Archives for category: City Council

Councillor Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Waste and Recycling, sent a message to Birmingham citizens to say that the pattern of industrial action changed on August 11. There are now three one-hour strikes each working day (7am-8am, then 10.30am-11.30am and finally 1.30pm-2.30pm):

“The travel time before and after each hour of industrial action along with crew breaks being taken at their depot – rather than out and about in the city – will have a significant impact on collections. In simple terms this will be much more than the three hours of strike action that Unite the union claim to be staging”.

She corrects the impression that there will be job losses and cuts to basic pay for workers that are affected by the removal of the “leading hand” role ( “one of the two supervisors we currently have – in a crew that is only a three-person team”).

Those supervisors will be offered other permanent roles within the council that their skills are broadly suited to, with training on offer to help ensure they could move into the jobs as easily as possible.

The plan being discussed with the unions is based on the best practice used by other councils. Under the new model, more than 200 new permanent employees will be recruited to collect rubbish and recycling from our streets. This will bring stability to the service and improve efficiency.

Many readers will welcome the determination to move away from an over-reliance on agency staff and other in-house moves taken – notably the reduced use of Capita services.

To read the full message go to: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/refuse-collections-an-open-letter-to-citizens/

 

 

 

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Time-pressed residents of Birmingham, Solihull, Cannock, Dudley, Coventry, Lichfield, Sandwell, South Staffs, Tamworth, Walsall and Wolverhampton who regularly scan their section of the Brummie site, appreciate the free service it gives, whatever their interests. Main news items covered, include a range of locally run websites, music and the arts, sport and business.

Links to them give those sites a wider readership than would otherwise have been possible. Until the final few months Mark was a helpful and courteous correspondent and this later lack of response was ascribed to pressure of other work, which involved travelling abroad. We now can see that there may have been health concerns claiming priority.

Three of many interests served: Our Birmingham, West Midlands Producers and Localise West Midlands thank him and hope that a way will be found to maintain the Brummie.

 

 

 

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Steve Beauchampé recalls the Cadbury Barn, a little known but once much-loved Birmingham building destroyed by fire last week.

There is some ambiguity surrounding the origins of the Cadbury Barn, burnt down in a suspected arson attack last week. Whilst the Birmingham Conservation Trust website states that it was erected in 1894 in the grounds of George Cadbury’s home at Northfield Manor House, set in Manor (formerly New House) Farm, the Bournville Works Magazine suggests otherwise (as does an 1893 Ordnance Survey map), indicating that the Barn, the work of company architect Alexander Harvey, was originally sited in Laurel Grove, where it was known as the Girls’ Gymnasium, and was relocated and re-assembled at Manor Farm in 1903 (a not uncommon practice, stands at both St Andrews and The Hawthorns were similarly relocated from their respective clubs’ earlier grounds around this time).

A wooden structure with a metal framework held in places by chains, and seating up to 700, the Barn became the focus of regular summer parties for Cadbury employees, their families and perhaps most famously poor children from throughout Birmingham and the Black Country. Speaking of these often joyous gatherings George Cadbury remarked: There could never be too many and they could never be too noisy. Children – up to fifty at a time – would be invited to swim in the nearby fish pond, girls before tea, boys after. The Barn was also used by Sunday School groups, the Mothers Union and members of Men’s and Women’s Adult Schools, as well as Scout Jamborees and Brownie Revels, with as many as 25,000 people using the facility each year. During the Second World War the Friends Ambulance Unit used the Barn as a training camp.

The Barn’s unusual rusticated timber detailing was a style seemingly specific to Cadbury’s with similar decoration also found on an original exposed section of the Cadbury Club (formerly the Girl’s Pavilion) on Bournville Lane. Its floor was tiled in red and grey terracotta with a single entrance at the rear (facing the main road) and a wider entrance and wide windows overlooking the park.

Following the death in 1951 of George’s wife, Dame Elizabeth Cadbury, the family donated Manor Farm and its buildings to the city of Birmingham with the Barn continuing to be used by park visitors and other groups.

In recent years the Barn had served as a storage facility for the Parks Department but had become semi-derelict and partially boarded up.

In 2014 Birmingham Conservation Trust, in conjunction with Bournville Village Trust and the Friends of Manor Farm Park, began drawing up plans for a restoration of the Barn as part of plans for a multi-use community space including a cafe and involving several adjacent buildings. Sadly, following the fire which destroyed the Barn on the night of July 31st, should those plans come to fruition, it will not be part of them. 

The BirminghamPress.com

Steve Beauchampé

August 7th 2017

 

 

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Birmingham City Council’s cabinet has approved a proposal to enable the development of new homes for self and custom build in the City; read more here.

‘Incentivising self-build in the city’, signed by Council leader John Clancy and Waheed Nazir Corporate Director (Economy), puts forward a series of proposals to enable the development of new homes for self and custom build in Birmingham, identifying and disposing of suitable council-owned sites and applying for grants and loan funding to support self and custom build. Self-build schemes currently deliver around 10,000 homes per year in the UK – see the government’s research briefing.

The Birmingham Newsroom release points out that the Government has taken steps to raise the profile of self-build, easing constraints in the planning systems, cutting taxes for self-build developments, providing a number of funds to assist individuals and communities to self-build and releasing public land for self-build projects. In 2016 councils became legally obliged to keep a register of potential self and custom builders and to facilitate access to suitable sites for interested parties. In 2014, a Guardian article refers to Eric Pickles as initiator and gives news of continental self-build.

The news release explains that ‘self-build’ is when the end user directly organises the design and construction of their home: “The most traditional is where the self-builder selects the design and undertakes much of the actual construction work themselves. However, self-build also includes projects where the self-builder arranges for an architect/ contractor to build their home for them; and those which are delivered by kit home companies. Some community-led projects are also defined as self-builds as the members may organise and undertake a proportion of the construction work themselves”.   There is a Self and Custom Build webpage on the Council’s website with five documents, one of which gives information about applications for self-build by individuals or associations.

As most online images were of individually designed houses in rural settings this Lancaster co-housing scene (small houses, with communal facilities and storage areas) was chosen – not ‘pure’ self-build, but the group designed it and did ‘site preparation on the periphery’.

As Brandon Lewis, when Housing and Planning Minister (2014-16) said, many other countries have a track record of delivering large numbers of local homes through self-build and there is now a determination to ensure significant growth in self housebuilding.

Long-forgotten references were revisited:

The Walter Segall Self-Build Trust has a website, not updated of late. In the late 1970s the ‘Segal method’ was adopted by Lewisham Council for a self-building housing project across four sites and in March 2016 the Architectural Association’s School of Architecture held an exhibition concentrating on two of the streets, Walter’s Way and Segal Close, built under Segal’s personal guidance.

A search updated news gf Mary Kelly, architect, self-builder and teacher who for ten years co-ordinating the activities of the Walter Segal Self Build Trust. She is now living and teaching in Northumberland, building her own house.

Habitat for Humanity, backing self- build in Peckham, has an online directory with a section for the Midlands.

The Self-build Book – Broome & Richardson – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Self-build-Book-Enjoy-Designing-Building/dp/1870098234

Selfbuild 123 – timber frame houses www.selfbuild123.co.uk

Green Building Store https://www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk/

Self build houses: http://www.selfbuildit.co.uk/

 

 

 

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 Royal College of Surgeons’ dean points to ‘sweet habits’ as first teeth are removed

It has been reported that NHS data obtained by the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) shows there were 9,206 extractions within the age group in 2015-16 compared with 7,444 in 2006-07 – a 24% rise. The figures prompted calls for parents, the government and the food industry to take action to reverse the alarming trend.

Prof Nigel Hunt, dean of the RCS’s Faculty of Dental Surgery, said: “When you see the numbers tallied up like this it becomes abundantly clear that the sweet habits of our children are having a devastating effect on the state of their teeth.

Hundreds of children are having their first teeth extracted as hospital treatments hit their highest level in six years in Birmingham.

There were 1,464 hospital admissions for teeth extractions for children from the Birmingham CrossCity CCG in 2015/16, the highest number since at least 2010/11, and up from 795 in 2014/15. In Sandwell and West Birmingham, the number of hospital admissions for teeth extractions has also hit a six year high, at 141 in 2015/16, up from 33 in 2014/15.#

The numbers have increased sevenfold since 2010/11

In 2010/11 there were 208 hospital admissions for tooth extraction. Included in the admissions were 297 for children aged between one and four to have multiple teeth extracted, the highest number since at least 2010/11, as well as 730 admissions for children aged five to nine, the highest number since at least 2010/11.

Ingesting fluoride at best ‘controversial’: at worst, causing some damage to health

A report by Birmingham Professor of Epidemiology, K.K. Cheng and Dr Trevor Sheldon published in the BMJ deemed the practice ‘controversial’.

More recently, corresponding author Professor Stephen Peckham, University of Kent commented on research he and two co-authors had undertaken and published in the BMJ: “We found that practices located in the West Midlands (a wholly fluoridated area) are nearly twice as likely to report high hypothyroidism prevalence in comparison to Greater Manchester (non-fluoridated area).

Last year Ian Wylie reported that around one million people in Birmingham are supplied with artificially fluoridated water. But its average number of extracted or filled teeth is 1.17, higher than the national average. Across the West Midlands, where water has been fluoridated since 1964, there has been a 300% rise in children under the age of 10 being admitted to hospital for multiple Mars, Cadbury, Kellogg’s and Nestlé teeth extractions in the last five years.

Post-script: The Times reports that a representative of leading brands including Mars, Cadbury, Kellogg’s and Nestlé (aka ‘food giants’) told their journalist that they would reduce sugar content in food and drink but not to the government’s timescale.

 

 

 

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The sketchy reports on the dispute about the refuse collection changes on the BBC and Birmingham Mail websites have been supplemented by welcome information from Jacqui Kennedy, Corporate Director for Place.

She explained that this action is being taken because the council is facing significant financial challenges following six years of cuts to local government funding.

Taking refuse collection ‘in-house’ – dispensing with 200 expensive agency staff

Jacqui continued: “It is extremely important that we move away from relying on expensive agency staffAt the moment 200 out of 595 employees in refuse collection are hired from agencies. We intend to replace agency staff with up to 246 full-time staff employed directly by the council. All of these new permanent employees will enjoy the associated benefits that come with working for the council such as pension, holiday entitlement and sick pay”. The Mail adds that overtime will also go and the number of binmen will be increased by 152.

Agreement with the unions is sought as waste collection crews will be required to shift from a four day week of just over nine hours per day to a five day week of just over seven hours per day. Joint development of the detailed plans needed to make these proposals work is important.

Jacqui points out that over 40% of material in our bins is food waste. Last year, UK households wasted around 20% of all the food they buy – but there has been a 17% reduction since 2007, according to Food Waste Facts.

Visitors to this site come from many British regions and other countries – last week’s stats (right). A Gloucestershire reader recommends their food waste collection which began in 2016. Though some Birmingham gardeners already compost such material, other residents could make good use of a similar facility.

A Stroud newspaper recorded in 2016 that two weeks into the scheme 232 tonnes of food waste from 52,000 residents had already been collected – more than the weight of a blue whale.

Even the most careful householders have eggshells and orange peel to place in the small kitchen food waste bin provided – and the less careful dispose of ‘leftovers’ and unused, decaying food. These are emptied into a larger bin (right) kept outside. The bins are collected once a week and taken to an aerobic digester. In a few weeks it is turned into gas used in the grid and the residue is put on the fields as fertiliser.

“A great example of the renewable circular economy”, according to Green councillor Simon Pickering.

 

 

 

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Proposals for Brummie Bonds were first put forward by former Greenpeace economist Colin Hines at the end of 2004 (Birmingham Post – Comment: 5.2.04), at the end of 2004 by then Conservative council leader Mike Whitby mentioned here, advocated in the Stirrer (2008) and frequently by John Clancy (right), before he became Labour council leader (most eloquently in 2011).

Clancy acts, 2017

Professor David Bailey (Aston Business School, Birmingham) welcomed the news that the City has found a new way to finance house-building – John Clancy’s first issue of Brummie Bonds (more detail here):

“The City Council is already building more new council houses than any other local authority in the country – with the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust building 30% of all new homes in the city last year. But that’s still not enough and using Brummie Bonds to raise £45m to help finance more house building is welcome news. Clancy has talked of Brummie Bonds opening up new funding streams to deliver a “step change” in building homes”.

The Council has stated that the interest rate it will pay on the Brummie Bonds is actually lower than that charged by the Public Works Loan Board (or PWLB – a government body that provides loans to local authorities mainly for capital projects).

Pensions and life assurance specialists Phoenix Life, which employs around 600 people in Wythall, has agreed to invest in a ‘Brummie Bond’ and there is the prospect of other investors coming in. The West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund and other union and business pension funds could take up future issues.

Hines goes further, seeing municipal bonds as a safe haven for ‘People’s Pensions’ – just as when, following the Housing Act of 1919, the London County Council and other local borough councils began to sell housing bonds to the public to raise money for public housing. schemes. He also advocates that, in due course, such bonds would also fund the retrofitting of houses and clean modes of transport.

As Professor Bailey ends: “Hats off to Birmingham City Council for pulling this off. A “confident act of local economic self-determination”? Yes”.

 

 

 

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A community conference on education will be held at 6.45 pm on Thursday 11 May at Moseley School & Sixth Form Centre.

Cabinet Member, Cllr Brigid Jones will be a key speaker, joined by Rachel Gillies of Love Brum Schools and Sarah Barton of Ask Parents First. She will talk about what Birmingham has done and will continue do for Birmingham children, families and schools.

Brigid has oversight of school improvement, children’s safeguarding, special educational needs and school placement. She set up the Birmingham Inclusion Commission in September 2016 to boost confidence in the delivery of provision for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND).

The city has almost 35,000 children with special educational needs and disability, roughly 25% of the pupil population. Birmingham has 2.5 % more SEND children than the national average.

Birmingham schools have already borne the brunt of the harshest government cuts, although a great deal of the support for SEND children comes from school budgets, Schools have lost £400 per pupil on average in income since 2013. Schools are set to lose over £450 more by 2020. Birmingham City Council is suffering the biggest cuts in local government history.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that disabled children are bearing the brunt of such big cuts and poor services. Brigid is keen to encourage the schooling of children as far as practically possible within Birmingham and as close to their home as possible so that valuable education time is not eaten up in travel. She is also committed to encouraging empowerment and independence for all children.

The conference has two purposes:

  1. To contribute to a local and national educational policy that favours education over segregation and promotes cooperation between schools, rather than competition.
  2. To provide a platform for parents’ action groups, calling as they do for a genuine dialogue about the future of their community schools, in the face of current proposals for a multi-academy trust involving several schools in Kings Heath.

To book your tickets visit: www.educonfmkh.eventbrite.com

 

 

 

The Birmingham Trades Union Council invites you all to our annual May Day rally; open to all trade unionists their families & friends to commemorate historic, industrial, political & peace struggles around the world.  

 12.30 pm Saturday 29th April: committee rooms 3 and 4

Council House Victoria Square B1 1BB 

Speakers 

         Frank Keogh,  UNITE Health sector  

         Patrick Highton, Birmingham Keep NHS Public 

         Stephen Brown, Musicians Union regional secretary 

         Neil Vernon, formerly branch secretary Birmingham UCATT (now part of Unite) 

         Gill Ogilvie, regional organiser GMB on school funding cuts 

          Speaker from the Friends of the Birmingham Libraries 

The speakers will discuss the crisis in the NHS, the massive cuts in funding for local schools leading to widespread redundancies of classroom assistants and teachers and the destruction of Birmingham’s library service. Neil will be speaking about the use of umbrella companies to exploit employees. There will be plenty of time for discussion from the floor. 

Refreshments will be provided and unions and political campaigns are invited to have stalls at the event. 

For further details and to book a stall contact the Birmingham TUC secretary: 

btucsec@hotmail.com

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As the council has been planning the development of the wholesale markets and Birmingham Smithfield, it is alleged that the indoor, outdoor and rag markets are no longer properly promoted, local roads have been closed, buses have been re-routed with drop-off points moved away from the markets, and so the traders have seen a marked reduction in their footfall and income.

Duncan Tift reports, in Business Desk, that stall-holders from Birmingham’s Bull Ring outdoor market (see history here) have filed a suit against the city council. Around 30 tenant traders have been in dispute with their local authority landlord since 2010, when their previous leases expired, and they claim all requests for new leases have since been ignored. Because the council won’t give them new leases they cannot sell their businesses, relocate or retire.

The 13 stall-holders involved are being advised on a pro-bono basis by Jonathan Owen, the founder and joint managing director of Quarterbridge Project Management, who will also act as an expert witness (see our reference in a 2011 markets blog). He knows the market, its traders and city centre well, having advised the Birmingham Alliance which delivered the £530m Bull Ring redevelopment. Mr Owen said the stall-holders, many of whom had been trading at the market for most of their working lives, had been shabbily treated by the council.

Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate, Beverley Nielsen, visited the market and said afterwards: “I’d seen so much about the wholesale markets being relocated to The Hub, in Witton and wondered what was happening to the traders still using stalls around the Bullring. I was dismayed to discover they’d been in dispute with the council for years.”

Ms Nielsen’s proposal: ”The local authority should be using the market’s heritage to attract visitors to the city and use the facility as a tourist attraction in the same way as European cities such as Barcelona, Rotterdam (Ed: above) and Valencia”.

 

 

 

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