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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.