Concerts in the Park – Residents concerns

Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council Councillors are refusing to answer legitimate questions from residents and the Conservative social media platforms are deleting any comments relating to residents concerns
We will never know what Angus said and because I replied to Penny Harper’s  comment they deleted it. This is censorship and shows that the conservatives are trying to manipulate social media to their own advantage. I have supported the conservatives all my adult life but this brand of conservatism is not one I wish to be associated with – refusing to engage because you do not like the questions suggests you have something to hide.

Cash Cow – more like an abuse of power!

Dominic McDonough (Andrew Mitchells Agent) letter in last week’s Observer appears to be a deliberate attempt to smear the hard-working non-conservative town councillors. For Dominic’s information (he was not here at the time) these are the people who worked tirelessly to establish the town council in the first place. SCCA (Sutton Coldfield Conservative Association) campaigned against it and were defeated in the referendum.

It can indeed be described as a ‘Cash Cow’ but only if your project or need fits the conservative political agenda. When it comes to a crisis the conservatives appear obsessed with attacking Birmingham City Council. Frail, elderly residents and disabled people were left to struggle on their own during the ‘Bin Strike.’ This was a time when we hoped the Town Council would step up and show some leadership – what did they do? Spend the whole time scoring political points and running a petition for a council tax rebate which stood no chance of succeeding.

In May the town will have a chance to make it views on the performance of this council known, be aware the next council will serve for 4 years, some residents resent being forced to pay the precept and would like to see it removed from their Council Tax bills altogether.

A balanced council where everyone’s voice is equal, and decisions are made in public by consensus after debate is what the town needs to restore trust. The conservative ‘One Party State’ needs to change and all groups be included.

An Example of Bad Governance

Boldmere Futures Partnership were desperate to save the Christmas Lights Festival and made a last-ditch appeal to Sutton Coldfield Town Council for help! They hoped the ‘Amenities Committee’ would be sympathetic – faint hope I am afraid – the response was more akin to that of Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist.

We now know from the statement by Simon Ward in the Observer that ‘Boldmere Futures Partnership’ did not follow due process – always the last refuge of a bureaucrat who has made a poor decision.

Statements like “I am deeply uncomfortable with the overall cost of the Boldmere Christmas Event” suggests he had sight of the application prior to the Amenities Committee Meeting and the decision was already made before it took place. Sorry to say that this is another example of poor governance where decisions are made in private and then announced in public.

He also asserts that BCC should provide the extra funding – why? Vesey residents fund roughly a quarter of the Council’s income yet decisions are made to the detriment of the ward and the larger town by non-Vesey Councillors. The Vesey Councillors are marginalised and the ‘two’ conservative Vesey Councillors either have no say or have forgotten their duty to the residents and are too busy trying to climb the ‘Greasy Pole.’

Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council was prepared to subsidise the ‘Concert in the Park’ to the tune of £25 per head (£6.25 of which came from Vesey residents) but refuses £1 per head for the Boldmere Christmas Festival to keep people safe!

There is a growing demand for an urgent review of the council’s structures and procedures many of which are not fit for purpose. Several Councillors should be considering their positions over this fiasco.


Printed by the Royal Sutton Observer on their letters page 10/11/2017

Boldmere Christmas Lights – 2017

We now have the official statement on behalf of ‘Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council’ and their reasons for declining the emergency funding request. A request that resulted from the need to fund a substantial increase in security which could not be foreseen during the planning of the event.

I have a few observations which I have annotated below in red: –

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Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council town clerk, Olive O’Sullivan, said: “The town council is sorry to hear that the Boldmere Christmas Lights event has been cancelled.

The view expressed by committee was that the community grant in the Four Oaks, New Hall and Trinity wards should not be spent on an event in the Vesey ward, particularly when the other local centres would not have a festive light switch on event in their local areas. (What about the Gracechurch Centre? The other areas do not have an established event and the council just needed to increase the budget to overcome this issue. With over £1m in reserves of which £250k has come from Vesey Residents one would have thought this would not be a problem.)

If a local centre wanted to do something over and above what the town council is providing in terms of festive lights then that activity should be funded locally. (This suggests that the residents have no say in the matter. It also adds weight to the argument that the budget should be under the control of Ward Councillors and not an ‘Appointed Committee’ which is not representative of the wards. The Amenities Committee has 4 Trinity, 2 Four Oaks, 1 New Hall and 1 Vesey Councillor.)

The council appreciates that rising costs of road closures and stewarding for events means that the Boldmere Futures Partnership had to make some difficult decisions about the event.” (The decision by council left us no option but to cancel as the Councillors who are also members of the Boldmere Futures Partnership one of whom sits on the Amenities Committee were aware. The lack of empathy with the impact on Boldmere and the wider community who have supported the event for 5 years is disappointing)

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Is the Sutton Coldfield Town Council fit for Purpose?

To the Editor, Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer

Dear Sir

I am prompted to write following the letter by Olive O’Sullivan in this week’s edition concerning the legal responsibilities affecting refuse collections. While I have great respect for Olive she completely misses the point. The Town Council had an opportunity to show some leadership by organising a service to assist the residents with taking their rubbish to the tip if they were unable to do so themselves. This is a big problem for the elderly and the disabled. This happened in other parts of Birmingham, why not Sutton? We need the Town Council to respond during a crisis, to stand back and say that it is down to the mismanagement by Birmingham is to make a political point which does not help the residents.

I voted against setting up this Council in the first place in line with the Conservative view at the time because I feared it would be a waste of time and money or a ‘Pig and a Poke’ as stated by our MP. Subsequently I have watched the council being run by the majority group as a ‘One Party State’ with elected Town Councillors being told to toe the party line. As a result, it is neither inclusive or representative of all the town’s residents.  Boldmere in particular has suffered at the hands of the Town Council as out lined by Councillor Long in his resent letter. The reasons for this are unclear but one suspects that it is down to the ward electing only one Conservative Councillor in 2016

The Town Council should be run for the benefit of all residents by the residents and should be open and transparent with decisions being taken in public and not in private meetings of the majority group. I also feel that Councillors should not sit on both BCC and SCTC as there is an obvious conflict of interests.

Neighbourhood planning would be a major benefit to the whole Town, Lichfield is a good example of what can be done when a council takes a positive approach. However, in Sutton this has been blocked at every turn. Maybe the problem is that BCC and many Councillors do not want to see neighbourhood plans implemented as it limits their flexibility. I have also noted that Rob Pocock who was a supporter 2 years ago is now not as vocal on the subject.

One can only hope that next year when new Councillors are elected for the Town and City we will see some changes.  The Town Council should represent all residents and spend the precept on improving the town for their benefit. Currently they seem to be obsessed with not funding additional services for Sutton which fall within the BCC remit. As a result, we suffer with dirty streets, pot holes, limited facilities for the disabled etc. while the bulk of the precept sits in the bank. If they cannot spend it on services which the residents want maybe they should give us all a refund.

Yours Truly

Tony Cannon

Footnote,

The Sutton Observer chose not to publish this letter this week and preferred Clare Horrocks’s rather poor letter in my opinion which does her no credit and picks on one aspect of a well measured letter by Councillor Long last week by launching a personalised attack.

Well, I also am not impressed with the attitude of the ‘Planning Committee’ towards ‘Neighbourhood Planning.’ In fact when I raised the subject at a planning meeting the Chair was extremely rude to me as a resident and conservative party member. (Not anymore – if they had bothered to send me a membership card I would have the pleasure of cutting it up but as they haven’t I can’t. No wonder the Conservative Party is shedding members hand over fist – too many of the executive are out of touch, and remote)

Did the Lichfield Councillors have specialised  training on neighbourhood planning – I doubt it –  like most people I am sure if they were unclear on a subject they sought advice. There are a number of planning officers in the town who offered their services to the Town Council for free and were turned down! This council prefers to waste money on unnecessary training, vanity projects and party political objectives. Roll on 2018, I feel it will be as much of a wake up call for SCCA as the General Election was for the National Party (Though they do not seem to have taken much notice.)

Birmingham Bin Strike & Sutton Town Council

Will a petition calling for a Council Tax refund help resolve the dispute – no. Could the Town Council take a lead in looking at alternative ways to handle the collection of refuse and recycling – possibly. It could definitely initiate a programme to support residents who are unable to take their rubbish to the tip. Time to step up and show some leadership I suggest.

New Boldmere Playground Update

For the sake of transparency here is the address and question which I put to Sutton Coldfield Town Council tonight. Unfortunately the time allowed was reduced from 3 minutes to 2 so I had to precis it for the meeting. The request to allow the Sutton Vesey Town Councillors and the Resident Groups to progress the matter was ignored and the BCC Landscapes consultation will go ahead on Mossy Bank and Boldmere Gate at a cost of some £2000. There will also be an online survey on the SCTC website. When you consider that the Cofield & Warden Road residents presented a survey with 169 signatures against Mossy Bank it makes you wonder why they are going to be canvassed again as part of the official consultation. Maybe the council is hoping for a different answer the second time around. Or are they hoping that the number of Boldmere residents who want a playground at Mossy Bank will out number those who live there – quite possible I suppose when you consider there are 360 pupils at the school. There will also be a public meeting at the Carpenters Arms at some point. A great shame that what started with a request for a ‘Pocket Playground’ for younger children in the heart of Boldmere has been hijacked.

The ‘Mossy Bank’ Saga

Yesterday there was a flurry on Twitter when it was reported that Town Councillors had been in to Boldmere Junior School asking the pupils their thoughts on a new playground. This should have been answered immediately but with the 140 character limit you need to be clear and concise.

What does this mean? The School Pupil Council decided to hold a debate on whether the new playground should be located at ‘Mossy Bank’ and Carl agreed? What did they vote on – presumably whether the new playground should be at ‘Mossy Bank’ or ‘Boldmere Gate’? I am however assured that no Town Councillors attended. No doubt the outcome of this debate will be announced at some point. It was perhaps ill-advised to choose this topic as the children went home and told their parents and it escalated from there with concerned parents up in arms that their children have been dragged in to the issue.  A number will be seeking clarification from Carl on Monday!

One final thought is that Bob Churn of BCC stated that in the consultation children would be consulted on what type of playground they would like, he did not indicate the choice of location would also be included. I wonder if this has somehow been misinterpreted.

New Vesey Playground – January Update

At tonight’s Amenities Committee Bob Churn gave his report which indicated that a seven piece playground could go on Mossy Bank subject to BCC Planning Approval or Boldmere Gate subject to approval by Natural England. Boldmere Gate also has the potential to accommodate   a much more ambitious plan subject to funding. Two Residents of Cofield Road/Warden Road voiced their objections to Mossy Bank due to Traffic, Parking, Anti-Social Behaviour and that there was not adequate oversight of the site which gives rise to child safety concerns. No resident objected to Boldmere Gate which could be approached on a phased basis starting with the seven piece unit and possibly attract funding from other sources for further development. At one point the committee nearly signed off on a motion to just pursue Mossy Bank, fortunately an amendment to the motion was passed by 4 votes to 2 that Boldmere residents should be consulted on both sites before a feasibility study was commissioned.

There is also the possibility that part of the Boldmere Adult Education site could be utilised. Projects of this nature should be community driven – unfortunately some committee members seem to have lost sight of this and that they are there to represent residents.

The dangers of Social Media in Public Life

Most public bodies have a Social Media Policy due to the potential for reputation damage to the individual and their organisation if ill-judged or unguarded comments are made. The problem with the internet is that once a post is published it cannot be withdrawn.  Even if the originator deletes it the comment will have already been registered with the other members of that particular group. Chances are it will re-surface at the most inopportune moment to the intense embarrassment of the originator.

A classic example is Emily Thornberry’s ill-judged tweet “Image from #Rochester” which cost her a shadow cabinet position. Admittedly she has now been reappointed as Shadow Foreign Secretary but there were probably not a lot of alternative options. I doubt that she will be invited to support the labour candidate in the Copeland by-election.

As a holder of public office it is very unwise to argue with another user on social media. As many people have found to their cost the watching audience can be vast – ask Sally Bercow who thought she was being ever so clever by asking a “loaded” question and regretted it later to her cost.