldn't be taken as a perfect record of what happened. Any errors or omissions are entirely my responsibility.

A couple of issues rumble on from the previous minutes. The City has been consulting over the 'Mature Suburbs' planning guidelines for several months. These were put out for consultation last year, although a number of important groups in Acocks Green seem to have been ignored when this process was carried out, so a council officer attended the Committee meeting in June 2005 to explain the proposals. These are supposed to provide a degree of protection for Birmingham's suburbs against inappropriate development - particularly on 'windfall' sites or backland (back gardens, usually). The government, quite rightly, seeks to encourage housing development on existing 'brownfield' sites, which we usually think of as being former industrial areas, but a peculiarity is that back gardens are also regarded as 'brownfield' for some odd reason. Anyway, the officer concerned was supposed to report back to the next meeting on the progress of the consultation, but that didn't happen, despite it being mentioned again in December.

I don't have a problem with setting some standards for developments, but I have a problem with these guidelines. They specify certain areas like Sutton Coldfield, Edgbaston and Moseley (amongst others) worthy of particular mention, as though established suburbs like Acocks Green and other places in Yardley don't deserve any that protection. Our houses may not be as large or have big gardens, but they are still our homes and inappropriate development can blight an area. The residents of Francis Road were, rightly, up in arms about a proposal to build a number of flats on a former industrial site. They weren't opposed to it being used for residential purposes, just to the density of housing - something that the narrow road was incapable of supporting. We managed to get that one knocked back for the time being, but a renewed application is likely.

In any case, the proposals seem to have been replaced and new guidance will go out to consultation in the autumn. I've asked that planning come along to one of the ward committee meetings to present to us on the subject in November. They propose to bring the updated guidance into operation in the spring of 2007, so any comments you have would be welcomed.

Transportation have denied that there are plans to redevelop the centre of Acocks Green along the principles of 'shared space,' despite reports in the local press. This is an interesting idea of street design, counter-intuitive in nature, which removes protective guardrails and cuts down on street furniture, forcing cars and pedestrians to share the same space. It is being championed by the Acocks Green Focus Group, but I'm interested in your opinions as well. Good idea or not? I have concerns about whether such a scheme is suitable for the volumes of traffic we see down the Warwick Road, but I'm open to new ideas. A number of other transportation issues remain to be reviewed and that department will again be asked to attend.

There is, as yet, no news on the new owner of the Churchill Club, although a deal is in the offing.

Transportation are going to experiment with a closure of Weston Lane at the junction with Reddings Lane to try and stop it being used as a rat run to bypass the busy Warwick Road through Acocks Green. Any comments? There will be an exhibition at the Tyseley & District Community Association next week (corner of Formans Road/Reddings Lane).

Other issues that were raised included the traffic calming on Gospel Lane, which has been pending for a couple of years now and we have seen the council dragging its feet horrendously. Part of the road towards the Warwick Road end is entirely within the borders of Birmingham and has had some measures put in place, with speed cushions along the road. Further down, the border with Solihull Council runs down the centre of the road, complicating the process somewhat, but the delays are unacceptable, especially as money was earmarked for this project years ago our of ward funding.

The issue of anti-social behaviour around Gospel Lane and the junction with Dorsington Road was also raised and it was suggested that contacts should be made with the relevant police command unit for Solihull. Sadly, criminals don't respect political or organisational boundaries and one of the other problems in Acocks Green is that we are covered by two different Operational Command Units of West Midlands Police. E2 from Kings Heath, which operates out of Billesley and E3 from Belgrave Road, which operates from Acocks Green. To add to the mix, we also border the Solihull L1 OCU as well. WMP are currently restructuring, so it is to be hoped that they shift the boundaries to bring them more in line with the political boundaries, to make life easier and the police more responsive to the local people. Actually, the ward has just contributed towards the purchase of the Domehawk rapid-deployment CCTV system, which is designed to be attached to a lamp-post and can be relocated relatively easily. The police can either use an encrypted radio link to monitor the camera - even using mobile kit - or can rely on an inbuilt hard drive recorder. This sort of camera is ideal for dealing with spot issues - drug dealing, graffiti or anti-social behaviour - where there isn't a justification for a permanent camera.

Something else that came up was the problem of scrambler bikes on Fox Hollies Park - one of the larger areas of public open space in the ward. We've had a number of cases reported of children being knocked over or endangered by these powerful bikes being ridden up and down the paths and across the open space. Many of them are unregistered and uninsured, so I'd like to see a multi-pronged attack on the problem. The park needs to have better fencing installed - some of it is just too low to be any hindrance to the bikers. Then anti-bike gates need to be fitted to the entrances - with suitable provision also made for users of mobility scooters. We need to find a combination that deters people from getting these machines into the park. Perhaps they can't actually be stopped - little will stop somebody if they are determined enough - but making life difficult for them can be enough. The gates have been fitted on the skate park on the other side of Gospel Lane and that is well-used by local kids - a welcome new facility for the youth in the ward.

Police action is also required here. Some areas already take a firm stance on uninsured and untaxed vehicles - which these are - and crush them. A few examples of that, suitably publicised and the local yobs will go elsewhere.

So there we go - a brief review of the meeting. The next is on the 6 September at 7pm at Fox Hollies Forum - come along and make your views known. In a couple of weeks, we have the Yardley District meeting, so I'll feedback some more then.

In the meantime, keep the comments coming through. If you don't want to post them here, feel free to mail me. I'll post a link to the proper minutes when they appear on the website.

Carnival hits the Village

The carnival came to Acocks Green last weekend and we were blessed with a sizzlingly hot day, although a day that was marred by Englands untimely exit from the World Cup.

Nevertheless, the good folk of the Green turned up in force to cheer on the procession through the village and support the dozens of stalls on the recreation ground. I leant a hand as a parade marshal and the Labour Party had a stall where we did a decent trade in an attempt to raise some much-needed cash (fighting elections is a costly business and we don't have any local millionaires to bankroll us). My long-suffering wife even produced one of her special cakes for our Guess the Weight of the Cake Competition - the winner managed to guess within an ounce of the true weight, 3lbs 8oz.

All in all, a good day - always good to meet local people and discuss some issues without the pressure of an election campaign and to have a bit of fun.

Thanks to everybody who helped out and to the kind folk who stopped by to say hello.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Thank you everyone

Well, I didn't win in Acocks Green.

To be fair, I was facing one of the biggest majorities in the City - over 2000 votes, so a victory would have been a truly remarkable reversal of fortune, but what happened was nearly as good.

I know that every politician always finds the positive spin on virtually any result, but tonight's was actually an excellent result for Labour in Acocks Green. Not quite reduced to a marginal seat, but a huge step in the right direction.

2004 2006
Lib Dem 3463 2607 -856
Labour 1289 1632 +343
BNP 892 927 + 35
Tory 624 630 + 6
Green 581 261 -320

Majority 2174 975 -1199

Despite a bad few weeks for Labour and what was forecast to be another meltdown of Labour's vote, we slashed the Liberal Democrat majority by more than half. We fought an excellent campaign, based on local issues and the public responded.

A few thanks are in order. Firstly, the staff - the people manning the polling stations did their usual sterling job - two people have to stay there for fifteen hours from 7am to 10pm with only the occasional ten minute break. I wandered round the stations during the day to say hello and thank them for their work. Thanks are also due to the returning officer and the counting staff, who were quick and efficient and to the police, for ensuring a complete lack of skullduggery in Acocks Green. To be honest, that was never an issue in the ward - I know that the candidates in this ward are all honest and decent and there is a surprising amount of trust amongst us.

I'll also thank the other candidates - the campaign was fought on political issues and not personal ones. This may surprise some people, but I've never seen the point in being unnecessarily nasty about opponents. We'll disagree, criticise and throw political punches, but we're civil and informally, quite friendly - something that I hope will continue. I hope that we all have the interests of the ward at heart.

I must thank my agent and fellow campaigner - Marcus has been a loyal friend and co-conspirator for a number of years and over a number of battles. We will win one, I promise! The sore feet will be worthwhile. Thanks are also due to our MP, Roger Godsiff, who has been a supporter, friend and advisor.

I have to praise my fellow party members and workers. I can honestly say that we have never had so many people willing to come and work for us - to the point where we were able to get our last leaflet out to around 5000 homes in a single day. I shall thank all of you personally, but you know who you are. My wife and family deserve sympathy and my thanks for all that they have had to cope with over the past few months.

Finally, thanks to the electorate in Acocks Green. We may not have done it this time, but the tide is turning. We are showing up the weaknesses of the Liberal Democrats and pointing out their failures, while offering a positive alternative for the future. We've shown the BNP a clean pair of heels again, proving that the electorate in Acocks Green prefer parties based on unity and equality, not injustice and prejudice. We've had a better response to our leaflets than at any time in my five years in the ward and it has shown that there is so much to do - those of you still waiting for responses will get them and I will return all phone calls as well (I've tried everyone, but not got through to all).

Labour is back as a real force in Acocks Green. Remember, the 2007 elections are just a year away and the fight goes on. We can and will have a Labour councillor in Acocks Green again. The people need us.

Thank you all again.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Electoral Fraud

On the one hand, I'm pleased to see that the police are digging into the murky goings-on in other parties when it comes to dodgy votes. There's a fair bit of history behind the latest shenanigans in Bordesley Green, where a LibDem candidate for Nechells and his wife have both been arrested and bailed in connection with a police investigation into postal vote fraud. For the record, of course, no charges have been laid at the moment.

The Liberal Democrat response is a bit weak, given their track record in attacking electoral fraud. The candidate will continue and will face suspension from the party if elected. The LibDems also point out that the case is nowhere near as serious as the one affecting the Labour Party in 2004, as it only affects a handful of votes. I don't think that the fat lady has even started tuning up on this particular case. There were accusations flying around after the Aston by-election last year, caused by the earlier electoral fraud case, and Labour raised some interesting questions about the activities of certain Liberal Democrat members and candidates then. Curiously, the Liberal Democrat champion of electoral justice, John Hemming, the MP for Yardley, has remained silent on the issue. Surely he doesn't only attack fraud when it comes from the Labour Party?

On the other hand, this sort of behaviour devalues the whole political system and can lead to voters deciding 'a plague on all your houses' and not bothering to vote. That doesn't solve anything. I have no time for any candidate, activist or agent who seeks to pervert the system. Hang 'em out to dry is my policy.

I can say is that I am absolutely confident that my campaign is straight down the line. The Labour Party in Birmingham has taken a very strong line on the issue - just as in 2004, all candidates, campaigners and agents have been warned that if you are involved in fraudulent behaviour, the party will not defend you in any way. We've signed up to a tough protocol that we won't go to an elector on the postal voting list once the postal forms have gone out (which they have). Sadly, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats didn't agree.

It isn't just in Birmingham that something fishy is going on - George Galloway is rumbling about Lib Dem behaviour in London.

If you live in Birmingham and have any knowledge of any illegal practices, please contact West Midlands Police or the Electoral Fraud hotline on 0121 275 6219. If you have any problems voting on the day - if your vote has been stolen, then please contact the elections office or advise the police. We can't let this continue. There has to be public faith that our elected representatives are in office with genuine public support.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Tired. Very tired. And I'm on holiday.

Birmingham still maintains the practice of hanging political poster boards on lamp-posts around election time. Coventry and Solihull have recently decided to stop it and I think that's a little sad. It isn't the ego thing - although I defy anyone to look me in the eye and tell me that they don't get a little spark from seeing their name plastered along roads.

It is hard work stripping and glueing new posters to boards. It is nothing short of graft to have to trudge around the ward sticking them on lamp-posts and we could probably use the time better to talk to more constituents, but it does add something to the campaign when you see the boards blossoming along the road. I think that it reminds people that elections are around the corner - quite important when you realise that local elections don't get anything like the national focus of parliamentary polls. The number of people who stopped us today and asked what the posters were for just reminds us that there are an awful lot of people for whom politics has no relevance to their lives. Part of our job as politicians is to try and explain that link - that local elections can decide vitally important (if unexciting) issues. Your local council is responsible for things that directly impact on your life - schools, roads, pavements, rubbish collection, pest control, social care, parks and planning, to name but a few. So who runs that council is key to setting policy in those areas.

May 4 is a chance for you to have your say over who governs this part of your life. It isn't an opinion poll on the state of the government or the opposition. It should be about local issues. Are your roads in good order? Are the walls of the park covered in graffiti? How's the library service doing in your area? Whatever the issue that is bothering you, now's the time to raise it with your candidates.

Things have been surprisingly positive out there on the doorsteps. Sure, there are the voters who see this as a chance to kick the government, but there are also a fair few who are deeply upset with the performance of the Liberal Democrat/Tory council that's had a grip on Birmingham for the past two years.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Promises and lies

My Liberal Democrat opponent has finally decloaked and has been revealed as the editor of 'Focus,' one Iain Bowen. Try and act surprised. Traditionally, candidates had to hide their lights until the campaign proper kicked off, so were described as 'campaigners' or something similar. This was because it used to be the case that the moment you were described as a candidate was the moment when your campaign spending limits kicked in and there were a number of embarrassments when candidates ran out of money well in advance of the election. Now, far more sensibly, you are a candidate from the point when the candidates are all announced.

He reckons he'll be a worthy successor to Frank Coyne, the former LD incumbent. I know I shouldn't say this, but I quite liked Frank. He can't help it that he was in the wrong party. Frank was a decent man who did a good job for the ward and I wish him well in his retirement. I won't be making a habit out of praising Liberal Democrats, but in this case, I will. To coin a phrase, Mr Bowen, you're no Frank Coyne.

I've just received his latest leaflet, which includes an attempt to spin the cuts outlined in the District budget. It describes them as 'efficiency savings' and that the councillors have decided to 'take more time to look at this budget to ensure there are no cuts to front line services.'

As I pointed out below - these ARE cuts to front line services. I don't believe that there is 40% slack in the pest control budget, nor that a quarter of our school crossing patrols aren't required. £80,000 is also being slashed from the sports and leisure budget and more cut from community development.

To say these are just savings is just wrong. They are cuts. Pure and simple.

Of course, if he (or any other of the candidates) had bothered to turn up at the District Committee, he would have known that.

A partial victory

For a while now, I've been waging a campaign with the residents of Francis Road against a ludicrous scheme to build flats on a patch of land at the end of the road.

It isn't that they have a problem with bringing this bit of canal-side brownfield land back into use for housing, but the scheme is outlandishly large and would add to the problems that the road already faces.

It is a narrow road with no turning spaces and currently, even the refuse trucks can't get down it to collect the bin bags. Cars are damaged on a regular basis and residents are used to having to go to the top of the road to collect deliveries.

The idea of adding a further 19 properties (most with two bedrooms) to this road is clearly daft - there was insufficient parking for the expected vehicles and the building was entirely out of keeping with the neighbourhood. There were objections from West Midlands Fire Service, who found problems getting an engine down there and other objections from the environmental services department and other elements of the council. Surprisingly, when the application came to committee the other week, it was approved, despite huge local objections.

Fortunately, the application submitted was only an outline, so the plans as such are irrelevant. The applicants will need to revise the plans and return for full approval within a few years. All that has been approved is that the site is suitable for residential development - which it is. A few years ago, someone did apply to build houses on the site and there were no local objections. NIMBYism isn't part of the issue, but this is an entirely unsuitably development plan and we'll continue to oppose it.

Development should be an important issue for the ward - we have too many flats appearing virtually overnight and far too many fast food restaurants are being granted permission without consideration of the impact that they have on the local community. I've lost count of the number of complaints that I've received over litter. Fortunately, we have a pro-active local community police officer who is happy to work alongside environmental services to stop litter louts and issue them fixed penalty notices. I know that they complain that he should be out there catching murderers and rapists, but he's doing a cracking job attacking an issue that causes people real anger.

As far as development goes, it needs to be in keeping with the area and appropriate. If it isn't, I'll oppose it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The picture shows a building in Acocks Green called 'The Churchill Club'.

The building is of local historical interest as it dates from the back end of the 19th century and has links to the Arts & Crafts movement. It has also now been locally listed as Grade A, to ensure that planners require sympathetic treatment (this isn't the same as the national listing scheme, unfortunately).

The building is ideally located and ripe for conversion for use as a community facility - something seriously lacking in Acocks Green. That hasn't stopped the City Council declaring it surplus to requirements and putting it up for sale, with the closing date set for the end of April.

There are plans afoot to try and raise the money required to refurbish the building and put it to good use, but it is likely that this will take more than a few weeks.

We're calling on the council to withdraw the property from sale and give the community a chance to develop proposals for the benefit of all.

District Committee

I spent an interesting evening at the District Committee last week. Here, members of the public get to take part in discussions around issues that affect districts (groups of wards). Acocks Green is currently in the Sparkbrook district, alongside Springfield and Sparkbrook wards.

Of particular interest was the District Budget.

Although the overall budget increases from £9.08 million to £9. 28 million, a large chunk of that is taken up with a doubling of the administration budget (although the paperwork prepared for the meeting suggested that the increase was closer to 1000%). The poor council officer thrown to the wolves to present the budget tried his best, but wasn't able to give answers to questions from the floor. I queried the increase in the admininstration budget, but also the slashing of the allocations to school crossing patrols and pest control, which were cut by 22% and 40% respectively. Also under attack was sport and leisure, which took a hammering to the tune of £81,000 or 3.8%, and community development, which lost 5.7% or £21,000.

The council officer had been told that environmental services were reducing their budget because of a reduction in demand. That's curious, because environmental services had submitted a bid to the Ward Advisory Board only a few days before for a sum of around £37,000. This was rejected as a bid by the WAB, because it was felt that pest control should be funded centrally and not through the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund - a decision with which I agreed at the time. Usually, whenever council departments come to WAB for funding for what should be core functions, that means that they've had their budgets cut.

Similarly, the cuts to the school crossing patrol service was made to realign budgets across the city, apparently. I couldn't work out the logic behind that - surely the principle should be to assess the need, then fund that need, not spread the budget across the city. I already know of one crossing patrol that has disappeared in Acocks Green - the one that helps my own children across Fox Hollies Road every morning has been relocated to Spring Road.

That's only the start of it - there's a further quarter of a million in 'efficiency savings' to be made as well. While I'm sure that it is possible to find efficiencies in any organisation, these seem to be more about slashing jobs - cuts are on the way! They even had the nerve to class a £69,000 funding boost from the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund as an 'Efficiency Saving.'

The poor councillors looked quite confused by the whole thing - it seemed as though this was the first time that the Liberal Democrat district chair had seen the budget proposals. After much discussion, it was agreed that the proposals as presented were worthless and the budget was held over until the next meeting. Of course, the Liberal Democrats had already passed the budget through full council on the 28 February, so we're really just waiting to see if the explanations get better.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Normal Service Renewed

Sorry for the lack of postings over the past few weeks - things have been a bit hectic.

Perhaps you have an image that an election campaign is high-powered and well-funded.

I wish.

In Acocks Green, we yearn for a shoestring upon which we can run our campaign. There's only one party in Birmingham backed by a millionaire and it isn't Labour. The reality is that we rely on members to cover our costs and do most of the hard work. This year is remarkable because we have so many volunteering to help - not a huge number and any more volunteers are more than welcome.

At least we're running the campaign locally - the Acocks Green Liberal Democrat campaign is run from Moseley (the home of a surprising number of LD candidates).

Still, that's one of the benefits of having a local candidate committed to and involved with the local community and not Hemming's choice, parachuted into what they consider a safe seat.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The CCTV project in Acocks Green has been a resounding success.

The scheme was launched using funding from the Labour government and saw crime fall by 60% in the first year and by a third in the year after. It has been so successful that other parts of the City are looking to us as an example of how well it can work.

Each high resolution camera is linked by a digital telephone line to a local monitoring centre where the images are recorded 24 hours a day on to a bank of computer hard drives and monitored by a trained security officer. The quality is excellent and the police make regular visits to follow up on reports of crimes and anti-social behaviour in the area covered by the cameras. It has allowed them to gain evidence to identify people in some very serious crimes. The amazing thing is that each camera costs less than £4000 a year to operate, significantly less than other schemes elsewhere in the city.

This sort of security is key to bringing new businesses into the centre of Acocks Green - it is part of the basic infrastructure to support a safe and thriving shopping centre that attracts customers from across the district.

I've spoken to many people in the area who want to see the scheme expanded to cover other areas in the ward that have problems with anti-social behaviour and that's something that I'm backing as a key part of my campaign.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Welcome to my blog.

I'm the Labour candidate for the Acocks Green ward of Birmingham City Council in the elections set for 4 May 2006.

This blog is here to provide extra detail on the campaign and a way for you to contact me with local issues. Comments are more than welcome - the only real ground rules are to avoid libel and abuse.

I'll update the blog regularly to let you know about local issues and try to give you a flavour of what campaigning is like.

Let me know what you think.