Friday, September 13, 2013

Fox Hollies Forum Environmental Centre reopens

Matt Redmond welcomes the Lord Mayor & Lady Mayoress
I was delighted to be invited, along with Cllr Stacey, to the reopening of the Fox Hollies Environmental Centre, which has been refurbished thanks to a generous grant from Veolia. We also welcomed the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress to a gathering of local people and service users. The Fox Hollies Forum is a very special community facility in the ward, acting as a centre for a wide range of services and groups and offering opportunities for employment - they've even taken on an apprentice to help look after the animals in the centre.

Camp fire singing with pupils from The Oaklands school

There's always a tree to plant....

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Policing Update

We've had a bit of a spike in crime across the ward over the summer. Total recorded crime is up year on year across Acocks Green by 25%. Within that, burglary is up by 92%, which translates to 35 offences; vehicle crime is up 13%; and robbery is up by 20%, which equates to five offences. As I wrote earlier, I'm always conscious about the level of fear of crime that exists in Yardley, so there needs to be some perspective. This is still a safe place to live. We've got a very good and dedicated policing team here and they are committed to cutting crime and dealing with offenders.

The Gospel Estate has borne the brunt of this - hence the meeting at Lakey Lane School for the start of Operation Seabreeze - this is divided into patrol strategy, offender management and community development, with short, medium and long term goals for each area. The officers in Acocks Green have been clearly very stretched - the Gospel Estate started out with one PC and two PCSOs. One PCSO was removed and after the local PC was redeployed elsewhere, his replacement unfortunately went on long term sick. We now have a replacement - PC Nick Hale, who started last week. An additional PCSO, Dan Coxhead, has also been sent to the Gospel to support PCSO Chelsie Beardsmore. Sadly, PC Ian Davis, who has been a key member of the team, has been sent to a new posting as an Acting Sergeant in Stechford. We'll certainly miss him here in Acocks Green, but we already have a replacement, PC Dan Poore.

In terms of the Gospel Estate, officers from Acocks Green will liaise with their colleagues across the borders in Solihull and Hall Green. Other departments, such as traffic, are putting their people into the area to carry out patrols as urgent commitments allow. There is also work going on to put some additional youth activities onto the Gospel. The initial response, even from some of the young people involved, has been positive and residents have welcomed the additional, visible patrols. Surveys have been carried out by the local teams across hundreds of properties to assess local concerns about crime and antisocial behaviour. On a long term basis, they will look to take out a dispersal order - a civil measure that allows the police to order groups that are causing disruption to leave the area and not to return without facing the possibility of arrest. A number of youths have been identified as getting involved with a number of problems on the estate and the initial response is to explore civil anti-social behaviour action, which may lead to ASBOs. However, this isn't a short term option - evidence has to be gathered and a civil case built.

Elsewhere, anti-speeding operations have recently been carried out on Olton Boulevard East, where nine drivers were spoken to about exceeding the speed limit; four were warned on Tyndale Road, eleven on Fox Hollies Road and none on Mayfield Road. Other speeding operations are planned for coming weeks on other roads.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wheelie bin survey results

Next Monday, the cabinet of Birmingham City Council will meet and agree the roll out programme for wheelie bins across Birmingham. The current plans envisage that the deployment will reach our local depot in the autumn of 2014, so we've got about a year to wait for them to reach Acocks Green.

What is interesting is the survey work done in the two trial wards - Brandwood and Harborne. 417 people across both wards were interviewed face to face prior to the roll out and there was then a follow-up telephone interview with the same people after the bins had been put into use. These were the individuals with primary responsibility for recycling in a household. The data is weighted to ensure that their backgrounds are a balance that matches the ward, so we can have some decent confidence in the data. 

Prior to the launch, 35% strongly supported the introduction of wheeled bins, 28% tended to support them, 22% were undecided, 7% tended to oppose and 8% strongly opposed them. When they were re-interviewed, the shift was quite marked. Now 53% strongly supported them and 23% tended to support, with 11% being neutral and just 4% tending to oppose, although 9% strongly oppose. That shows 63% initially in favour, rising to 76% in favour once they actually had a chance to use the service. The neutrals seemed to have shifted in favour and the total of those opposed has slipped back by a couple of points, although it is interesting that there has been a very slight hardening of those strongly opposed. Interestingly, this is pretty close to the figures produced by a YouGov survey in 2011, which showed 77% with a positive view of wheeled bins, 14% with a negative view and 9% undecided. (Oddly, LibDem voters are most in favour). 

Although this is still early days and only relating to two of our forty wards, the sample shows that 31% feel that wheelie bins have encouraged them to recycle more, compared to 20% who thought it would when surveyed prior to implementation. Curiously, 6% think that they recycle less than before, double the 3% who thought that they would reduce their recycling. The actual results speak for themselves - residual waste (black bag) collection amounts have dropped by 24% across the wards, while the mixed (glass/plastic) recyling has increased by 40% and paper has increased by 20%. That would be a pretty impressive achievement if it could be sustained, but I would expect variable increases in recycling once the system is fully rolled out, although all the evidence suggests that this change will encourage far greater recycling.

Despite this positive news, however, there's always one who has to find the downside. This week, it is Cllr Jon Hunt, who is leading the charge and has managed to get a story into the Mail claiming that the budget costs have doubled since last year.

Unfortunately for the thrust of the story, they haven't.

Borrowing was always part of the picture and the Liberal Democrats know this. It has been covered at previous cabinet meetings and in scrutiny committee too. A larger part of the modernisation project is funded through council spending and borrowing than is funded by the DCLG money.

But Jon doesn't stop there.
The council has already maxed out its credit card. Now it proposes to conjure another £8 million out of nowhere this year. It is staggering that senior councillors on the council have the brass neck to think they can spend even more money on this. 
Apart from the minor point that prudential borrowing isn't the same as a credit card (the Labour government gave councils the power to borrow to invest, something of which the Tory/Lib Dem administration took full advantage. If the card is maxed out, they are the ones who splashed the cash. 

The facts haven't changed - we need to modernise our waste collection operation. It was left with outdated facilities, worn-out vehicles and is entirely unfit to deal with the volumes that we expect to receive in the future and to deliver on the targets for recycling. 

The initial results from the trial wards look remarkably promising - the public are buying in and are making the effort to recycle more. The scheme is working and the opposition is getting increasingly desperate as they see their imagined political capital draining away. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

Road resurfacing - Victoria Road

Yet another stretch of road in Acocks Green is to be resurfaced - Victoria Road (from the Shirley Road roundabout to Botteville Road).

The work is scheduled to start during the week of the 23-27 September 2013. It is expected to take up to five days and the crews will be working on site on weekdays between 8am and 6pm. Amey will put signs on the road to confirm the precise start date.

As vehicles can't drive over hot tarmac, the section of the road affected will be closed to all traffic while surfacing is being carried out.

If you require access for medical/personal reasons, you can contact Amey on 0121 303 6644 (option 2), to discuss how access can be arranged. Pedestrian access will be maintained as well as access for emergency vehicles. That number can also be used for any other questions that you might have. 

During working hours, it will not be possible to park on the road. Cars left will have to be removed and this may incur a cost to the registered keeper. There are also likely to be speed and width restrictions while the work is carried out. 

Sorry for the inconvenience, but this work needs to be done and is usually completed well within the time allocated.