Time for a Fresh Start on Sutton Coldfield Town Council

Sutton Conservatives have now published some of their plans for Sutton Coldfield Town Council on the assumption they are returned with a majority of the 24 seats in May. What they fear is to have to work with non-conservative councillors to agree what is best for the town as a whole and all its residents. I have worked through their proposals and made a few observations

“Royal Sutton Coldfield Conservatives have pledged to continue to work for the good of the community ahead of local elections on May 3rd and have urged residents not to allow “a cynical coalition of chaos” to bring higher taxes to the Royal Town. (THIS IS A BLATANT ATTEMPT TO  MISLEAD THE ELECTORATE FROM A FAILED ADMINISTRATION) 

The Conservatives will be launching their manifesto shortly, something that the coalition will be unable to do. Some of the plans include increased powers for the Town Council, ensuring that more decisions which affect Sutton Coldfield are made in Sutton Coldfield. Some of the plans include

  • Returning the management of Sutton Park to Sutton via the Town Council (Needs to be agreed with BCC and that requires a positive working relationship)
  • The appointment of Town Rangers to clean up the Town (Has been requested many times by residents and blocked by the Conservatives who would rather spend the money on Consultants)
  • Improving transport links and driving improvements to the Town Centre (Part of HS2 Transport Hub programme which will happen irrespective of whether the Conservatives have a majority on the new Town Council
  • Securing a long term future for our Library and Archives (With substantial help from Folio)
  • Working with SCART and Birmingham City Council to secure a long term future for our Town Hall
  • Set up a £10,000 ward fund, supporting community organisations at a grass roots level (What about the disparity in Ward sizes under the new boundaries? This will penalise Vesey and Walmley & Minworth)
  • Ensuring over £1 million is invested in Sutton Park as part of the Commonwealth Games legacy (And how exactly do you propose to achieve this?)

It has been almost 24 months since the Town Council was formed (Despite Conservative opposition) and in that time it has successfully led on a number of key initiatives including the Concerts in the Park, a huge community event which attracted thousands of residents into Sutton Park for a weekend of world class entertainment. (At a cost of £90,000 to the precept payers who if they also bought tickets paid twice and subsidised non residents!) The event is set to be repeated this year with tickets selling fast and opportunities being offered to local young people to gain experience in various roles. (Still subsidised to the tune of at least £53,000 from the precept payers) This great event was almost derailed by opposition councillors joining together to play politics. (If wanting residents to be consulted on the format for the concert and its costs before commissioning the CBSO again was wrong – guilty as charged)

The leader of Sutton Coldfield Town Council Simon Ward said “We have always said that we wanted the Town Council to be a real positive for our Town (NO YOU DID NOT UNTIL AFTER THE REFERENDUM WHEN THE RESIDENTS VOTED FOR A NEW TOWN COUNCIL – PRIOR TO THAT IT WAS ‘A PIG AND A POKE’ TO QUOTE ANDREW MITCHELL.)– we are the level of local government that is closest to residents – we take that responsibility very seriously. We have delivered a number of community projects which have benefitted residents but have been continually attacked by opportunist opposition councillors who claim to rise above politics whilst doing the exact opposite.  At every turn they have played politics when we are simply trying to do our best for our Royal Town and reassert our unique identity.” (Meaningless gobbledygook and an attempt to smear non conservative councillors)

Since 2016, under a Conservative administration, the Town Council has also delivered improved play facilities for local kids, (Apart from Boldmere when you spent £3000 on a consultation and then ignored the result because Councillor Passey wanted the playground on ‘Mossy Bank’ and the residents didn’t) played a pivotal role in the saving of Sutton’s library, delivered improvements in road safety in key areas of the Town, (????) worked with residents in Falcon Lodge to develop the first Community Plan (Lets ask the residents of Falcon Lodge about that) in the Town as well as supporting local good causes with over £100,000 of funding and just last week launching an exciting campaign for Britain in Bloom here in the Royal Town.

All of this has been achieved whilst delivering a 3% cut in the council tax precept in real terms. (Rubbish you dare not increase the precept as with £2,000,000 in reserves the bank after 2 years we really ought to start a petition to demand a rebate due to being overcharged)

Speaking about the first 24 months Simon Ward said “We are ambitious for Sutton Coldfield and I am incredibly proud of the initiatives that we have led on. We are not professional politicians, we are a group of local volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds, who are passionate about our community. We have delivered in so many areas (Residents need to examine the 2018/19 budget and look at how the conservatives want to spend the precept and then decide if these statements are valid. but we know that we have so much more to do and are restless to deliver. (Provide we can hire consultants at vast cost to do the work) We are determined to continue to give value for money for residents whilst delivering services and initiatives that benefit our community.”  We will continue to work alongside all stakeholders (Like you are working with the Police and the Chief Constable concerning the future of policing in the town) to deliver these basic Conservative principles for our Town –reflecting the overwhelming views of our fellow residents. (40% of them do not agree with you but are unrepresented)

Local Conservatives have welcomed the news that Labour, Independents, Lib Dems and Greens will be forming a coalition at the upcoming elections on May 3rd, ensuring that it is a straight choice between a Conservative plan or no plan. (When the new council is formed if no one group has the majority an agreed programme that is best for the town will have to be agreed – RESIDENTS WORKING FOR RESIDENTS)

Simon Ward added “The choice on May 3rd is very simple. a Conservative led Town Council with a sound plan, delivering value for money and a better Royal Sutton Coldfield OR a coalition of political opportunism which has pledged to spend every penny of taxpayers’ money, including substituting for services that Birmingham City Council should be delivering, without having a plan for the Town Council and involving double taxation of local residents.” (This is very similar to the disastrous ‘REMAIN CAMPAIGN’ that the conservatives ran for the EU Referendum – Will they never learn, take the electorate for granted at your peril – we may be foolish occasionally but we are not stupid.) 

The towns MP Andrew Mitchell said “Under the leadership of the Royal Towns Conservatives, the Town Council has made a great start. Don’t let Labour and their friends ruin it.” (From an MP who was a government minister during the Coalition Government – which I for one think worked better than what we have now – not to mention the DUP deal this is outstanding hypocrisy.)

Can’t wait to see the rest of the plans, hopefully they will be an improvement on these which have more holes in them than a sieve.

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.

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.

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.

 

Team Building in the Voluntary Sector

For any voluntary organisation to work well and fulfill its objectives it requires a group of like-minded people with the necessary skills to come together. Crucial roles are:- Leader/Prime Mover, administrator and book-keeper (If applicable.) So often voluntary organisations fail because people take on these roles without an understanding of work involved. This leads to confusion, frustration and ultimately the failure of the group.  Too often the excuse is “well its voluntary so we cannot expect too much.” The secret is to attract people with the right skill sets for these key roles and then build the rest of the group around this core. The other issue is to aim for a good demographic spread with an eye towards continuity. Members need to bond and enjoy the group activities. Voluntary work should generate a feeling of fulfilment and that it is time well spent – you do it because you want to not because you have to! If ever it becomes a burden or you find yourself getting stressed then it is time to step back and review the activity and the reason why you are involved. After 8 years experience in a number of groups with a variety of roles I consider myself fortunate to have worked with some committed and far-sighted people. In the main I have enjoyed the work and felt that it was time well spent. Such activity helps one grow as an individual and is a way to challenge oneself. I recommend it to anyone who wants ‘put something back’ and contribution to the wider community in which they live.

New Children’s Playground in Vesey

Great to see that this project is firmly on the Town Council Agenda – it is long overdue. The families with school aged children in my area (Stonehouse Road) are very pleased and looking forward to being consulted on their preferred location. It is important that all views are considered together with the logistics of running such an activity – there is more involved than the pure asset transfer. The capitol budget of £50,000 looks a little light and there appears to be no figures for the annual running costs in the papers I have seen. Also, I am sure parents would want some input in to the design of the playground once the location is agreed.

Neighbourhood Planning

Delighted to see that the Town Council Planning Committee has now sanctioned a work group to look at the benefits available from adopting a neighbourhood plan along the lines of that implemented by Lichfield City Council. It is disappointing that it is restricting itself to current Town and City Councillors plus BCC Officers, I would have liked to have seen a couple of independent planning experts included but at least it is a step in the right direction.