Friday, October 12, 2012

Report - Acocks Green Ward Committee

A slightly chilly meeting on Wednesday evening...

We had an officer from Trading Standards attend to talk about No Cold Calling Zones. We've had three areas designated across the city - in Sheldon, Sparkhill/Hall Green and Stechford. The law doesn't allow the City Council to actually ban traders from calling door to door, but this is aimed at tackling rogue traders and reducing distraction burglary. Typically, this is where a caller at the door keeps the homeowner occupied while an accomplice steals from elsewhere in the property and the typical victim profile is an 82 year old woman living on her own. Far too often, rogue doorstep tradespeople are checking out the house for a later visit. Even buying something with cash at the door can reveal that you keep cash in the house, roughly where you keep it and - something I didn't know - that you have a large quantity of cash in one place. Apparently, the notes take on a particular smell if kept together. These zones are targetted on areas where a high number of distraction burglaries are reported and they act as a deterrent. Initially, Trading Standards officers provide a response to individual incidents and ask doorstep callers to stay away - and most comply - but after a while, experience shows that the zones become self-enforcing as residents themselves get the confidence to turn callers away and 95% feel safer with a zone in place. With budget cuts, there are no plans at this stage to bring a zone to Acocks Green, but we'll keep an eye on the situation.

The meetings were agreed for the remainder of the coming year:

  • 5 December 2012 - 7:30pm - Lakey Lane Primary School (time accommodates police meeting at 7pm)
  • 20 Feb 2013 - 7pm - Severne JI School
  • 17 Apr 2013 - 7pm - The Oaklands Primary School
  • 29 May 2013 - 7pm - Venue TBC
Community Chest spending continues. We agreed funding for:
Acocks Green Means Business - £4500
This is a project to help 250 local people to develop self-employment opportunities and, hopefully, deliver about 20 business starts with 2-3 months of workshops and one-to-one advice. This has been an effective scheme in the past and has actually been able to draw down further funding from elsewhere, reducing the commitment from the ward.
We've used some unspent money allocated to the library earlier in the year, a little new revenue spending and a chunk of capital spending to deliver on this - Labour weren't prepared to see the library close temporarily without alternative provision. 
Project Worker, Gospel Oak Community Centre - £3408
Youth Group - Gospel Oak Community Centre - £2817.50
We're supporting this scheme jointly with Hall Green. Although the centre is just outside our boundary, it serves a large community within the Gospel estate and I've been down to visit the team there and meet some of the young people in the youth group and I was impressed by what the team are trying to do. 

We do still have some funding remaining for the year, but there is an alternative source of support through the Acocks Green Community First funding stream, which provides match funding for sums between £250 and £2500. Have a look at the website here

We've also agreed to continue funding for the Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum.

Most of the planning applications mentioned in the agenda had already been decided, but we have an application for the land adjacent to the end of Grattidge Road at the Solihull side of the ward. This waste land is between the end of Grattidge Road and the back of what used to be a furniture store, but is now an indoor play area. There is already an existing planning approval on that entire site for redevelopment, but with the play area now in use, that looks unlikely to move to fruition, so the developer wants to build five detached houses on it. The councillors have heard different views on the matter - some residents are in favour, others opposed - if you have views, let me know. We also briefly discussed the flurry of applications for solid wall insulation on council property on the Yarnfield estate.

That largely wrapped up the meeting, although I will be writing a letter to express the community's concern about the ticket office closures that the government have now approved for many stations within London Midland's area, including all the stations that serve Acocks Green. The decision has been made, despite widespread opposition locally, but I will still express our dismay at this. I was also asked about progress on the Yardley Road issue.

With that all done and dusted, the meeting was closed and we'll reconvene in December. 

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