Archives for posts with tag: Steve Beauchampé

The loss of Eastside Park (above) to HS2 , ‘more of a square than a park’, strengthens the case for greening Smithfield. Photograph: John Newson. 

John Newson points out that Birmingham Friends of the Earth earlier responded to the council’s 2011 Big City Plan, proposing that the open space on the Smithfield site should have should have functions of stalls/market space which could be combined with trees and some green space. He comments: “A park, in the sense of extensive grass and flower beds may not be achievable, given the intensity of pedestrian footfall, which is likely, and indeed desirable.  Eastside Park is more of a square than a park”.

The CityPark4Brum  2015 petition was followed by the council’s Smithfield Master plan (March 2016)  which may be downloaded here, with the August ’17 memorandum. There was a new consultation which included a proposal for a new park on one part of the site.

The petition, masterminded by James Tucker, now has over 5000 signatures and will be resubmitted to the council and the metro mayor. As he points out, “Birmingham does not have a large park in its city centre – a glaring omission for the UK’s second city. However, we currently have a unique opportunity to address this . . . Birmingham Smithfield is less than 5 minutes’ walk from New Street station and the Bullring, an ideal location for a green park that could truly transform our city’s landscape”.

He feels that the space allocated for this new park is too small – smaller than the Cathedral Green and  wedged in between other buildings adding: “ Therefore the CityPark4Brum campaign is continuing and is now into its third year”.

The artist’s impression

Though one correspondent concedes, “Green space is always nice” he continues: “it might well become repositories for litter and poorly disposed of dog poo bags. Probably best if fenced off and excluding humans”.

Steve Beauchampé expresses no such misgivings, writing firmly in the Birmingham Press: “Birmingham needs a city centre park, not the thin strip of tree-lined greensward offered in the Smithfield development”.

He found Birmingham City Council’s vision of a future mixed use of retail, residential, offices, eateries, a brace of public squares and some undefined cultural activities, ”all very predictable” and had replied by posting on the Press website that they should abandon the masterplan and simply lay out a park, one where you could walk a dog, kick a ball around, sit on a bench, enjoy an ice cream in a tearoom.

The CityPark4Brum has had some influence, with BCC agreeing to incorporate a grass and tree-lined corridor (linear park, illustrated below) into their revised masterplan although Beauchampé notes that the total amount of greenery promised still appears to be very modest – ‘a truncated boulevard’. He continues:

“Apart from the grounds of St Philip’s Cathedral, and St Paul’s on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter, there is almost no usable green space in or near Birmingham city centre. Taken as a whole Birmingham probably has more parks than Venice has canals, but the central core and its immediate surrounds – where the population is rapidly increasing (and will continue so to do) – remains bereft of anything resembling a park.

“One need look no further than Birmingham’s geographical neighbours to realise how notable Birmingham’s lack of a gloriously unstructured and unregulated, egalitarian central zone park is: Coventry, (War Memorial Park) Solihull (Tudor Grange, Brueton and Malvern Parks), Walsall (Arboretum), West Bromwich (Dartmouth Park) and Wolverhampton (West Park) all boast large parks on the periphery of their centres, easily walkable from their respective retail and civic hearts”.

Warning that in a year or two there may simply be no parcels of land available on which to develop a central park, he foresees future generations looking at:

  • a plethora of apartments that they will not be able to afford to rent,
  • hotels that they will never need to stay in
  • offices that they will probably never be needed to work in
  • and nowhere to walk their dogs, kick their footballs
  • or relax with their friends.

Beauchampé points out that national and even international perceptions still imagine Birmingham as the motor city, an unattractive urban sprawl, full of underpasses, flyovers and rain-soaked concrete, concluding:

“A well-designed city park or green space would change perceptions of Birmingham in a way that 25-30 additional 25-30-storey high new buildings never could . . . potentially as ‘impactful’ on the city as staging the Commonwealth Games or the arrival of HS2: a gift that truly would keep on giving, day after day, decade after decade. A place for relaxation, exercise, for cultural and communal experiences, where the city can celebrate and commemorate and which can be enjoyed without cost by rich and poor, young and old.”

 

 

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Two Sandwell community swimming pools to close to help fund Commonwealth Games Aquatics Centre, reports Steve Beauchampé

The true cost to Sandwell residents of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games aquatics events became clearer on Tuesday with the announcement that community swimming pools at Thimblemill Road, Smethwick and in Langley would be closed to make way for a new £60m swimming centre, to be constructed on the Borough’s Londonderry Playing Fields.

The new centre will feature a 50m pool, 25m diving pool, 125-station fitness gym, 12-court sports hall, seats for 5,000 spectators. Details of how the facility will be funded, and by whom, remain unclear., as do issues such as its ongoing running costs and long-term financial viability in what might be described as a somewhat ‘off’ location.

Sandwell Council reported that whilst the facility at Langley would likely be demolished, a new (though as yet unspecified) public use will be found for the Thimblemill Lane building. The Council also started that the lost playing fields at Londonderry would be replaced by ‘adequate alternative spaces’, but were unable to explain what this somewhat vague and ambiguous phrase meant in real terms.

The Grade II listed Thimblemill Road Baths (above) were designed by Chester Button and Smethwick Borough Engineer Roland Fletcher and opened almost 85 years ago on March 30th 1933. The building underwent a major restoration around a decade ago and is amongst only three swimming baths in Britain built in the Moderne style (the others are located in Northampton and Aberdeen). A much-loved and well-used community resource, in November 19th 1962, when the swimming pool was still boarded over during the winter season for dances and other social events, the venue hosted a performance by the then largely unknown Beatles (with both the Kinks and the Who following in later years).

The pool and sports centre in Vicarage Road, Langley, whilst of considerably less architectural merit, nonetheless remains a vital amenity whose loss will be keenly felt by many in the community. As swimmers in other many locations beyond the West Midlands will testify, replacing a small community pool with a 50m leviathan rarely results in a satisfactory outcome for the wide range of swimmers and swimming needs previously catered for.

Tuesday’s announcement is the first occasion that threats to the future of either the Smethwick or Langley facilities has been publicly discussed and calls into question the Birmingham Games bid team’s claim that hosting the Games would improve the region’s sporting infrastructure. Since reports first emerged that the 2022 aquatics events would likely be staged in Sandwell, councillors and council officials have been keen to portray the prospect as uniformity positive news for the borough, with no mention of any possible downside.

Requests both to Sandwell Council and Birmingham Games bid organisers last year for information about the new centre were met with the same intense secrecy that has characterised many crucial elements of the Games bid. Given the short (four and a half year) lead in time to the Games, Sandwell’s announcement of a public consultation with residents and businesses on the plans, following their approval by Sandwell Council Cabinet next week, seems little more than cosmetic, and it is hard to imagine local councillors risking any delay to the project, meaning that once again effective public scrutiny and accountability of the 2022 Games is likely to be minimal.

First published in the Birmingham Press

 

 

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The government will decide, in November, whether to make a formal bid to host the Games.  Birmingham based its application around the city’s four indoor arenas and the Alexander stadium, currently the home of UK Athletics, which it plans to refurbish for the 2022 event and make it the UK’s largest permanent athletics stadium. It also put forward plans to run a business convention alongside the Games.

The Origin Sport Group was selected by the council to assess sporting facilities such as this

In the Birmingham Press (2012), the website that was first to call for Birmingham to try and stage the Commonwealth Games in either 2022 or 2026, Steve Beauchampé congratulates Councillor Ian Ward, Steve Hollingworth (lead officer for sport at the Council) and their colleagues at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bid Company, stating: “The government chose Birmingham because it offered a low risk, low cost Games fit for post-Brexit Britain”.

He points out that Birmingham’s cautious and (a word they used often) ‘compliant’ bid spoke to the government’s search for a low-cost, low-risk Games and adds: “It is telling that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport statement outlining why Birmingham’s name is the one that goes forward highlighted phrases such as ‘risk-minimisation’ and ‘value for money’”.

A Games for our times

“A Games for our times then, and a decision set against very real concerns that a further extended period of economic uncertainty for the UK lies ahead. A decision taken by a Government striving to reduce the annual budget deficit, yet confident that overseas competition for the right to host 2022 would be limited. An austerity Games perhaps; strong and stable, yet deliverable and placed in the hands of reliable and trustworthy organisers”.

Beauchampé adds that as Britain leaves the European Union, damaging relations with our closest neighbours in the process, it urgently needs to develop new trading links beyond Europe and counter Britain’s growing image as an insular, nationalistic and increasingly irrelevant island.

Yet despite the understandably positive response by many in Birmingham to Thursday’s news, he feels that a degree of perspective might not go amiss

He foresees that if Birmingham is eventually selected to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games it will not transform the city or its fortunes in the way that hosting in 2002 transformed Manchester. After listing the changes to be made to Birmingham’s sporting infrastructure he ends:

“Undoubtedly there will be some permanent new employment opportunities (along with considerably more temporary ones) whilst Birmingham’s national and international profile and image may undergo a degree of positive change. Fine as far as it goes, but should the city eventually be awarded the Games, it must use them as the starting point for long-term transformation, rather than the culmination of it. And that will require considerably greater ambition than we have witnessed thus far”.

Source: http://thebirminghampress.com/2017/09/commonwealth-games-2022-box-ticking-success-strategy/

 

 

 

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As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.

Their dual achievements:

  • comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
  • vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.

Direction of travel

Beauchampé:(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .

The elite stranglehold could be broken

OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol)  saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.

 

 

 

 

stirchley-baths-best

Stirchley History Group, a heritage project of Stirchley Baths meets on: Wednesday 2 November at 6.45: Stirchley Baths

Steve Beauchampé will give a presentation about our local pools. Please note that this event will be in the Large Community Room – at the Deep End. The room will be open from about 6.00 for welcome and chat.

sb-stirchley-talk

Stirchley Baths
Bournville Lane
Birmingham
West Midlands
B30 2JT

http://stirchleybaths.org/

email hello@stirchleybaths.com

0121 464 9072

 

“Last week’s announcement by Birmingham City Council that it was commissioning a feasibility study into whether to bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games was as surprising as it was welcome”.

sb-played-cover

So writes Steve Beauchampé, co-author of ‘Played in Birmingham’, Former International Officer of the FSA and member of Birmingham’s Euro ’96 Organising Committee.

Beauchampé notes that in general there had been little expectation of any alteration to the local authority’s previously stated position that a bid was not viable, in a period of unprecedented cuts to council services and substantially diminished central government grants. He continued:

“So what has changed?

“Several things perhaps: Chancellor George Osborne’s departure from office, which has seen his Northern Powerhouse project downgraded, or at least reconfigured as a more balanced national approach to devolution; that new Prime Minister Theresa May’s chief advisor Nick Timothy is from Birmingham, which might result in the city receiving a fairer hearing in Whitehall than was previously the case”.

The backing of the recently established West Midlands Combined Authority, as well as that of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership may well have been decisive, according to Beauchampé, who points out that, “both of these organisations are potentially able to access the sizeable funding streams necessary to develop the infrastructure improvements required to put on a high profile global event and deliver substantial economic regeneration as a consequence”. 

To secure the tacit support of central government and then the nomination of Commonwealth Games England, Birmingham must forget the notion of an ‘austerity’ Games:

“The Games, and the physical legacy they leave, must be tangible, its focal point both visible and accessible from the city centre. And whilst most of the facilities required already exist, albeit with some needing to be adapted, expanded or upgraded, several new venues and facilities will both be required and desirable (including a competition standard 50m pool, a velodrome and an athletes’ village)”.

He emphasizes that the region’s history and culture – sporting, artistic, ethnic and otherwise – should be mined and celebrated both in advance of, and during, the ten day spectacular of competition; there needs to be imagination in each aspect of how the event is conceived and delivered, and in how its benefits are to be maximised and secured afterwards. A Greater Birmingham bid needs to show how the region would advance the concept of what the Commonwealth Games can be, as successfully as London 2012 did with the Olympics.

Beauchampé reminds us that Manchester did not see staging the Commonwealth Games as the end of a process, but merely the beginning: “It’s an approach and a mindset that we too should adopt”.

Read the whole article: Bring The Games To Birmingham here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2016/10/bring-the-games-to-birmingham-2/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.playedinbritain.co.uk/authors.php

SAVE OUR BATHS!

pinn moral missions

A former aide to Iain Duncan Smith, Tim Montgomerie, writes in The Times, “You do not have to believe that Mr Duncan Smith’s motives were pure to recognise the letter’s political power”. He then gives four compelling ‘killer facts’ about the government’s fiscal strategy (reordered):

  1. Big decisions on cuts, with far-reaching consequences for vulnerable households, should not be rushed to fund gimmicky announcements that the Treasury hopes might win a few good headlines in one day’s newspapers.
  2. Some of the lowest income families, already working very long hours to make ends meet, are bearing too large a share of Tory spending cuts.
  3. Richer pensioners shouldn’t continue receiving expensive perks while vulnerable groups such as the disabled lose entitlements.
  4. If difficult , are necessary they should fund reductions in the historically large deficit rather than finance tax cuts for the better off, as happened in last week’s budget.

Were ‘Mr Duncan Smith’s motives pure’ or pragmatic: linked via The Brummie, Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press (see punning title if you can bear it):

“It may be that not only are a significant number of the electorate becoming tired of Osborne’s perpetual austerity at a time when many economic indices are going south, but that voters have increasingly had it with the continual raids on the income of the disabled and the working poor, worse that they are overseen by millionaire Ministers such as David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith.

atos fit to rule tests

“Yet even without the link to tax reductions that Osborne’s intervention allowed to ferment, Iain Duncan Smith may well have discovered that his plans to reduce PIP payments for the disabled would have courted widespread unpopularity”.

Was this high-profile resignation primarily a matter of principle, or a move towards ‘facilitating the erstwhile Work and Pensions Secretary a swift return to front line politics’ (Beauchampé)? We shall see . . .

 

The three commentators looked at essentials, unimpressed by the headlines focussing on Jamie Oliver, the Budget’s impact on Irn Bru – or Jeremy Corbyn’s clothing. Pandering to the latter obsession we note Jeremy outshining Boris (below).

corbyn boris shake hands

The FT’s political editor, George Parker, describes the Budget as ‘a compendium of grim economic news deteriorating growth, bad productivity numbers and confirmation that the Chancellor had broken two of the three fiscal rules he set himself in July last year’.

Steve Beauchampé refers to George Osborne having given ‘the usual illusory and diversionary (think sugar tax) performance’ and George Parker recounts a list of policies ‘corralled’ by Mr Osborne to improve children’s education and help them save for a home or a pension and salutes “the sheer political appeal of a tax to tackle childhood obesity — with some of the revenues being spent on school sport”.

David Bailey in the Post draws on forecasts and data from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in measured language, to chilling effect: “Robert Chote, the OBR’s director, succinctly noted that for every pound the chancellor found down the back of the sofa in November, he has lost two pounds this time. So borrowing will be higher than Osborne hoped for”.

Beauchampé highlights George Osborne’s selective use of ‘economic data, financial contortions and highly politicised blames and claims’ – strategies attributed by Parker to Cameron ordering the presentation of a Budget that did not inflame Tory MPs or voters before the EU referendum, which the PM sees as “the only game in town”.

Beauchampé, however, sees the chancellor as being driven primarily by a more personal goal: “(The budget) was not primarily designed to address the current economic realities facing the lives of ordinary people or those issues identifiable for the future, but . . . to coincide with Osborne’s anticipated accession to the office of Prime Minister”.

He points out that, though specific measures for London, Manchester and Leeds were announced, there were no references to Birmingham and the West Midlands, commenting:

“Osborne’s much-vaunted devolution of powers from Westminster and Whitehall to the English regions is part of an ideology that sees the dismantling of traditional local government as essential. Riven with unnecessary politics, authority is transferred not to democratically accountable institutions representative of a cross-section of local society but to business focussed organisations and those whom the Chancellor hopes will be malleable individuals”.

After condemning as a wholly political choice the austerity Osborne has ‘so brutally placed’ on those at the bottom of society, to fund capital gains tax reductions and abandonment of the 50p top rate of income tax for those at or near the top, Beauchampé quotes Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘lambasting’ of Osborne’s record:

“The budget…is the culmination of six years of failures.

He’s failed on the budget deficit,

failed on debt,

failed on investment,

failed on productivity,

failed on the trade deficit,

failed on the welfare cap,

failed to tackle inequality”.

A verbal sparring match between the Birmingham Press’ independent Steve Beauchampé and Rachel Sylvester in the Murdoch Times would be well worth turning out for.

Welfare and workers’ rights – so yesterday

Ms Sylvester, working to diminish members’ increasing support for the Labour leader, evident in the recent YouGov poll, sees Mr Corbyn merely “trotting out old arguments about the importance of immigration, welfare and workers’ rights, apparently oblivious to the way in which public opinion has shifted in the last 40 years. . . “ and smears: “There is no sense of passion, more a suspicion that he sees the EU as a capitalist conspiracy against the masses but is nervous of saying so”.

Beauchampé has a different perspective, pointing to David Cameron’s dismissal of many elements of EU law that make a tangible, positive impact on the daily lives of British citizens, “such as crucial environmental legislation, consumer protection laws, the working time directive, social chapter, maternity leave and necessary health and safety legislation.

He adds that the PM’s willingness last autumn to negotiate away British workers EU employment rights, sets the Tory ‘Remain’ vision of Europe decisively at odds with that of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party.

Ms Sylvester damns Cameron with faint praise – Murdoch apparently backing Boris: “Having conceded a referendum in order to appease his rightwingers, and mounted a bogus negotiation in an attempt to hold the Tories together, (Cameron) has now moved beyond the partisan bickering to put a statesmanlike case for Britain’s membership of the European Union”.

Beauchampe goes to the heart of the matter:

  • “Cameron should have focussed instead on transferring more power to the democratically elected (and by proportional representation) European Parliament, simultaneously reducing the authority of the unelected Council of Europe.
  • “He should have requested greater financial transparency regarding EU budgets (audited accounts would be a start).
  • “And he should have been opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as it is currently envisaged, a treaty that threatens to undermine democratic institutions at local, national and international level, in favour of global business interests to the detriment of millions of EU citizens.

A knockout blow?

john clancySteve Beauchampé informed readers yesterday that Cllr John Clancy has been elected to succeed Sir Albert Bore as the new leader of Birmingham City Council, by a meeting of the 78-strong Labour group of councillors.

The first round saw Clancy poll 31 votes, Holbrook 23, Ian Ward 22 and Barry Henley 1. Clancy was finally successful in his fifth leadership attempt, elected by a single vote over Penny Holbrook, securing 38 votes to Holbrook’s 37.

There are now grounds for real hope as new Labour leaders are elected at city and national level.

Steve summarises some of John Clancy’s most promising policies:

  • he has pledged to focus less on grand city centre projects
  • and focus more on the rejuvenation of the city’s 40 wards through a package of devolution measures transferring decision making to the most local level possible.
  • He plans to consider replacing the current Leader and Cabinet system by returning to the Committee system and
  • intends to renegotiate the Council’s controversial outsourcing contracts with Capita and Amey.
  • He has promised an ‘open data’ council where such contracts are open to public scrutiny.

An overlap with Corbynomics, casual dress and negative colleagues

john clancy 3More likely to please those who like their politicians snappily dressed, he can also unwind; there is no fear of him losing votes because he does not habitually wear a tie – as did Corbyn. Clancy’s pledge to launch a Birmingham Bond to raise finance for housebuilding and other infrastructure projects calls to mind Colin Hines’ presentation of Brummie Bonds – a project undertaken with Richard Murphy – one of Corbyn’s advisers.

Steve Beauchampé ends: “However, given that he commands less the support of less than half of the city’s Labour councillors, compromise will need to be high on his agenda in the months ahead, not just as far as the Improvement Panel are concerned, but with regard to his party colleagues too”.


Read Steve’s article here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2015/11/clancy-wins-city-labour-leadership/