Archives for category: Health

The rational case against metro mayors ably set out by local commentators, Richard Hatcher, George Morran and Steve Beauchampé, has been shattered for the writer by the media-feeding chaotic, emotion-led, vicious, counterproductive squabbling in the Labour & Conservative ranks.

Still, evidently, a tribal people, we appear to need the ‘high-profile leadership’ extolled by Andrew Carter, chief executive of the Centre for Cities , largest funders Gatsby Charitable Foundation (Lord Sainsbury) and  Catapult network, established by Innovate UK, a government agency. (see report cover right)

As yet, the announcements made by the West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street, respected even by most opponents of the post, with a business record seen as a guarantee of efficiency, are provoking little dissension.

Dan Jarvis, who is expected to win the Sheffield election becoming Britain’s seventh metro mayor, intends to continue to sit in the House of Commons to work for a better devolution deal and speak for the whole county. (map, regions in 2017)

His desire to stay in parliament while serving as a mayor is thought, by the author of FT View to reflect a recognition that the real authority and power of these positions is limited:

  • The six mayors have no say on how taxes are raised and spent.
  • Outside Greater Manchester, the mayors have little control over health policy.
  • Major spending decisions on transport policy are still taken by central government.

Days after taking office in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham’s announcement of a new fund to tackle the region’s homelessness problem was backed by ‘a chunk’ of his own mayoral salary.

Andrew Carter points out that England’s mayors are highly constrained in their control over local tax revenue and how it is spent, compared with their counterparts in other countries.

FT View describes this extra layer of government as yet merely creating cheerleaders, adding:

“Voices alone will not be enough to shift economic and political power to the regions. England’s mayors need more control. If the government is serious about devolution, the mayors need the powers to match that ambition”.

 

Could well-endowed, unsuborned metro mayors out-perform successive corporate-bound national governments?

 

 

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A petition calling for a park in Birmingham City Centre is to be submitted shortly. Co-ordinator Jim Tucker explains more. 

ts nearly three years since the campaign started for the provision of a park on the soon to be vacated Wholesale Markets site next to the Bullring in Birminghams city centre. We recently passed the 6000 signature mark and thanks to the magnificent expression of public support with the initial petition, some green space in the form of a small linear park is now part of the councils official plans for the 14 hectare Smithfield site. Whilst this is good news, and represents a major step forward, the space allocated for the actual park is simply too small (smaller even than the green space surrounding St. Philips Cathedral), is wedged in between several buildings and does not fit our grand vision for one large area of public open space that would be truly transformative for Birmingham. 

Central Birmingham already has enough air-conditioned shopping centres, but the lack of a large park in its centre is a glaring omission for a city with an international profile. Now the city should be leading the way to create a large area of green, biodiverse and open space. Our ideas would result in a modern park that accommodates markets and new cultural buildings within it, with links to new housing and transport hubs. Parks such as the one we are proposing provide the lungs and fresh air for a city and are good for both the private and public purse. In particular, they improve our physical and mental health, promote social cohesion, reduce pollution and provide a site for open-air events. 

The election of Andy Street as the inaugural West Midlands Metro Mayor last spring provides a new opportunity to gain more high-profile support for the campaign. So soon we will be presenting both Birmingham City Council and Mr. Street with our updated petition. The more names that we can add to it the stronger the case will be. To this end we are now asking readers who have not already signed the petition to do so, and further request that you forward it on as soon as you can to at least two of your friends and family for them to sign as well. It only takes a minute to do something that could help change our city for the better for generations to come! 

So please join the campaign to turn a brownfield site into a green one by signing this petition and following CityPark4Brum updates on Twitter, FaceBook and Instagram.  

Jim Tucker

April 2nd 2018

 

 

 

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An air pollution campaign mounted by Birmingham Friends of the Earth calls on the City Council to adopt a city-wide approach to tackling air pollution which is linked to 900 premature deaths a year in the city.

Birmingham City Council will have to implement a Clean Air Zone by 2020 and within the next few months, the Council’s plans for a Clean Air Zone will be released for public consultation. The city’s poor air quality needs to be taken seriously and we need the best possible plan in place to ensure that the health of everyone who lives, works and travels to Birmingham is protected.

The Clean Air Zone should be in place as soon as possible before the government’s deadline of the end of 2019, with much stronger commitments from national Government to help Birmingham and other local authorities to deliver cleaner air for all. Read more about Clean Air Zones in the government’s Clean Air Zone Framework publication.

BFOE is calling for a city-wide approach to tackling air pollution, with a wide-area Clean Air Zone including all vehicle types and other measures to support it such as improving the walking and cycling infrastructure and public transport. The campaign has gained support from hundreds of people across the city along with community groups and councillors.

On Tuesday 13 March at 12:15pm, come and join campaigners who will be gathering outside Birmingham City Council House to hand in their petition to Councillor John Cotton.

The councillor will then present the petition to the full council meeting later in the day.

The petition is calling for Birmingham City Council to:

  • Implement an enforceable Birmingham-wide clean air zone by 2020.
  • Ensure nitrogen dioxide levels meet or are below EU limits everywhere, all of the time.
  • Make certain that monitoring of all areas in Birmingham is regularly carried out and reported and this information is publicly available.

To support the campaign, sign the Birmingham Friends of the Earth petition here and join the petition hand in on Tuesday 13 March at 12:10pm outside the Council House.

 

See also: https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2014-2017-birmingham-air-pollution-blogs/

 

 

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There is an important update about swimming timetables, lessons and prices from Karen Leach from the Moseley Road Baths Charitable Incorporated Organisation, which will be taking on the running of swimming facilities at the Baths from the start of April. 

Watch this space for further updates: http://www.friendsofmrb.co.uk/2018/02/important-update-for-swimmers-changes-in-april/

And Birmingham City Council has agreed (6 March) to grant the Moseley Road Baths Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), formed by Moseley Road Baths Action Group, a three-year licence to operate.

The council will retain responsibility for the maintenance of the building and the pool for three years and invest £100,000 in repair and maintenance over the next 12 months, in addition to the council grant of £100,000 to help with roof repairs agreed in June 2017.

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Recruiting of volunteers for reception, cleaning and lifeguarding will start soon and everyone who has already shown interest is thanked and will be contacted shortly.

Karen ends: “Look forward to seeing you at the pool soon!”

 

For feedback or queries go to keepswimming@moseleyroadbaths.org.uk.

 

 

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Corbyn’s core philosophy

We must recognise that every single child in this country has talents and every single child deserves the chance to flourish and thrive to their maximum potential in whichever field suits them best. That focus on the individual child is what drives our determination to reduce class sizes. We know that half a million children have been landed in super-size classes of 31 pupils or more.

He opened by setting out an all-embracing programme:

  • a government for the many not the few
  • invest in our economy and public services.
  • give the richest and largest corporations tax hand-outs worth tens of billions.
  • The NHS and social care have been pushed into a state of emergency.
  • Housebuilding has fallen to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s.
  • Schools across the country face real terms cuts in funding per pupil,
  • and class sizes are rising –
  • while those young people who want to go to university face huge debts.

His undertakings:

Labour will introduce a National Education Service, ensuring excellent learning opportunities for all from early years to adult education and halt closures of Sure Start centres and increase the funding for them.

Universal free school meals for pupils at primary schools will be introduced to help teachers who will see the benefits of improved concentration and improved attainment in the classroom. It will also help parents who will not only save money but have the peace of mind in knowing that their child is getting a healthy school meal during the day. Investing in the health of our nation’s children, is investing in our nation’s future.

If we are to build an economy worthy of the 21st century, we need a schools system that looks forwards, and not backwards to the failed models of the past.

The task is clear: we must build an education system that suits the needs of our children and the opportunities they will have in the jobs market of tomorrow.

 

Read the full text here: https://watershed2015.wordpress.com/articles-addresses-worth-reading/jeremy-corbyns-2017-election-address-to-head-teachers/

 

 

 

Reading Christian Wolmar’s article: ‘Rail’s dirty secret’, recalled last year’s  question on this site: ‘How many lungs and hearts will be damaged by air pollution before action is taken?’

There is concern about the levels of diesel-generated air-pollution on Grand Central (New Street) platforms experienced by travellers like Professor Rex Harris (Birmingham) whose work includes the promotion of a hydrogen fuelled transport system for rail and waterways.

Professor Thorne’s student monitoring air pollutants at Grand Central

Research conducted by Professor John Thorne (Birmingham) found almost seven times the annual average EU limit of particulate matter on one platform.

The TV programme Dispatches then visited New Street Station with its own monitors and found “high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates on one of the platforms… way above EU annual limits”. Network Rail told the programme it wanted the station to be a “safe and healthy environment” and that in the coming years it “will shift to less polluting electric trains”. Wolmar writes:

In the Rail Engineer, Malcolm Dobell wrote about a hydrogen fuel cell locomotive he saw four years ago; a team from Birmingham University had designed, constructed and entered a fuel cell powered one-fifth scale locomotive in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway challenge.

He reported that Alstom’s new train, the Coradia iLint (above), which runs on hydrogen power rather than diesel, has had its first successful test run. It is the first low floor passenger train in the world to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

The hydrogen used for the test runs is the by-product of an industrial process, which is reasonably reused as a waste product, but because Germany has invested heavily in wind turbine technology as part of its energy mix, it will also be able to use the energy generated by the wind turbines to make hydrogen when electricity demand is low.

As Dobell mentioned, the Birmingham Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research undertook a cross-disciplinary venture with a number of Birmingham Energy Institute academics and Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, to design and construct the UK’s first practical hydrogen-powered locomotive.  The Centre’s website adds that there will be a requirement for such autonomously powered trains to serve non-electrified lines.

Hydrogen-powered locomotives, cars and boats, emitting only steam and condensed water, Dobell comments, are better for the environment, more pleasant for passengers and less disruptive to communities.

Time for change.

 

 

 

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In July, Birmingham City Council reneged on an ACAS-mediated, cabinet-approved agreement between the Unite union and Birmingham’s talented Council Leader, John Clancy, which was to end the seven-week refuse collection dispute.

The well-paid BCC chief executive (right) was seeking to downgrade 106 Grade 3 jobs to a Grade 2, which meant that workers would lose £3,500-5,000 from their already low salaries of around £20,000.

And when BCC reneged on the Unite/Clancy deal, they also issued redundancy notices to the Grade 3 workers. These were later banned in the High Court when Mr Justice Fraser spoke at length about the “extraordinary” and “astonishing” state of affairs at Birmingham City Council with “chaos” between senior personnel. Read more about his reflections here.

Council leader Ian Ward (left) told a BBC reporter: “The cost of the (three month) dispute, yes that’s cost in excess of £6m”.

This ‘new’ version of the original deal (details here), described by union insiders as a ‘total climb-down’, was agreed at a special meeting of the BCC cabinet on Friday.

 ITV reports that yesterday Birmingham bin workers voted to accept the council deal.

So a seven week dispute was allowed to go on for three months, regardless of health and safety implications, losing £6m of ratepayers’ money – and the wrong head rolled.

 

 

 

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The late Hilary Powell, who lived in Shirley, would – like many others volunteering to help food banks – have reacted with great concern to the forecast in the Financial Times by Chris Tighe writing from Newcastle:

“Winter is coming, Britain’s welfare system is in upheaval, universal credit rollout puts extra pressure on Britain’s food banks and rising costs are hurting the poor”. 

Though increasingly disabled over the years by arthritis, with other serious health problems, Hilary did the lighter work on her allotment at Scribers Lane, with her husband John, and for some years – after making this point to organisers – ensured that some fresh food was added to the store of tinned and packaged goods by growing salads and vegetables and taking them to the food bank.

This year, the government’s rollout of its new benefits system has swelled the number of people seeking help because of the six-week delay before claimants receive payments. Some food banks may not be able to cope with the added strain on their resources, said Sam Stapley, operations manager at the Trussell Trust.

The Trussell Trust’s network, which covers two-thirds of distribution areas, saw a 6.64% average rise in referrals for emergency food in 2016/17, but a 16.85% increase in the universal credit rollout area.

  Newcastle West End food bank, the UK’s biggest, provides food for 1,000 people a week

Ten years ago, food banks were scarce. Many were started by volunteers concerned about people struggling financially. But they now form an essential part of Britain’s social safety net, with an estimated 2,000 distribution centres across the country. To use a food bank, a referral is needed, typically from the social service or housing support officers, but also from agencies such as local charities or Citizens Advice. Tens of thousands of volunteers nationally work more than 4m hours a year stocktaking, picking up and distributing food and fundraising, according to a recent study by the Trussell Trust, a national food bank network, and the Independent Food Aid Network.

The Trust is encouraging regional ‘plans of action’ so that food banks can better help each other plug gaps.

Streams of donations come from:

  • harvest festivals,
  • online appeals,
  • social events,
  • supermarket collection points,
  • a £3,000 crowdfunding appeal for a new Salford distribution centre,
  • Cardiff food bank’s recent auction of an ancient can of kidney beans raised £500.
  • Growing numbers of donations are coming from football matches.
  • Many businesses, in sectors from retail to financial services and energy, support food banks with goods or seconded staff.

Logistics, with many food banks based in ad hoc premises and receiving irregular stocks of food, is a major challenge. The Trussell Trust is meeting experts this month to discuss if its Coventry regional warehouse could become a national distribution base. Then the trust could accept big pallets of unwanted goods from corporate donors, split them into small consignments and distribute them.

 

 

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A message from Councillor Mary Locke about city cycling has been forwarded by Peter Walker, Chairman of the Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum.

Would-be cyclists are being invited to apply for the latest free bike giveaway. In 2015 more than 3,500 people received an orange bike (above) and cycled over 300,000 miles which improved their mental health and wellbeing. This time the emphasis will be on encouraging families to cycle together.

2000 free Raleigh bikes are being offered to families and residents in the most deprived communities as part of the next phase of the Big Birmingham Bikes scheme. Part of Birmingham City Council’s Birmingham Cycle Revolution, Big Birmingham Bikes aims to encourage people of all backgrounds to cycle regularly by offering free bikes to those unable to afford them.

To see the Autumn / Winter Programme click on this link. There is information on Ride Active sessions and Led Rides, free of charge.

Read all about how to apply for a free bike here.

Bike banks – a children’s bike loan scheme (for under 16s) available throughout the city, targeting the most deprived areas: information here.

Copies of the brochure will be available shortly at the council’s Wellbeing Centres.

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Birmingham Cycle Revolution is funded from various sources including City Council funds and successful bids to the Department for Transport and the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

 

 

 

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In a recent programme largely focussing on Port Sunlight in the Wirral, the presenter of the Juniper production for BBC Radio 4, Lynsey Hanley, rather gleefully noted the overturning of the Victorian ban on alcohol in the village of Bournville – a conservation area.

The Quaker Cadbury family, who practised temperance, ruled in 1895 that alcohol could not be consumed or sold within Bournville, in order to help workers to stay healthy.

 

Ms Hanley is advised to read the accurate statement in the Birmingham Post which explains that the 120-year-old ban on alcohol sales in Bournville remains in place.

Speaking after the decision at the council’s licensing sub-committee meeting, Peter Roach, the chief executive of the Bournville Village Trust, said that media reports had been “seeking to make a clear connection between George Cadbury’s Bournville Estate and the premises at Mary Vale Road which now have a licence to sell alcohol. He explained that the permission for a new off-licence changes nothing as the shop is outside the historic boundary of the Bournville Estate originally set by George Cadbury. 

Researchers, please note.

 

 

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