Friday, June 15, 2012

Yardley Gardening Competition

If you are a Birmingham City Council tenant or leaseholder, you could win yourself £100 in gardening vouchers and you don't need to have a garden to enter!

Categories include:

  • Best front garden
  • Best back garden
  • Best communal garden
  • Best balcony, window box, hanging basket or pots
  • NEW! Best vegetable patch grown in the ground (including raised beds)
  • NEW! Best vegetables in containers (pots, hanging baskets, growbags or tubs)
  • NEW! Best overall new entry.

You can nominate yourself or a friend, so long as they are a tenant or leaseholder by calling Andy Sheppard on 0121 464 1615 or emailing before Friday 20 July.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Councillor backs cuts to green growth

Cutting back on growth
Actually, taking advantage of the better weather last Sunday to get back into Acocks Green with the rest of the volunteers to tackle the central reservation on the Warwick Road and clear the jungle of growth around the base of the trees - it took about twelve sacks to remove it all. I've also had the grass cut along there this week so it looks far better in advance of the Farmer's Market this weekend, although I quite like the meadow look with the dandelions. At least to judge by my lawn, you'd think so.

Council Meeting - 12 June 2012

For the record, here's the text of my maiden speech (unchecked against delivery):

"I shall be brief, although I may take more than my usual 140 characters today.
It appears that the coalition that we endured for eight years has staggered on into opposition and despite two electoral thumpings, it just won’t die – it has become something of a zombie coalition, stumbling around searching for brains.

However, Lord Mayor, the serious issue is whether this Labour council should continue these policies and some figures were cited to advance that argument.

Certainly, the past few months have shown some improvement, but let us consider the record of the previous administration and their partners, the government.

Lord Mayor, the members opposite criticised the former Labour government for their handling of the economy through a global crisis.

I will remind you that when the Labour government left office in 2010, the national economy was growing and unemployment was falling again, as it was in Birmingham, where in May 2010, we had 47,950 people claiming JobSeekers Allowance.

Too many, Lord Mayor, far too many.

But now, we are being asked to celebrate the fact that thanks to two years of economic incompetence by the Tories and Liberal Democrats at national level and lack of response at local level, May 2012 saw 50,239 people claiming Job Seekers Allowance. And when we look at the detail, we find that Birmingham has the highest percentage of young people out of work of any of the core cities and that women have been disproportionately affected by the policies of this government.
The people of Birmingham know this, Lord Mayor, which is why they have rejected the coalition opposite in their thousands. They have voted for change and I am proud to be one of Labour’s 20 new councillors elected as a result this year.

We must make Birmingham the Enterprise Capital of this country. We must build upon the diversity of economic and cultural life in this city – our manufacturers, our retail, financial and professional services and we must work to encourage the new drivers in the economy, the life sciences, green technology and the digital creative industries.

Lord Mayor, it falls to Labour to work through the wreckage left behind by the previous failed administration and without a supportive government, to try to deliver the jobs and prosperity that the people of this City have a right to expect.
Lord Mayor, I urge the council to support the amendment to this motion."
Aside from me, three other new councillors made their maiden speeches - Lisa Trickett, Phil Davis and an excellent opening speech from Cllr Mariam Khan, who at the tender age of 21 skilfully put the long-serving Peter Douglas Osborne properly back in his box, after he condemned the Connexions service because after they closed, they had a misspelled sign on the front door. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Electric vehicle charging post for Station Road car park?

Charging point in Margaret Street
Hopefully we'll soon see a couple of these charging points installed in the Station Road car park (behind Argos and Wilkinsons) to support the growth of electric vehicles in the city.

While take up hasn't been exactly dramatic so far, there is certainly a place for electric cars in our future - they are ideal for so many routine journeys, but range remains a problem.

If you'd like an overview of models currently available, then this site is well worth a look. Some models attract up to £5000 in grant support from the government under a scheme set out by Labour and fortunately continued by this coalition, but that still makes them rather expensive.

As always, if you have views, let me know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Diary Date - Acocks Green Farmers' Market & Fun Day Sat 16 June

It used to be all fields round here and while we can't bring that back, we can at least bring you the taste of the country.

This coming weekend will see the inaugural Acocks Green Farmers Market & Summer Fun Day. Lots of hard work has gone into delivering this from Sandy and the Acocks Green Village BID team, so do try to get along.

It is being staged on the slip road on the Warwick Road opposite Holy Souls Church.

Further markets are planned for every third Saturday of the month. These have been a great success when held elsewhere across the city, so please do support your local village!

And if the prospect of mouthwatering food isn't quite enough - how about entertainment from King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys? 
Events kick off from 9am and the market will be there until 4pm.

This promises to be unmissable....

Monday, June 11, 2012

Streetworks Update - Greswolde Park Road Footpaths

As part of Amey's ongoing refurbishment of the City's road network, the pavements in Greswolde Park Road are to be resurfaced. This work is due to take place in the week starting the 22 June and planned to take about two weeks, with work scheduled during normal daylight hours 7:30-17:00, with Saturday working a possibility. 

Access to properties may be restricted from time to time while the work is being carried out, but residents should be able to get to and from their properties. The contractors do ask that when they are working on your section of footpath that you don't park on the road outside your home.

If this is going to cause any resident problems, they need to get in touch with the contractors on 0121 303 6644

If there are any houses in the road without a dropped kerb to allow access to off street parking, there is a special deal whereby this can be installed for just £150 - a significant saving over the normal cost. This applies for a crossing covering up to 3m of footpath from the kerb line to your property. If you wish to have this done, you need to contact the City Council helpline on 0121 303 6644 before the resurfacing work starts - so don't delay. 

Dropped kerbs can only be installed where there is a hardstanding area to the garden or where planning permission has already been obtained. Planning permission must be obtained for all hardstanding areas and you need to contact the planning office on 0121 303 1115 to discuss this. 

There are reasons why kerbs cannot be dropped:

  • If there are trees/utility boxes or manhole covers/street lights/cables in the way
  • If the depth of the garden from the rear of the public footpath to the building is less than 4.75m
  • Crossings cannot be installed on a bend, at traffic lights or on a road junction.
Also worth pointing out that the current planned highways works programme is being reviewed at the moment - I should have the new version within a few weeks. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Diary Date - Full Council - 2pm Tuesday 12 June

Off to the Council House again this Tuesday for the first full council meeting under the new administration.

The agenda has been published and aside from the usual matters, we can look forward to a revamped Question Time, including the first session where members of the public can put forward their own questions to the Leader and the Cabinet, providing they are submitted in writing either by email or post before noon on the 11 June. There are a few rules about the questions - they can't be vexatious or libellous, they must relate to matters that fall within the business of the City Council, they can't be repeated within six months and they mustn't relate to personal planning or licensing cases. If you fancy putting a question to the new leaders of Birmingham, you can send it by email to and you could be asking the questions on Tuesday. By the way - you have to be available at 2pm on Tuesday to ask your question as well!

I like this - it is demonstrating a real willingness to open the council up to public scrutiny. A number of other authorities do this around the country and I'm pleased that Labour are leading the way in Birmingham. Question time as a whole has been increased in length, to allow for questions to the executive members and to ensure that they are held to account properly and not relying on the stage managed annual report, which never offered an opportunity to seriously challenge the cabinet members.

We've also saved money by cutting out the meal break from the meeting and it should all be done and dusted in four hours rather than the usual six.

Other agenda items include a report on customer services, the future of the Civic function (relating to the functions of the Lord Mayor) and a couple of motions for debate.

You can find the details here.