Wednesday, September 24, 2014

JobCentre Plus changes announced for Acocks Green residents

At present, all claimants in the B27 area use the Sparkhill Jobcentre.

From 20th October, the following changes will apply.

If you 25 or older AND are claiming JSA OR you are claiming Income Support, you will need to attend Yardley JobCentre.

If you are between 18 and 24 AND claiming JSA or you are claiming Employment and Support Allowance, your case will be handled by Solihull JobCentre.

JobCentre say
"We will be able to provide an enhanced level of support and resource to assist those claimants in their job search at Yardley and Solihull Jobcentre Sites. The B27 postcode is easily accessible on major bus routes to either site. 
The redistribution of our caseload in this way will also assist us with creating more space and capacity at Sparkhill Jobcentre. This is important for all our Jobcentres, particularly with the introduction of additional computers for customer use."

Tree on roundabout

As promised at last week's Ward Committee meeting, following concerns raised over the proposal to remove one of the trees on the Green, I arranged a meeting for last Thursday morning. Cllr Harmer, Cllr Stacey and the LD MP John Hemming all met Nick Barton, the tree specialist from Amey. Sadly, Julia Larden of the Acocks Green Focus Group couldn't make it, as she is away on holiday, but I asked her in advance for questions and also gave her a telephone call from the Green to give her a chance to put her points directly to Nick and the others present.

The photo shows the problem. The tree in question is leaning over the road and does show signs of damage to the trunk where it has clearly been hit by vehicles - although nothing recent. The tree's presence pushes larger vehicles out to the left hand side of the inside lane on the roundabout and there is always the risk that a driver unfamiliar with the layout of the Green could wind up hitting the tree. If the driver was "making lawful use of the highway", then now the council is aware of the problem, there is no defence to an insurance claim, leaving the council liable for the full cost of repairs to a damaged vehicle. Worse, there is always the potential for a collision to cause injury, putting any financial loss into the shade. Given that this is an A road, with junctions with two major B roads and a major route into the city centre, the risk of collision is significantly higher than a similar tree on a residential road not often used by goods vehicles.

Birmingham is very sensitive to this - and rightly so - since a fatality in Kings Heath a few years ago and the A38M case which saw a council officer facing trial over the death of a motorcyclist who had hit a drain on the Expressway.

There is a clear problem - so can anything be done to save the tree by changing the island layout? It would be possible to change the original line of the Green to create some additional space for grass, but that would change the road alignment and would actually need to run for about 30 metres before the tree to adjust the line of traffic smoothly. Added to that, the works would be carried out over the tree roots themselves, risking damage and possibly dooming the tree anyway. The work would not be cheap - with costs suggested of over £30,000.

Nick made the point that the tree wasn't put in the right spot in the first place - it was planted too close to the kerb. It is also not a great street tree - horse chestnuts are better suited to parks and this one would have thrived in a more central spot on the Green. There is also the risk that the tree will contract bleeding canker that has already killed a horse chestnut on Henbury Road.

The good news - and there is good news - is that the tree will be replaced by two new ones, better located on the Green itself and that the new planting should be completed this winter as part of the normal planting season. Amey don't use saplings, they plant trees that are about two years old. I'm sorry to see this tree go, but we have been able to get something more out of it.

Post Office move confirmed (UPDATED)

It has been confirmed that the current Crown Post Office in Acocks Green Village is to relocate to a new site on the other side of the road by Iceland. It will be in a new news, tobacco and confectionary store run by a firm called ZCO and will have extended opening hours too - opening 0830-1800 Monday to Saturday, rather than 0900-1730 as it is now. Accessibility for those with mobility problems is to be improved and a hearing loop installed.

A six week public consultation starts today with a proposed move planned for January 2015. There will be a Customer Communication Forum event as part of the consultation and I'll post details of that when I have more information. You can find details of the consultation here, including how to put your views into the process.

The Post Office have confirmed that there will be no compulsory redundancies - staff can transfer across to the new operator or can seek work within the rest of the Post Office.

I will be asking the Post Office to guarantee the long term future of this. Where this has happened elsewhere in the country and the new operator has subsequently closed, then the Post Office concession has also closed. I'd like reassurance that the Post Office will remain a feature of the Village - it is heavily used and valued by our residents. We will also lose the Home Office Digital Application Service - where will the nearest branch be that can offer this?

Let me know what you think. 

Comments from the Post Office:

What will this mean for customers? 
  • A modern open plan branch in newly refurbished premises 
  • Longer opening hours
  • The same wide range of products and services. For reasons outside Post Office Limited's control, we cannot yet confirm whether or not a cash machine will be available at the new branch. The provision of a cash machine is subject to a survey by our cash machine provider and relevant planning permission. 
  • The new branch will not have the Digital Application Services for the Home Office 
  • Selected Post Office services available at the retail counter during shop opening hours