Monthly Archives: April 2012

Could the HandyVan help you?

I’m often asked by older residents whether there is any help available with getting small repairs done to their homes, or assistance with getting home security measures like door chains or window locks fitted.

The well respected charity Age UK is now running a HandyVan service in the Birmingham area.  It aims to help people in later life feel safer in their own homes, providing help with those all important repairs and safety measures.

The service is delivered by fully qualified, police-vetted HandyVan fitters who have been trained to support older people and assist in overcoming day-to-day and longer term concerns in the home.  The HandyVan fitter is responsible for visiting people’s homes, assessing what security/safety measures and small repairs are needed and, subject to approval, will install the necessary equipment.

To qualify for assistance, you must be 60 years of age or older and have less than £20,000 in savings (excluding the value of your property).

If you would like to make use of this service, or have a friend or relative you think may benefit from the HandyVan, please take a look at the Age UK website by clicking here.


A Living Wage for Birmingham

Earlier this week, the Labour Party issued a commitment to making Birmingham a Living Wage City.  I believe this is a vital step forward in the battle to secure fair wages for local people and to making our city a fairer and more just place in which to live and work.

This is the statement in full:

Labour leaders in Birmingham have pledged that a Labour-run Birmingham City Council will be a “Living Wage” employer.  The policy has already been endorsed by Labour Leader Ed Miliband, and Bishop Eric Brown of the New Testament Church of God and Chair of Citizens UK.

Labour will ensure that no council employee will earn less than £7.20 per hour.  This will improve the lives of 2743 council workers who currently earn between £6.39 and £7.15 per hour.  It will cost the City £1.2 million a year.

Birmingham will join a growing list of employers committed to paying the Living Wage including Barclays Bank, HSBC, PWC, KPMG, two London boroughs and Glasgow City Council.

Birmingham is the largest local authority in Europe, with 45,800 employees.  With a Labour Council committed to paying the Living Wage this will be a significant step forward in the growing trend for all employers to be committed to the Living Wage.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband welcomed the move, saying, “It is great news that Labour in Birmingham are committed to becoming a living wage employer and raising the living standards of their lowest paid staff. This commitment to people in Birmingham is one of many examples of how Labour can deliver fairness in tough times.”

Bishop Brown said, “As Chair of Trustees of CITIZENS UK we warmly welcome the growing number of public and private sector employers who are accepting their responsibility for their lowest paid workers by paying a Living Wage. The Living Wage is a family wage. It is good for communities and it is good for civil society.”

The initiative will enable a Labour council in this city of high unemployment to create jobs and apprenticeships, including for the disabled, as well as driving the introduction of a Living Wage throughout Birmingham. 

Labour will review all contractors and commissioned service providers, to ensure that the carers who look after friends and family when they are at their most vulnerable, and all those who serve the city, are paid a Living Wage.

The pledge was made by Sir Albert Bore, the Leader of the Labour Group on Birmingham City Council, who was accompanied by Jack Dromey representing Birmingham’s Labour MPs.

Sir Albert Bore, Leader of the Labour Group on Birmingham City Council, said:

 “We believe that people working in Birmingham deserve more than the poverty level of the present minimum wage.  These are often people who work in difficult circumstances providing care for others.

We need a motivated and committed workforce open to change.  All the evidence suggests that this simple cost effective change will improve morale, job quality and service delivery, with very little increase in costs.

Only Labour will fight for fairness and dignity for all.  A Living Wage in Birmingham is good for business, good for the individual, good for society and good for the taxpayer.  That is Labour’s vision.  We will use our public procurement power – Be Birmingham, Buy Birmingham, Build Birmingham – to rebuild our local economy, and at the heart of our approach, a Fair Birmingham.”


Jack Dromey, Labour’s Shadow Housing and Local Government Minister and MP for Birmingham Erdington, said: 

“A Labour Council will lead the fight against working poverty that blights our society and our economy.  To offer those who work hard and yet struggle to provide for their families dignity in work.

“From Glasgow to London, people are starting to realise the simple truth that if you pay people better you boost productivity.  By paying people a Living Wage we will take the pressure off the Exchequer through benefits and tax credits, putting more money in people’s pockets to spend in the local economy.

“As the heart of England, we will show the country that Birmingham is more than the buildings we have, that Birmingham is a community, a modern manufacturing hub, a strong and vibrant city working together to tackle the worst housing crisis in a generation, soaring youth unemployment, and, crucially, a city committed to no Birmingham Citizen earning less than a Living Wage of £7.20 an hour.”

Making sure victims’ voices are heard

Earlier today, I joined with Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper MP, Council Opposition Leader Sir Albert Bore and representatives from victims’ charities to officially launch Birmingham Labour’s plan to appoint a top level “Victims’ Champion”, should we win control of the City Council in next week’s elections.

The Victims’ Champion will make sure that the voice of those affected by crime is heard in all council departments and throughout the public services.  The Champion will bring departments and services together to coordinate services and support victims in the aftermath of crime.

The proposal to appoint a Victims’ Champion came out of a series of discussions that we had with local organisations representing the victims of crime.  It was clear that whilst everyone has sympathy for victims, there was sometimes a failure to meet their needs at the time when they are most in need of help.  We need the court services, Council departments, police, schools, the NHS, and other bodies to be working together to support victims more effectively.

The Victims’ Champion will be an elected councillor and will be one of Birmingham City Council’s representatives on the newly established West Midlands Police and Crime Panel, which will act as the “watchdog” body for the regional Police and Crime Commissioner.  This will ensure that the needs and interests of victims are at the very heart of the decision making process.

The proposal is part of a comprehensive approach to ensuring our city remains a safe place in which to live and work.  We intend to be tough on anti-social behaviour, will work to protect neighbourhood policing, and adopt a zero tolerance approach to domestic violence.  The needs of victims will come first.

What’s on at Glebe Farm Library?

I was really pleased to  meet up with the pensioners’ club at Glebe Farm Library earlier this month for a discussion about local issues.

Glebe Farm Library is just over the border from Shard End Ward (literally a matter of yards over) and is well used by residents of the Glebe, Kitts Green and Lea Village.  The Library hosts a wide range of activities for all ages.  You can find out more about what’s on offer by clicking here.

World Book Night comes to Shard End

There will be a packed evening of free entertainment at our new local library, the Shard, to mark World Book Night on Monday 23 April.

In addition to plenty of talk about your favourite reads, there will be a whole host of literary-themed activities, plus cocktail demos and tasting, a chocolate fountain and music from the Soul Session Band.

The event has been organised jointly by the library team and the Shard End and Tile Cross Communities board.  It promises to be a great evening, so please come along and join the fun!

The event starts at 5pm and runs until midnight, so there’s plenty of opportunity to pop in and see what’s going on.  Please note that the activities aren’t suitable for young children and under 18s must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

The Library also offers a whole host of other activities during the week.  Take a look at what’s on offer by viewing their leaflet here.

Be vigilant about distraction burglaries

I’m saddened to have to report that a Shard End resident has been a victim of the spate of distraction burglaries that have taken place in East Birmingham over the last couple of weeks.

I’ve received an email from the police about these incidents, which I am posting in full below.  It includes some good advice about how to protect yourself from these unscrupulous criminals, together with some important details about the recent burglaries.  If you have any information that can help the police with their enquiries, please contact officers by phoning the new, non-emergency number 101.


Appeal for help: Woman claiming to be police officer targets homes in East Birmingham

Police are warning people in East Birmingham to be vigilant following a spate of distraction burglaries, which are believed to be linked, throughout the beginning of April.

Detectives believe elderly people in particular are being targeted by a lone female offender who claims to be a plain clothed police officer.

She has been gaining entry to homes by speaking to the occupants about home security and asking them where they keep their money. Once inside the offender has distracted victims and stolen cash.

The incidents took place in Shard End on 1 April, Hodge Hill on 3 April and Kings Heath on 9 April.

The offender is described as a white woman around 5ft 5ins tall and of slim build. Aged approximately in her 30s, the woman has long curly/frizzy dark brown or black hair, which may be tied back. She wears a green three quarter length khaki style coat and dark trousers and speaks with a soft Birmingham accent. 

Detective Sergeant Nick Barnes, from Force CID, said:

“We have a very good description of the offender and I would ask anyone who has any information about who she may be to get in touch with us. Although no violence has been used against the victims, these are serious crimes where vulnerable members of the community have been exploited by a callous thief.  In some incidents, the victims have even been tricked into disclosing their bank PIN number, which the offender has then used to withdraw cash in the minutes after the burglary.”

“Our advice is never to let anyone into your home unless you are sure who they are.  If you have any doubts about who someone is, don’t let them in and contact the police.”

If someone calls at your door:

Check to see who it is by using the spy hole if you have one, or look through a front window.

Always put the chain on before you open the door. (If you don’t have a chain it’s a good idea to get one – they don’t cost much).  But remember FIRE SAFETY – only put on your door chain as you answer the door – don’t keep it on all the time as this could delay your exit in case of fire.

Look at their clothing. Some official callers will have a uniform bearing their organisation’s name or symbol.

If you don’t know the caller, ask to see their identity card. Check it carefully, and keep the chain on while you do this. Genuine callers won’t mind if you close the door while you do this.  Some public utility services (e.g. water, electricity, gas) operate a password system. Contact your local branch to find out more.

If you’re still not sure, ask the caller to come back later. You can then check their story by phoning the organisation or company they claim to represent. Look up the number in your own telephone directory. Don’t rely on the telephone number on their card – it may be the number of a crook’s partner. Bogus callers sometimes work in pairs. Beware of one distracting you while the other steals your property.

The best practice is not to let them in.  Ensure your back door is locked if you are answering the door to someone you don’t know.

Watch out for anyone who says they’re in a hurry. Don’t let them pressure you. If in doubt, call a neighbour or friend.

If you have any suspicions at all, don’t let them in.

If you’re still not happy, phone the police – dial 999 – and tell them what’s happened. And tell your neighbours.

First meeting at the Shard!

Shard End’s brand new library, the Shard, will be the venue for the next meeting of the Ward Committee on Monday 16 April.

You can view the agenda for the meeting by following this link.  In addition to the regular updates from the police and a discussion of other urgent local issues, residents will also be able to find out more about this exciting new building and the services it will offer to our community.

The meeting starts at 7pm and all Shard End Ward residents are welcome to come and share their views!

An astonishing degree of complacency

The Cabinet Member for Local Services & Community Safety gave his annual report to the City Council meeting yesterday afternoon.

The report, which you can read here, is an astonishingly complacent document.  It offers no vision for how the Council intend to respond to the Government’s Localism Act or share more power with local people.  On the unprecedented cuts to policing – probably the most serious community safety issue facing our city – the Cabinet Member offers no comment at all.

As the Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Local Services, I responded to the report on behalf of the Opposition at yesterday’s meeting.  You can see my speech by clicking here.