Friday, November 23, 2012

On with the lights

And a week after the city centre lights went on - complete with camels and the Lord Mayor in a sleigh - Acocks Green switched on its lights, with Black Country comic Lizzie Wiggins doing the honours.

Christmas really does seem to get earlier every year.

There are some more pictures over at the Acocks Green Focus Group.

The Farmers' Market seemed to be back up close to strength this month after a quiet October.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Diary Date - Yardley District Committee - 22 Nov

Yardley District Committee
Thursday 22 November 2012
2pm - Committee Room 1, Council House

Key items of interest (check the agenda below for full list):
  • Adult education service
  • Housing repairs performance report
  • Revenue budget monitoring (April to October)
  • Birmingham Development Plan - consultation on growth options
  • Update from Amey
This is a public meeting and the chair has the option to allow members of the public to speak. Sadly, this meeting isn't going to be streamed on the web as we've yet to get the committee rooms set up to do that. Hopefully that will not be the case in the near future. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Planning Applications to 17 November 2012

Another week with just a single application - possibly more controversial

2012/07602/PA - 17 Shirley Road

Change of use from vacant unit to amusement arcade (use class sui generis)

'Sui generis' classes are those that don't fit into the usual range of classes listed here.

You can find the details by inputting the reference number into the Council online database here

If you have any comments, you can submit them online - feel free to pass your comments on to me.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Police & Crime Commissioner results - Yardley

For those interested, here are the figures for Birmingham Yardley's four wards. Labour won all four, with the LibDems pushed back into fourth place in both Acocks Green and - shockingly - their fortress of Sheldon. This can't be good news for either their councillors or the current MP, John Hemming.

Acocks Green
Bennett (Con)         222      10.9%
Etheridge (UKIP)   112       5.5%
Hannon (Ind)          314      15.4%
Jones (Lab)            936       46.0%
Khan (LD)             206       10.2%
Rumble (Ind)          90         4.4%
Webley (Ind)          152       7.5%

Spoilt                      57         2.7% of all votes cast (incl invalid)
Turnout                               10.2%

South Yardley
Bennett (Con)         257     10.7%
Etheridge (UKIP)   137      5.7%
Hannon (Ind)          261      10.9%
Jones (Lab)            1009     42.2%
Khan (LD)             503       21.0%
Rumble (Ind)          89         3.7%
Webley (Ind)          136       5.7%

Spoilt                      77         3.1% of all votes cast (incl invalid)
Turnout                               11.6%

Stechford and Yardley North
Bennett (Con)         209      11.1%      
Etheridge (UKIP)   193       10.3%
Hannon (Ind)          261       12.3%
Jones (Lab)            667       35.5%
Khan (LD)             332       17.7%
Rumble (Ind)          89         4.7%
Webley (Ind)          157       8.4%

Spoilt                      48         2.5% of all votes cast (incl invalid)
Turnout                               10.4%

Bennett (Con)        254      15.8%
Etheridge (UKIP)   150      9.3%
Hannon (Ind)          326      20.3%
Jones (Lab)            427      26.6%
Khan (LD)             234      14.6%
Rumble (Ind)          98        6.1%
Webley (Ind)         119       7.4%

Spoilt                      41        2.5% of all votes cast (incl invalid)
Turnout                               10.0%

Yardley Constituency
Bennett (Con)         942     11.9%
Etheridge (UKIP)   592      7.5%
Hannon (Ind)          1133    14.3%
Jones (Lab)            3039     38.4%
Khan (LD)             1277     16.1%
Rumble (Ind)          90         4.6%
Webley (Ind)          152       7.1%

Spoilt                      223       2.7% of all votes cast (incl invalid)
Turnout                               10.6%

And so the white smoke did rise from the ICC...

The West Midlands elected its first Police and Crime Commissioner and it has got a good one. Bob's got a great deal of experience dealing with the police, but he's also a decent, down to earth person and there was nobody else on the list who - despite my party allegiance - came anywhere close to being up to his standards.

He's got a tough job ahead of him, though - he's now the Head of Blame for crime in the West Midlands. Never mind that the biggest chunk of his budget comes from the Home Office - the police precept that we pay with our council tax only makes up 14% of the total spent on policing in the West Midlands and would have had to rise in total by over 40% last year to cover the cuts imposed by central government. From now on, though, the government will have a defence to criticism - they will point to your Police & Crime Commissioner as the person to hold to account.

The election itself saw a record low turnout, which the Prime Minister blamed on the public 
the turnout was always going to be low, when you're electing a new post for the first time
Oddly, the people of London weren't used to voting for a mayor in 2000, but 34% of them turned out. In Stoke in 2002, 24% of the electorate made it to the polls for their inaugural mayoral election and  28% of the people of Bristol turned out this Thursday to vote for their first mayor. A national turnout of 15% indicates something is seriously wrong with the policy that has led us to this. Even Conor Burns, Conservative MP in Bournemouth, was moved to tweet that he now regrets voting for the bill - although this may not be unrelated to the fact that a Bournemouth Tory councillor failed to win the post there in what seems to have been a particularly ill-tempered campaign with mudslinging aplenty. (FullFact have a series of graphs detailing turnouts here)

Every election brings a handful of ballot papers spoilt with insults to the candidates or the process, but only a handful (the candidates and the agents get to see all of them). I've never seen so many ballot papers spoilt with such clear opposition to this policy - people brought pre-prepared stickers detailing their objections or just scrawled across the paper comments opposing the politicisation of the police, the cost or even just noting that they couldn't decide because they didn't have enough information about the candidates.

This election has been an unmitigated policy disaster - a normal day at the office for this government. From the timing of the election - the cold, dark days of November do not encourage voters to trudge up dark alleyways to find polling stations, to the decision not to fund the same mailout to electors provided for all parliamentary and European elections, to the expensive error that meant emergency legislation had to be pushed through parliament to allow ballot papers in Wales to be printed in both English and Welsh, to a complete failure to explain why these posts were even necessary and even to the point that they were not made to fit in with the normal election timetable in May, just speaks of the appalling mismanagement of the implementation of a policy that the public showed absolutely no appetite for. £125 million has been poured down this drain.

I'm not sure we can draw an awful lot of firm conclusions from such a low turnout and so many additional parties in the form of independents. Indeed, in the Midlands, Cath Hannon fought an excellent campaign, even running neck and neck in Sutton Coldfield with the Tory candidate, Matt Bennett, a great achievement given the challenge of running any sort of campaign across 28 parliamentary constituencies, something that stretched even the organised parties. The Liberal Democrats, with just two candidates in the region (the other being in Gloucestershire) did see their vote slump - putting Ayoub Khan down in sixth place out of seven. Until the Birmingham vote came in, he was in serious danger of losing his deposit and he lost the Yardley vote by a crushing margin, took a beating in Solihull (both currently Liberal Democrat parliamentary seats with a solid base of Liberal Democrat councillors) and in Coventry, more people actually preferred to spoil their ballot papers than vote Liberal Democrats. The uncharitable would suggest that voting Lib Dem is actually a waste of a ballot paper in any case.

It is always possible that these posts may prove to be rampantly successful. I doubt it very much. I hope that Labour will commit to scrapping them at the first opportunity and replacing them with an effective system of local governance of the police. Ironically, the model of governance deemed unsuitable for policing has been accepted as perfectly adequate for the regional bodies designed to drive economic development and growth - the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

I wish Bob every success - he'll be a fine PCC for the West Midlands. I also hope he will be the last.