Friday, March 22, 2013

Sarehill Mill re-opens as a working water mill

Sarehole Mill re-opened today, after £400,000 was spent during the winter de-silting the mill pond, re-roofing, installing flour milling equipment and getting the 1850 bread ovens working again.

The mill is now milling flour for the first time since, well, at least 1960, if not earlier. The bread ovens haven't baked bread since 1860.

What was a static museum has now been transformed into a working museum and you can tell the difference straight away with all the smells, noise and vibrations of an operating water mill. The water wheel is now turning full pelt - before it turned slowly with a trickle of water. Now water gushes through this wheel.

10 volunteer millers now work on the site and hopefully, once they sort out the consistency of the flour, they'll start baking bread - a kitchen for preparing the dough has also being installed.

For some background see my earlier blog entry at

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Why I will be chaining myself to Moseley Road baths this Thursday 14th February

Why I will be chaining myself to Moseley Road baths this Thursday 14th February

This Thursday, 14th February, between 10am and 12noon I will be chaining myself to Moseley Road baths at protest against Birmingham City Council’s recent decision to cancel the Heritage Lottery bid for phase 1 of the restoration of the baths AND its announcement that once the current boilers break down or the buildings have a structural fault they will be permanently closing the building to swimming. Readers of my blog will know that both the boilers and the roof of the building are on their last legs and probably won’t last longer than 2015.

I will be wearing an Edwardian swimming costume, since Moseley Road baths are the last completely intact and operating Edwardian swimming baths in Britain. Statutory listed Grade II* - less than 10% of listed buildings have such a high listing – these baths are not only important to Balsall Heath, but are of national importance.

I was Cabinet member for Leisure, Sport and Culture for Birmingham City Council from 2009 to 2012 and led on the Council’s Heritage Lottery bid for these baths. In March 2012, I persuaded my Cabinet colleagues to commit to allocating £3million of 2015/16 capital money from the Council’s budget, which would be used as match funding against a bid for £5million from the Heritage Lottery fund.

The total cost of this phase 1 of the restoration of Moseley Road baths would have been £8million (£3million from the Council; £5million from the Heritage Lottery Fund) and would have done the following:
  • Permanent repairs to the exterior fabric of the building with a life of 25 years – so basically a complete re-roofing to stop any water ingress 
  • Complete re-wiring and new machinery (eg new boilers) for the pool. We would be particular keen to install a combined heat and power system in the boiler house. This would heat all the buildings along Moseley Road and help to regenerate this corridor. 
  • Pool 2 maintained as a community swimming pool 
  • Pool 1 boarded over and used for community use. 

In December 2012, the new Labour administration announced that the Heritage Lottery bid was been withdrawn and there would no longer be any plans to restore the baths or even to keep them as swimming baths. Further, the Labour administration has repeatedly claimed the £3million allocated never existed. This is total rubbish. The Cabinet report allocating the £3million was counter-signed by the Chief Financial officer who is not allowed to sign financial reports if the financial details do not add up or the monies are non-existent. The money would have come from the 2015/16 capital budget which amounts to £1,000million per year and £3million within that budget would have been set aside for Moseley Road baths.

Please feel free to join me at this protest. You don’t need to lock yourself up. Just be there and show support.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Councillor Trickett and her fictitious claims over the closure of Moseley Road baths

Councillor Trickett and her fictitious claims over the closure of Moseley Road baths

Councillor Trickett appeared on yesterday’s Adrian Goldberg show on Radio WM where she tried to justify the closure of Moseley Road baths. 

The link to the broadcast can be heard at
Councillor Trickett's interview starts at 1hour 35minutes 

She makes the following two significant claims in her interview that are completely fictitious. These are:

Claim 1: “Firstly there was never any funding for Moseley Road baths. There had been a very vague commitment by the previous administration. Yet no money had ever been identified. “

Claim 2: “no money had been put aside. No bid had actually been work on. They hadn’t even done the costings of the actual works. We had to start on that a fresh in May.”

Let’s deal with Claim 1.

Below are the key pages from the 21 page Cabinet report that allocated £3million from future capital resources for a Heritage Lottery bid. The report was approved by Cabinet on 5th March 2012. I have highlighted the relevant points to note:

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Notice that recommendation 2.5 which says “Cabinet is requested to agree to allocate up to £3m of resources for improvements to Moseley Road Baths, to be funded by a review of the capital programme, subject to a successful application for Heritage Lottery Fund grant, as described in Appendix 1 para 1.3.6. “

Notice that the recommendation says “funded by a review of the capital programme”. So that’s where the money will come from: the Council’s Capital programme. And how much is the Council’s annual capital programme? Just over £1,000million per year. Yes, £1,000million per year and we were going to shuffle things around and allocate £3million. And when did we need this £3million? In 2015. The Heritage Lottery bid would take two years to complete AND Sparkhill baths would be open in 2015. 

In short: The Cabinet agreed to allocate £3million from future capital resources on 5th March. The Chief Finance officer was happy that there was plenty of leeway within the 2015/16 capital budget of over £1,000million to accommodate this.

Councillor Trickett and others from the Labour Party have been playing with semantics about which capital budget this £3million was coming from. This is academic, since in the drawing up of the 2015/16 budget, the £3million for Moseley Road baths would have been accommodated within a capital budget somewhere.

So how the hell can Councillor Trickett claim “there was never any funding for Moseley Road baths” when there is a Cabinet report agreeing to the allocation of £3million from a £1,300million budget in 2015 

Let’s look at claim number 2 

She claims that (a) no costings for works required for Moseley Road baths had been done by May 2012 (b) absolutely no work had even started on the Heritage Lottery bid by May 2012.

Both this claims are completely fictitious.

A complete structural survey was completed on Moseley Road baths in Spring 2007. The survey was part of much broader historic survey which would form the basis of a Heritage Lottery bid. The historic element looked at the historic importance of the baths from a national context. The structural survey went through the building with a fine tooth comb looking at what needed fixing or restoring and calculating the cost to put right. The total cost of restoration came out at between £17m to £20m. The variation in cost was due to the level of modern facilities one wanted at the baths. 
Getting the Heritage lottery to fund a huge amount of a £17million bid was completely out of the question – this was made clear by the Heritage Lottery team. Also, with the 2012 Olympics draining the Heritage Lottery of finance, any sizeable bid would have to wait until after 2012. 
For this Heritage Lottery bid we, after advice from the Heritage Lottery, to break down the total restoration of the baths into phases. Phase 1 would cost £8million (£5million from the Heritage Lottery; £3million from the Council). 

Work took place within the Council during 2011 to work out how much the bid should be – the £8million was calculated using the 2007 structural survey costings (plus allowing for inflation) and the intention was to ‘stop the rot’. £8million will stop the rot in the building and give the building another 25 year minimum of trouble free swimming. 
In the lead-up to the 5th March 2012 Cabinet meetings, I had meetings with both the Chief Financial Officer and the Cabinet member for Finance, to ensure that they were supportive of £3million being used as match funding AND that there was lee-way within the 2015 capital budget to allocate £3million for Moseley Road baths. 
Once Cabinet gave approval on 5th March 2012 for the £3million allocation, work started on the Heritage Lottery bid in earnest. Work couldn’t start before this date, if the Cabinet decided not to approve any money for match funding in a Heritage Lottery bid. 
So it is completely fictitious for Councillor Trickett to claim “No bid had actually been work on. They hadn’t even done the costings of the actual works. We had to start on that a fresh in May.” Alot of work had happened in the weeks and months prior to May 2012. 

As my blog is repeating showing, the words ‘truth’ and ‘Councillor Trickett’ do not go together.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Labour were saying a year ago about Moseley Road baths

What Labour were saying a year ago about Moseley Road baths

I have to hand it to the local Labour Party for their ability to say one thing in local elections and do the complete opposite in power. This is no better shown in their attitude over Moseley Road baths.

A year ago, they were criticising me, as Cabinet member for not getting Moseley Road baths re-opened asap and for a "sticking plaster approach" to moseley Road baths. See cutting from their leaflet last February.

Well only 9 months into the Labour adminstration, they have cancelled the Heritage Lottery bid to restore the baths - they are dishonestly claims that no money was ever identified to do this. This is utter rubbish. They have also made it clear that the days of Moseley Road baths as a baths are numbered. Once the boilers break down or another fault developes on the building that it - CLOSURE.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Birmingham MP appears in 'Lincoln' film

Birmingham MP appears in 'Lincoln' film

Followers of my blog will know that two days ago I explained how Birmingham, England, MP, John Bright persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to make the complete abolition of slavery in the USA a central theme of the American Civil War. See my blog at 

I managed to see Steven Speilberg’s ‘Lincoln’ film last night and was surprised to see John Bright MP appear in the film – not as an actor, BUT as a photograph.

Abraham Lincoln’s White House office contained two portraits: Over the fireplace hung a painting of President Andrew Jackson. The room also included a photograph of John Bright MP, which in numerous photographs of the office can be seen on the fireplace mantle. See photograph below.

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Reading reports of the making of Steven Speilberg’s ‘Lincoln’, I do know that he has tried to be as accurate as possible and this has included the layout of President Lincoln’s office. As a result, John Bright’s photograph can be seen in the background, on the fireplace mantle, whenever action takes place in the office. See screen shot below.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Birmingham MP who persuaded President Lincoln to abolish slavery

The Birmingham MP who persuaded President Lincoln to abolish slavery

Many of us will visit our local cinemas in the coming weeks and watch Steven Spielberg’s film ‘Lincoln’. I haven’t yet seen the film, but I am confident that they will not show how a Birmingham MP (and that’s Birmingham, England, not Birmingham, USA) persuaded him to make the ending of slavery completely, a central issue of the American Civil War.

When the Civil War began, Lincoln’s stance was that slavery could continue in the Confederate states, but any new states would be slavery free. Indeed, Lincoln prohibited his Generals from freeing slaves in captured states. In 1861, Lincoln sacked Major General John C. Frémont, the commander of the Union Army in St. Louis, for freeing slaves in captured terriorities.

It was John Bright who persuaded President Lincoln to harden his stance on abolishing slavery. On 22nd September 1862, eighteen months into the War, Lincoln announced his Emancipation Proclamation, where every slave in the USA would be freed as of 1st January 1863.

Indeed, John Bright’s friendship with President Abraham Lincoln was so important, that when President Lincoln was assassinated, on his body was found a newspaper article about his presidency by John Bright. In Lincoln’s study were two portraits, one of which was a photograph of John Bright. And today, just inside the main entrance of the White House is a bust of John Bright, which was found by Jackie Kennedy in the 1960s in the basement and put back on display.

John Bright never corresponded direct with Abraham Lincoln. Instead John’s letters to US Senator Charles Sumner were widely read across the US Senate, including by Lincoln. It was through this correspondence that John Bright persuaded Lincoln to make the abolition of slavery across the entire USA a central platform of the Civil War.

On 23rd October 2009, a statue to John Bright MP was unveiled inside Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The statue was jointly unveiled by Councillor Ernie Hendricks who campaigned for this statue to be put back on display; Bill Cash MP whose great grandfather was a first cousin of John Bright and Stephanie Hightower, President of the USA athletics and field team.

This statue was original unveiled in 1888 and an exact replica exists in the Parliament, London. After decades of being in a Council storage facility, this was restored and cleaned ready for the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Bright in 2011. It is back in its original position in the Museum at the top of the main stairs.

Lincoln described John Bright as “the friend of our country, and of freedom everywhere”. It was John Bright who also stopped Britain from supporting the Confederates in the US Civil War.
How much John Bright was considered a hero in the Unionist states is shown in the following paragraph from Harpers Weekly, a US political magazine, on 22nd March 1862:


It is not surprising that the name of John Bright, whenever it was mentioned at the great meeting at the Cooper Institute on Washington’s birthday, was hailed with a tumult of applause. Thoughout our difficulties of the last year John Bright has been one of the few men in England who has truly saw and frankly stated te scope of this rebellion. When Great Britain flamed into rage at the Trent affair, John Bright laid his finger upon the arm of John Bull, and begged that old person not to make himself ridiculous by losing his temper in advance of the occasion, but to wait and hear whether an insult was intended, or whether it was an accident.”

The Trent Affiar was a diplomatic incident between the Union states and Britain, which resulted in British forces mobilising on the Canadian border ready for an attack on the Union states. History shows that john Bright successfully calmed the hawks in London.
John Bright was not perfect. He did support giving the vote to women. Neither did he support Home Rule for Ireland, instead believing in reform in Ireland. He also believed that trade unions prevented free trade.

I believe that John Bright should be forgiven for these faults. These views were common in his time. John Bright should be remembered as the man who pushed forward the boundaries of progressive politics: giving the vote to working men; making campaigning for peace acceptable and most importantly contributing to the freeing millions of black slaves in the USA.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Labour’s disingenuous comments over Moseley Road baths – part 2

Labour’s disingenuous comments over Moseley Road baths – part 2

As news reverberates of the Labour run Birmingham City Council’s decision to stop swimming at Moseley Road baths in the near future, plus their abandoning of a bid to the Heritage Lottery fund which would have secured the future of the baths, it is worth reminding ourselves of the following question? How did we find out this information? Did the Council do a formal announcement? No. Did the local Councillors do an announcement through e-mail or twitter or leaflet? No. Did the Labour run administration inform the staff at Moseley Road baths? No

How we found out was through the Friends of Moseley Road baths asking questions and finally having a face-to-face meeting with the Councillors.

If you had e-mailed any of the Labour Councillors for Moseley and Kings Heath Ward and asked about the future of Moseley Road baths would you have found out? No, as the following shows.

A resident e-mailed Councillor Lisa Trickett before Christmas and asked what the future of Moseley Road baths was. The resident got the following response. Now remember, this response was sent AFTER the meeting with the Friends of Moseley Road baths, where they were told of the decision to stop swimming in Moseley Road baths, most likely in 2015 AND to hand over the building to another organisation. REMEMBER THAT when reading the following response from Councillor Lisa Trickett

“The Deputy Leader and I along with Sparkbrook Councillors and relevant officers met with Friends of Moseley Roads Baths yesterday and talked though the options before us which includes approaching English Heritage to see if interim support can be provided to secure the building, whilst reviewing the options in terms of a future business plan for the building. Boilers and building permitting Moseley Road Baths will continue as a swimming facility and the Council will be progressing in the medium to long term the redevelopment of Sparkhill Baths.
We committed yesterday to continuing to engage with and work with both the community and Friends of Moseley Road Baths and I will keep you also informed of matters as they progress.”

Does the above mention anything about stopping swimming? No. Indeed, it gives the impression that swimming will continue. Very disingenuous, I think.

Moseley Road baths to close for swimming in 2015

Moseley Road baths to close for swimming in 2015?

I’m afraid I have some depressing news about the future of Moseley Road baths. The new Labour administration running Birmingham City Council have abandoned the £8million restoration proposal for the baths, plus have indicated an intention to close the building to swimming in 2015 when the new Sparkhill baths are rebuilt and re-opened.

As you may be aware, during my 8 years as Councillor, I worked hard to keep these baths open despite the crumbling nature of the building. Using precious little Council resources, we had found the money (£50,000) to pull together a Heritage Lottery bid for £5million, with the addition of £3million from the Council’s 2015 capital budget to be used as match funding. This £8million restoration would have secured the future of the building for 25years plus and allowed swimming to continue in Pool 2. To re-open Pool 1 for swimming would have been phase 2 of the long term restoration.

The restoration was timed to start in 2015, since this would coincide with the re-opening of the new Sparkhill baths. Phase 1 of the restoration of Moseley Road baths would require the building to be closed to the public for up to two years and it wouldn’t make sense to do this while Sparkhill baths was still closed

By December 2012, the Heritage Lottery bid was complete and just needed a stamp putting on it and sticking in the post. The new Labour administration decided instead not to do this – indeed they had hoped nobody would notice, but luckily the Friends of Moseley Road baths have been keeping a close eye on its progress through the Council machinery and did notice.

Last week, the representatives of the Friends of Moseley Road baths met with Councillors (Deputy Leader Cllr Ward, Moseley and Kings Heath Councillor Lisa Trickett, Sparkbrook Councillor Tony Kennedy and Sparkbrook Councillor Victoria Quinn) and Council officers.

At the meeting, the Friends representatives were told that once Sparkhill baths re-opened, swimming at Moseley Road baths would most likely stop and an alternative use found for the building, most likely not in Council ownership. Swimming may stop sooner if either the boilers break down or part of the building comes unsafe.

I would like to thank the Friends of Moseley Road baths for their continuing vigilance and campaign to save Moseley Road baths. It is a shame that having come so close to saving these historic swimming baths for future generations, a handful of politicians have completely scuppered them.