Monthly Archives: July 2012
The launch of the Re-awakening Lea Village project, which has won backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will take place on Friday 24 August between 2pm and 5pm. Please click on the flyer above for full details.
Reawakening Lea Village is a genuinely home-grown project. It is being developed and led by local people, who want to ensure that the 800 year old story of their neighbourhood is celebrated and protected for future generations to share and enjoy.
There is a wealth of local stories to explore, from the Village’s early days as a wayside stop for weary medieval travellers, through the railway age to the development of the present day suburb. It’s a chance to learn more about our community, but also look to the future of the neighbourhood too.
So, if you’ve got a story to share, or you’re just keen to discover more, please come along and find out how you can get involved. For more information, visit www.leavillage.co.uk.
The next meeting of the Shard End Ward Committee will take place on Monday 30 July, starting at 7pm, at Yardley & District Rugby Club, in Cole Hall Lane.
Items on the agenda include:
- An update from the local police
- The latest on the former Yardley Sewage Works site
- A report back on the work of the Midnight Bus
- The proposals for the Cole Valley walking & cycling route (see my previous blog post here for details
All Shard End Ward residents are welcome to attend. Come and find out more – and have your say!
Birmingham’s Social Inclusion inquiry, Giving Hope, Changing Lives, delivered its interim report yesterday. Ably chaired by the Bishop of Birmingham, the inquiry has been visiting neighbourhoods across Birmingham, talking to hundreds of local residents and exploring ideas for closing the gap between the richest and poorest in our city.
The findings spell out the stark nature of the challenge we face in parts of our city: high unemployment, educational underachievement, poor health and low incomes. But it also sets out some of the tremendous work that is being done to turn lives and neighbourhoods around, much of it led by communities themselves. There is a whole host of information about the inquiry at the Fair Brum website, which is well worth a visit.
As the Council’s Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion, I’ve been taking a very close interest in the inquiry and its findings. The Bishop and I could be heard discussing the inquiry on Ed Doolan’s Radio WM show yesterday lunchtime (click here and go to 1hr, 8mins into the recording if you want to hear how that went) and I also spoke at the summit meeting which considered the report . Here’s what I said:
All of us in this room have been on quite a journey over the past few months. It has taken us across the city and shown us its many strengths, its many challenges and most importantly, its tremendous possibilities – even in the face of economic adversity.
That journey doesn’t end today. We haven’t even made it much past first base yet. But today’s summit is an opportune moment to stop, draw breath, reflect on where we have been so far and decide the route we want to take next.
I’ve been on a bit of a journey too. When this process started, I was an opposition politician, with all the frustrations – but some of the freedoms that status brings. Now, I’m in a rather more responsible position – charged with helping to drive forward the agendas we have all been discussing this morning.
Those aims – of making our city a fairer, more equal place; of challenging the disadvantages that have scarred the map of Birmingham for too long; of giving each and every citizen the chance to be the very best that they can be – these sit at the very heart of the new administration’s vision for the city.
Changing the map of poverty and disadvantage in this city is a big ask at the best of times, let alone in the tough climate in which we now find ourselves. But it remains a vital task – one which we must remain focused on in spite of the spending cuts and other enormous economic pressures we face.
It is not just a simple case of doing this because it is the right and moral thing to do either – important and compelling though the moral arguments are. The fact is that without a strong cohesive society, our city will struggle to make the strides it needs to succeed in the future.
Inequality prevents our citizens, our businesses and our communities from achieving their full potential. To tolerate that inequality, to accept – even tacitly – that parts of our city will forever be mired in a cycle of worklessness, low income, educational underachievement and poor life expectancy – is tantamount to an act of economic and social sabotage.
A more equal and cohesive community is not only a more pleasant place to live. It is by its very nature a more vibrant and economically successful one too.
That is why closing the gap is our number one priority and every activity we undertake needs to be judged by its contribution to achieving that aim.
As a City Council, we can’t deliver these things on our own. We will only deliver social cohesion and tackle those deeply rooted inequalities, by working in partnership – with the public sector, with business, with voluntary organisations, faith networks and most importantly, with communities themselves.
I think it is clear from the evidence that we have been gathering as part of this Social Inclusion process, that you don’t deliver that more equal society by simply “doing it to” people. We can’t just land, like some sort of alien spaceship, in the middle of a community and dispense social change.
We have to give communities proper ownership of the process. Local people have to be given the opportunity to take the lead, to develop institutions that they own and control. This is the kind of legacy that all too often, previous attempts to regenerate communities have failed to deliver.
Those initiatives often failed to understand that we have to help communities take control of their own destinies. Not by abandoning them and saying “best of luck, get on with it”, but by working with them to develop the skills, the aptitudes and resilience they need in order to thrive independently.
That is why the City Council is embarking upon a radical programme of devolution and localisation – remodelling services so they are closer to local people and pushing out powers and budgets from the centre so they can be deployed and reshaped in a way that meets local needs, not central diktat.
I’m also keen that we take a different approach to how we approach neighbourhood problems. All too often, we start with the question: “what’s wrong with this community”? Wouldn’t a better place to start be “what’s right with this community”?
We’re often very bad at this as a society. We can endlessly rehearse the mantra of local problems that affect a neighbourhood, but what about the positives? What about its strong sense of community? What about the active residents who give up time, energy and effort to run the local community association or youth group?
My point is that we need to start with our strengths. We have a wealth of experience and expertise in neighbourhoods across the city. We have a lot of people doing tremendous things in their communities each day. Let’s make use of these assets and deploy them to address the problems.
And while we’re about it, let’s have a proper and frank discussion about what it means to be a citizen of Birmingham here in 2012. What are our shared values? What are the rights that we should expect as a citizen – and just as importantly, what are the responsibilities that we have as a citizen too?
We need to rediscover the language of reciprocity – that we all contribute something to society in order to receive something from it. It is a principle that is well understood in communities across the city. Let’s make it the bedrock of our new approach to tackling inequality – and let’s start by having a citywide debate about those values, along the lines that this inquiry has already instigated.
We face unprecedented challenges. An economy in recession. Massive cuts to public sector budgets. A series of welfare reforms that will further imperil some of the most vulnerable members of our community. None of these things make our mission any easier.
That is why a strong partnership – across sectors, agencies and communities – is so important. My role as Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion isn’t to have all the answers. It is to ensure that we build that partnership and that we drive it with a single-minded focus on the closing of the inequality gap.
In the coming months, I will be bringing forward a social cohesion strategy to put these aims into action. That strategy won’t succeed if it is merely the City Council’s strategy. It has to be the City of Birmingham’s strategy – a common aim and endeavour to which we are all signed up.
The recommendations from this Social Inclusion process and the tremendous work that has been done over the past months will play an important part in underpinning and shaping that strategy.
I would like to especially thank Bishop David for leading this process. We are lucky to have such a passionate, enthusiastic and independent advocate for social justice at the helm and I look forward to continuing to work with you in the weeks and months ahead.
A whole host of other people have given up their own time, offered their expertise and contributed their energy and passion to this Social Inclusion process. You’ve pooled your collective resources to do this and create a genuinely “Made in Birmingham” product.
So we have proved that we can do that bit. Here’s my next challenge to you. Let’s take the collective determination and partnership approach we’ve used to analyse the problem – and deploy it just as effectively in delivering the solutions.
We have a vital job to do. Let’s redouble our efforts and ensure that the legacy we leave is to have changed that ugly map of inequality once and for all.
I’m delighted to say that the battle to restore a decent bus service to the Yorkswood area has at last been won!
Hundreds of residents signed petitions and attended public meetings that Councillors Marje Bridle, Ian Ward and I arranged after the local bus companies took the disastrous decision to reorganise our local services. The changes left residents of the Yorkswood area very badly affected, lacking a direct service to the City Centre, Chelmsley Wood and even to the new shops on Shard End Crescent!
Thanks to the pressure we’ve exerted as a community, common sense has at last prevailed. From 22 July, there will be a new 55A service, providing a bus every 15 minutes, Monday to Saturday daytime from Yorkswood to both Birmingham city centre and to Chelmsley Wood. This restores the much-needed link around Kendrick Avenue.
The existing 55 and 59 services will also continue to run, as will the 56 on evenings and Sundays. You can view the timetables for the 55 and 55A services here.
Plans to develop a walking and cycling route along the River Cole have been published by the City Council.
The proposed route follows the existing “desire line” that runs alongside the river, from Stechford Lane to Buckland End and then from Copplestone Close to Babbs Mill. The proposals are as follows:
- Construction of 2.5m wide bitmac path, following the existing desire line path from Stechford Lane to Bucklands End.
- Resurfacing the existing breedon gravel and stone paths with a 2.5m wide bitmac path from Copplestone Close to Babbs Mill. There will also there be new links into Bramblewoods in order to improve the access into the park.
- Transportation engineers are working on a proposed crossing at Packington Avenue to create a better link between the two open spaces.
The Council are working in partnership with Sustrans on this project, which it is intended will form part of the National Cycle Network.
You can also have a look at the detailed plans by clicking on the links below:
There will be a presentation on the proposals at the next meeting of the Shard End Ward Committee, which will be held at Yardley & District Rugby Club, Cole Hall Lane, at 7pm on Monday 30 July. If you have any questions, please do come along to put them direct to the Council officials leading on the project. If you can’t make it but have a point you’d like to raise, please let me know via the Contact Me page and I’ll take it up and report back to you.
Local Labour MP Liam Byrne is hosting a Jobs Summit for young people at the Beaufort Sports and Social Club, Coleshill Road on Thursday 19 July, between 10:30am and 1:30pm.
The Summit is aimed at local 16 to 24 year olds and offers the chance to speak directly to employers about vacancies they have on offer; advice on education and training and support with setting up your own business.
You can view the full details of the event by clicking here.
That’s a question that I and a number of residents have been asking recently!
Over the past year, we’ve had several closures of this busy road. It was shut for a protracted period whilst the new bridge was installed, but since then we’ve had further closures to enable repairs and resurfacing work. Many people have rightly questioned why all this work wasn’t done in one fell swoop, in order to minimise the inconvenience.
I took the matter up with Amey, the contractor who handle highways maintenance on behalf of the Council and their reply is below. Let me know if you have any comments!
3rd Floor Colmore Plaza
20 Colmore Circus
27th June 2012
Dear Councillor Cotton
Road Closure – Cole Hall Lane
Thank you for your enquiry following your concerns regarding the road closures for works on Cole Hall Lane, and I apologise for our delay in responding while this was investigated.
The first closure was before the Birmingham Highways Maintenance and Management Services contract where works were carried out to the bridge over the river Cole.
Cole Hall Lane is quite a long road and some sections of the carriageway were in a worse condition than others. The priority for each section was decided by their needs hence one section was resurfaced between 1st June 2011 and 30th November 2011, and the second section has just been completed.
Unfortunately, with these longer roads, it isn’t always possible to close the road for a longer period and carry out all the works at one time as the different sections are subject to different wear and tear and so degrade at a different rate. Decisions also have to be taken regarding traffic management and diversions, if whole roads are closed sometimes this causes more inconvenience to more people for a longer period.
I can confirm that the 3rd road closure has taken place and all works are now completed, and thank you for your patience as we strive to improve the City’s road network.
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and if you have any further queries or require more information from Amey please contact us via the Birmingham City Council contact centre on 0121 303 6644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Customer Services Manager
Amey Birmingham Highways Limited