Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Labour Party leaves Hall Green constituency in turmoil

The Hall Green constituency committee met for the first time since the election last night. The first item on the agenda was the election of a Chair and Vice-Chair for the Committee. What would normally take about 5 seconds to do, last night took 30 minutes, and is still not resolved thanks to the antics of the Labour Party.

The Hall Green Constituency Committee is part of the devolution project for Birmingham City Council, where the running of libraries, community centres, swimming pools, leisure centres, school crossings, highway management is devolved down to the constituency councillors – in the case of Birmingham, each constituency has 12 councillors. In the case of Hall Green constituency, this consists of the councillors from Sparkbrook Ward, Springfield Ward, Hall Green Ward and Moseley and Kings Heath Ward.

Prior to the May local elections, the Liberal Democrats had the majority of councillors and therefore ran Hall Green constituency.

In the run up to the May local elections the local Labour Party ran on a ‘no cuts’ manifesto and as a result the people overwhelmingly elected them in all four Wards of the Hall Green Constituency.

The party political make-up of the constituency now being: 5 Liberal Democrat councillors; 5 Labour councillors and 2 Respect Party councillors.

The upshot of this means that the Labour Party can now run Hall Green Constituency with the Respect Party and implement their ‘no cuts’ agenda.

You would think that the Labour Party would jump at this chance. Prove everyone wrong and show how there is an alternative cuts; how they will protest against every cuts as they claimed in their election literature. But you would be wrong to think this.

Initially, the Labour councillors nominated as Chair the Liberal Democrat Councillor for Hall Green Ward, Councillor Mike Wilkes. Cllr Wilkes refused the offer and I made it clear that the Liberal Democrat Councillor would not be running the Constituency.

Two Labour Party councillors then made an incoherent statement that the Liberal Democrats should run the Constituency since a Conservative-Lib Dem government ran the country and I was a Cabinet member in a Conservative-Lib Dem Cabinet. Even now 24 hours after they said this, I still can’t make sense of this logic.

The Labour Party then suggested that each month the Chair would change between all three groups. Again, as Liberal Democrat we said that we would have nothing to do with this, but would be happy for both the Labour Party and Respect Party to nominate a different Chair each month......and that’s what we now have.

Cllr Tony Kennedy chaired last nights meeting and will remain Chair until another Labour Councillor becomes Chair next month. Nobody was elected as Vice-Chair, since, well, Labour didn’t want it. As a result there will be no consistency from month to month as to who the Chair is; the Constituency officers will have inconsistent political direction between meetings....and the quality of service that local residents receive will go down hill. Well done, Labour.

And guess what also happened last night with the Labour Party in charge of the Constituency. They voted through cuts to the constituency budget without saying a word of protest.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Update on Moseley Road baths –8th June 2011

First of all we have a new date for the re-opening of Pool 2 of Moseley Road baths – 15th July (plus or minus a day or two).

The stainless steel lintel above the fire exit door to Pool 2 is now in place. See photo below

The work to brick in this lintel in and remove the supporting frame will be complete by 8th July.

I have managed to secure the £50,000 to install permanent structural scaffolding in the basement. Work starts on the installation of this scaffolding on the coming Monday.

The background to why we need this permanent structural scaffolding can be read at

Subject, to no further faults being found in the building, the pool will re-open to the public on 15th July thereabouts.

In the meantime, work is still moving forward on submitting a £5million bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2012 to start the first phase of restoring these baths.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Plan for 324 seater restaurant on Jug of Ale site, Moseley

A planning application to extend and convert the former Jug of Ale public house on the corner of Alcester Road and Park Road has been submitted into the Planning Department.

The drawings for the planning can be seen on-line by going to: , click on ‘Access Planning Online’, click on ‘Application Number Search’ and search for application number 2011/03267/PA

The proposal involves the following:

  • almost the doubling in size of the building from 800square metres to 1467square metres
  • conversion of the building into a 324 seater restaurant on two floors
  • the increase in size of the building will be done by building a two storey extension up to its rear boundary with 10 and 12 Park Hill
  • a protected mature lime in the centre of the site will have to be removed for the two storey extension
  • the car park will be laid out to accommodate 60 cars.
  • the applicant owns the Akbar chain of restaurants – see This new restaurant would have its interior design, menu and service based on the Akbar brand.

The period of consultation ends on 16th June 2011.

Any comments can be submitted by:

  • telephoning (planning will accept comments on planning application over the telephone) 303 1115 – please remember to quote the planning application number 2011/03267/pa
  • post to Planning Management, Birmingham City Council, PO Box 28, Birmingham B1 1TU

Friday, June 03, 2011

Over the last few days there has been much local media speculation about the future of the Gardeners Weekend event in Kings Heath Park in early September. I hope this e-mail explains what is happening.

The Birmingham Flower show, as it was then known, began in Handsworth Park. The earliest record I can find for it being held in Handsworth Park is 1947. In the mid-1970s, it moved to Perry Barr Park. Then in 1989, it moved to Kings Heath Park, where it was jointly run with BBC Gardeners World and called Gardeners Weekend. With the advent of the Gardeners World Live at the NEC, the BBC ended their involvement with the Kings Heath Park event in 2001. Since then the attendance figures have plummeted, whilst the Council subsidy required for the event has gone up.

The attendance and subsidy for the Gardeners Weekend event is as follows:

2006: Attendence - 19,345; subsidy - £40,000
2007: Attendence - 19,996; subsidy - £50,000
2008: Attendence - 15,740; subsidy - £50,000
2009: Attendence - 15,155; subsidy - £50,000
2010: Attendence - 12,364; subsidy - £72,316

On top of the subsidy, you need to add the cost of restoring the park back to its original condition. In 2010, this extra cost was £17,000. So the cost of hosting the 2010 Gardeners Weekend show was £89,316.

To put the £89,316 cost in perspective, the Council financially support the following events to the tune of £20,000 each: St Patrick's Day Parade, St George's Day, Vaisakhi, Eid Mela and Birmingham Pride. Nearly all these events attract about 80,000 visitors.

So it is only reasonable that the Council questions whether spending £89,316 to attract only 12,364 visitors is good use of public money, especially at a time of a hard financial squeeze.

In my portfolio team, we have been brainstorming ways of reducing the cost of Gardeners Weekend show and increasing the number of people attending. Our events team have over the last few years tried different offers on ticket prices, plus added a small food show. The number of attendances has still continued to drop.

We have therefore gone back to basics of why we spending public money on a Garden show.

Gardeners Weekend can be split into two elements:
  • The flower show – this where the Birmingham and District Allotments Association (BDAA) and the numerous city wide flower societies hold their end of season awards.
  • The trading fair – where horticultural traders sell plants and gardening equipment.

From a Council perspective it is the flower show element that we want to support, since it fits in with the Council objective of encouraging allotment use and for residents to grow plants in their own gardens. For the flower show, the September date is perfect, since this is the end of growing season.

For the trade show, it is difficult for the Council to justify subsidising a trade fair, when there are lots of garden stores around Birmingham who are presently keeping their heads above the financial line.

If we are to just focus on the flower show element, then we can make this financial viable by making it part of ArtsFest in the city centre. We will be able to share marketing, security and infrastructure (eg toilets, car parking ,etc). Also with 250,000 visitors to ArtsFest it is an opportunity for more people to see, be inspired by and maybe join these allotments and flower societies.

The present plan is to have the allotment section of flower show in a series of marques in the City Centre Gardens to the rear of Baskerville House. This is now sorted and the cost is being absorbed within the present Arts Fest budget.

We are looking for a historic building for the flower section eg the former headquarters of the Birmingham Municipal bank on Broad Street, or the Water Hall at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Having the flower section in marques in Kings Heath Park has never worked well, especially when it rained. Whenever, it rained we would have to put bark chippings on the ground, which would raise dust, which in turn would negatively impact on the flowers.

Having these flower displays inside a fine interior will also provide a perfect backdrop to these flower displays which are works of art themselves.

I’m visiting the former headquarters of the Birmingham Municipal bank on Broad Street next week with the events team to measure up this building. The former banking hall is magnificent and if we can use this, it would be an absolutely brilliant. This would also allow residents to see inside this fantastic building for the first time in 10 years, as well as seeing these wonderful flower displays.

No final decision has been made on whether the Flower show takes place in Kings Heath Park or in the City Centre. However, I want to be able to provide my Cabinet colleagues with the advantages and disadvantages of each location, plus the costs.