Council Leader John Clancy launches Julie’s campaign

SteveBJohnCJulieJThe new Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr John Clancy, set out his economic vision for Birmingham at Weoley’s meeting last night and launched Julie Johnson’s official campaign to win in Weoley again this May.

Birmingham has been grossly unfairly targeted by the Tory government. They’ve cut our budget much more than other areas, but, despite this, Labour in Birmingham has been able to defend many local services and even build 1,000 new council homes.

Cllr Clancy warned Weoley Labour members that the Tories are “dismantling the welfare state before our very eyes”, but, referring to his “budget for change”, he reaffirmed his promise to protect Labour values by investing in children’s social care, increasing the wages of low-paid careworkers and providing free school meals for all Birmingham children, while ruling out any question of introducing a congestion charge in Birmingham city centre.

Cllr Clancy committed the council to keep building new homes and to devolving more decision-making power to local areas, saying that electing Julie as Labour’s second councillor in Weoley will give Weoley residents a say in the future of jobs and services in Birmingham.

Following Cllr Clancy’s endorsement, Julie Johnson said, “Here in Weoley, Labour Party members are simply fed up with endless Tory government cuts in services. We meet people all the time who are unable to cope and we are determined to give people practical help. In short, if the government won’t help people, then we will.”

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Weoley has a straight choice – protecting local services or the bedroom tax and savage cuts

Steve BootonUntil we get rid of the Tory Government in 2015, we have to stand together to fight unfair cuts and protect the vulnerable and young as best we can.

This Government has proved itself to be a Party of freeloading millionaires giving tax breaks to the rich while the least well off in our society are made to pay for the crisis created by their friends in the banking world.

People in Birmingham have been especially victimised. The average cutback in Birmingham is £149 per person, more than double compared to the national average of £74 in the rest of the country.

People in Weoley have suffered because of cuts in jobs, benefits and cruel legislation such as the Bedroom Tax that has made the lives of ordinary people, particularly the elderly and disabled, a misery.

It is typical of local Tory Councillors in Weoley to blame Birmingham City Council for the financial dilemma produced by their very own silver-spoon Cameron, who hasn’t got the first idea of what ordinary people’s lives are really like.

What we need to meet the economic crisis is not redundancies and cuts, it is jobs, training, affordable houses, strong local communities and businesses and proper apprenticeships for our young people.

For the last three years, I have been campaigning on behalf of the people of Weoley. I meet people every Saturday morning outside the Co-op on the Square. I have knocked doors and talked to those who work full time yet are forced to use foodbanks; to those struggling to pay rip-off fuel bills; to young people despairing about their future, and to young parents wondering what the future holds for their children.

With the help of our Labour MP, Richard Burden, I have worked to resolve hundreds of cases of unfairness and injustice. I’m proud to be a long-standing member of the Labour Party because Labour is the only Party that will fight for ordinary people’s rights to a living wage, future prospects, a secure and affordable home, and a decent quality of life for everybody.

When the present Tory Councillor was Chair of the Planning Committee, permission was granted for the building of the new Asda store that is now ripping the heart out of Weoley’s small businesses and community life. If I sat on the Planning Committee it would be to bring more houses and jobs to Weoley, not profit to greedy multinational companies!

The election on Thursday offers the people of Weoley a straight choice between a Labour candidate doing everything in his power to protect local services and a Tory candidate who is on record as supporting the Bedroom Tax and savage cuts to Birmingham’s budget.

 

The truth about green waste

Green waste - the truthLike everyone else living in Birmingham, Labour believes that the green waste collection is an important service and we would love to keep it free. We understand the concerns being expressed across the city.

The Tory/Lib Dem government has slashed Birmingham’s funding by a massive two thirds. Imagine if you earned £18,000 a year and your wages were cut to £6,000. Wouldn’t that change everything about your life? That’s what has happened to Birmingham.

Hard choices

This means that Birmingham has to lose many valued services – like the free green waste collection. The bitter alternative would be to cut precious services for vulnerable elderly people and local children. We know that there have been problems with implementation and we are working round the clock to get it right, but these new charges are happening because of Cameron and Clegg’s decisions in Westminster – faithfully supported by local Tory and Lib Dem councillors and MPs, the very people who are now crying crocodile tears about cuts.

Hypocrites

We are used to the hypocrisy of the Tories and Lib Dems, especially when it comes to standing up for the wrong people:

  • On the same day they condemned more than 13,000 disabled, sick and vulnerable people in Birmingham to the bedroom tax, they gave a tax cut of £100,000 to millionaires so that they can have as many bedrooms as they like.
  • ‘We will look after the vulnerable,’ they said. Yet disabled people in poverty are bearing the brunt of the national cuts, losing an average £4,660 per year.
  • ‘We will protect front-line policing,’ they said. Yet 15,000 police officers have been cut, 1,171 in the West Midlands, the region the hardest hit.
  • ‘We will make it easier for parents to balance childcare with work,’ they said. And then? They voted against extending free nursery places for 3 and 4 year olds from 15 to 25 hours a week.

Richard Burden, Northfield MP, said: “I get so angry about the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Conservatives who complain about green waste charges at the same time as cheering on the government which has put Birmingham in this position.

“Tories in this area claim Birmingham gets a good deal from their friends in Downing Street and that the council has more than enough money to go around. Not so long ago, they used to complain that Birmingham did not get enough from the last Labour Government when funding for our city was at record levels.”

The Tories and Lib Dems are against green waste charges in Birmingham where the Tories are in opposition, but they support them in nearby Bromsgrove where Tories run the council. In London, Lib Dem minister David Laws has gone so far as to suggest that councils could charge for bin collection.

Standing up for Birmingham?

They say one thing here and do the reverse in Westminster. The simple truth about Birmingham Tories and Lib Dems is that not once have they stood up and opposed what their government has done to Birmingham.

They claim to be your friend. But, if you shake their hands, you would be wise to count your fingers afterwards.

 

 

Tory swimming baths claims don’t hold water

In response to the Tory misinformation being distributed in Weoley, Brett O’Reilly, Northfield councillor, tells us about the future of Northfield swimming baths, an iconic building where many of us in Weoley first learned to swim.


‘You have to wonder why the Tories are making up stories regarding this issue. The fact is that Northfield is going to benefit from the most significant investment in leisure in over a generation.

It is extremely misleading and unhelpful to scaremonger stories that residents will have to use the new facility at the university. The aim of the new centre is to provide a facility within Northfield District that is not only fit for purpose, but will be sustainable for generations to come, not the short-sighted sticking plaster that the Tories delivered previously.

Double standards

It is extremely hypocritical of Conservative Councillors to campaign against a new facility, especially after the same model was used in Harborne under their administration: typical of the double standards that we have come to expect. Further to this, we have the Conservative constituency candidate jumping on the bandwagon with stories of the new facility being built somehow outside of the district.

We have learnt from the mistakes of the previous administration that if a facility is to be replaced, the old one needs to remain in use until the new one is ready, unlike in Harborne where people were deprived of their pool for a very long time.

Northfield not only needs a new facility (and I should know as a user of the service with my wife and daughter), but the residents of Northfield deserve a new facility. Maybe it is the case that the Tories somehow feel that Harborne was more deserving and that Northfield should make do.

  • Northfield baths opened on 8th May 1937 and were the first in Birmingham to be built solely for the purpose of recreation.
  • The building was designed by Henry Simister for the Birmingham Baths Committee. There were two pools, as there are now, with a large café overlooking.
  • The fitness suite was added in the 1980s.
  • The refurbishment in 2003 was the last major spend on the building.
  • Situated opposite the Black Horse on Bristol Road South, the building is considered a local landmark.
Reproduced from B31 Voices

 

Tories lack a credible policy

The cynic in me would suggest that as the Tories lack any credible policy for Birmingham, they will continue to spread lies and scaremonger about the future of services in Northfield.

The message from me as a Northfield Ward Councillor is simple: stop making things up, stop scaremongering, stop misleading the people of Northfield, and start behaving in a responsible manner and contributing to the discussion on how best to deliver the service in Northfield.

With the discussion around location and extra provision still ongoing, we could actually work cross-party to deliver a new and exciting facility for Northfield. I suspect however that devoid of any real policy, the Tories will continue to scaremonger and in so doing hope that the citizens of our community will be duped into thinking that they actually care about the services on which the majority of us rely.

I would personally welcome any comments and contributions from members of the public. Furthermore, please feel free to contact me if you would be interested in the facts, rather than the political posturing that has unfortunately blighted this most positive investment in Northfield’s Leisure provision.’

You can can contact Brett at brett.o’reilly@birmingham.gov.uk.

You can contact Steve here.

New Year, new pledge

4.79 million people in the UK are paid below the living wageEvery day, Steve and the team hear or read about the concerns of ordinary hard-working people in Weoley. From the bedroom tax, gas and electricity prices and wheelie bins to jobs, pensions and housing, Steve and the Weoley team are out in the community listening and responding to the difficulties caused by the Tory austerity agenda.

As campaigning got under way for the local elections in May this year, the Tories announce yet more welfare cuts, and the middle class face a ‘crisis of confidence’ over living standards, Ed Miliband has promised to freeze energy prices, address the prospects of young people in Britain and make work pay. Not only are ordinary people feeling let down by the Tories, but the foundations of British life have all been ‘undermined’, the Labour leader said.

Steve, Ghiyas and Robbie on the stall

Steve, Ghiyas and Robbie on the stall

Steve Booton, commenting on the outlook for Weoley, said: “We regularly go out to meet the people of Weoley. We visit their homes and we hold our stall on Saturday outside the Co-op on the Square.

“Last week, most of the residents we met in Lockwood Road and on the stall were concerned about the high cost of living, the unfair central government attacks on our city’s budget and the rip-off energy prices.

“We had lots of signatures added to our petition in support of Ed Miliband’s policy of freezing energy prices for two years.”

Come and see Steve and the Weoley Labour team

Steve and the team will be talking to voters throughout the ward over the coming months and they’re outside the Co-op on the Square most Saturdays between 12 and 1. Or you can contact us as follows:

  • call Steve on 07830 945754
  • come and sign our petition to freeze energy bills at our street stall on Saturday at 12 noon outside the Co-op on Weoley Castle Square
  • go to our Contact page to send an online message

Cold comfort for 30,000 victims of the cost of keeping warm

Today’s official statistics reveal that excess winter deaths rose by almost a third in 2012/13 compared with the previous winter, while the UK’s biggest energy giants enjoyed a huge surge in profits.

The charity Age UK describes the 31,100 winter deaths as ‘shameful’ and ‘preventable’ and wants the Coalition Government to take action on energy bills so that the most vulnerable can keep themselves warm in winter.

Energy firms profits

The UK’s biggest fuel suppliers made nearly £1.3 billion during 2012/13. That figure is nearly double their 2011 profits of £681 million

Source: energy regulator Ofgem

Steve Booton, Weoley Labour candidate, has been speaking to the residents of Weoley and week in, week out they have been telling him that they are bearing the brunt of the Tory-led Coalition cuts.

Steve said, “During our street canvass last Saturday, we spoke to a disabled women who cares for her mother. She has had her disability benefit stopped while she waits for yet another Atos assessment and may face a further reduction in benefit if she has to pay the Bedroom Tax.

“On top of this, the average energy bill rose by £168 in 2012. The public are already struggling and the Big Six energy companies are bleeding them dry.

“The Tory claim that ‘We’re all in this together’ has proven cold comfort for the tens of thousands of people who were last year’s victims of the rising cost of keeping warm.”

If you have any issues you would like us to help you with or you want to meet Steve and the Weoley Labour team, you can contact us as follows:

  • call Steve on 07830 945754
  • come and sign our petition to freeze energy bills at our street stall on Saturday at 12 noon outside the Co-op on Weoley Castle Square
  • go to our Contact page to send an online message

Spending Review 2013: pain without gain for Birmingham residents

Sir Albert Bore

Sir Albert Bore: ‘pain without gain’

While some are out finding out whether locals think “we” are on the right track after the Tory Chancellor announced a further year of even larger cuts, Sir Albert Bore commented this afternoon that the government’s austerity project has failed to regenerate the economy and thrown the coalition promises of 2010 completely off course.

Chancellor George Osborne this afternoon unveiled a further £11.5bn of cuts to public spending in his 2013 Spending Review for 2015/16.

Responding to news that local authorities face a further two years of the council tax freeze imposed by central government and a 10 per cent budget cut, Sir Albert, Birmingham City Council Leader, said: “In the Comprehensive Spending Review of 2010, the Government planned to implement cuts up to 2014/15, by which time they thought the budget deficit would be under control.

“The Spending Round and further cuts to public services in 2015/16 have happened because there has been little growth in the economy, throwing these forecasts completely off course.

“Instead of bringing the deficit under control, it has been very similar for the last two years and actually increased slightly in 2012/13. This is because of the lack of growth in the economy. So we have had the pain of the cuts but not the gain of sorting out the deficit.

“Local government has already endured the biggest cuts in funding ever seen. It will have been cut by a third, whilst the average cut across government departments is 12 per cent.

“Councils have achieved astonishing efficiency savings and shed around half a million staff very quickly, with many more redundancies to come. In Birmingham, we have already saved around £275m and are making a further £100m of savings this year. We have lost around a quarter of our workforce since 2010. We now anticipate £80m of grant cuts in 2014/15, growing to £151m in 2015/16.

“But the scope for efficiency savings is rapidly disappearing and councils are already cutting front-line services and having to consider bigger cuts in the next year. The further year of even larger cuts will make it even more difficult to maintain vital local services.

“We do welcome the additional money that will be received to help fund social care, although at this stage the details are unclear.

“However, the logic of the Government’s approach is that cuts will continue at this pace for another two years at least – leading to the Jaws of Doom scenario in which we lose over 50 per cent of our controllable budget between 2011 and 2018.

“This is an unsustainable approach that will have dire consequences for local communities and threaten the viability of many councils. Instead, the Government should work with us to rewire public services and ensure that they can be provided in the years ahead.

“This requires opening up departmental budgets, localising them and pooling them under more local control. The Government must be much more radical in this respect: the crisis is now – not in a decade’s time.”

Birmingham City Council wins extra funding for council tax support

Council tax benefit claimants in Birmingham will have the impact of one of central government’s welfare reforms softened after £2.1m extra funding was secured by the city council, following successful negotiations with the government.

This additional Council Tax Support funding means that 47,000 working-age claimants will now have to pay a maximum of just 8.5% of their Council Tax in 2013/14 – rather than 20%.

When setting this year’s budget, the council projected that £1.5 million of savings would need to be made elsewhere to ensure that the liability was just 8.5%.

However, following a decision to freeze Council Tax and further negotiations with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for extra funding, this is now feasible.

Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “We have always wanted to protect the most vulnerable in our city, but the government’s localisation of Council Tax Support means we have less money and our finances cannot stretch to support people as we have in the past.

“It is pleasing that we have successfully argued our case for extra funding, but we have to be clear this is a one-off grant – only for one year – so we are going to face some very tough decisions again in the future.

“We will continue to argue Birmingham’s case in respect of the impacts of welfare reform, but we have to be realistic about likely future scenarios.”

Full details on the backdating of the enhanced support to 1 April 2013 will be made available in the near future.

Reproduced from Birmingham Newsroom

The do-nothing culture of the Conservative-led government

Richard Burden, Northfield MP, reacts to today’s Queen’s Speech:

Earlier today (8th May) was the State Opening of Parliament, where the Queen formally opens the new Parliamentary Session with a speech setting out the Government’s agenda and priorities for the next year.

Unfortunately as anticipated the Queen’s Speech, which was one of the shortest in years, failed to recognise many of the problems concerning real people. It was a stark reminder that this out of touch Conservative-led Government has its priorities completely wrong.

Today was an opportunity to change course and get Britain back on track, to support working people by lowering the cost of living or tackling increases in energy bills and train fares. Instead the speech offered no change and was short of ideas.

The Government claims its focus is the economy, but sadly the speech mentioned nothing about tackling youth unemployment or pressing banks to lend more to small businesses.

The speech failed to reflect the need for more action to be taken on housing. Not only does the housing shortage need addressing by building more homes, but clearer and stronger regulations are needed in the private rented sector to stop rogue landlords charging extortionate fees.

I was also disappointed to see the omission of efforts to protect our health, by introducing minimum alcohol pricing and plain packaging for cigarettes, from the speech. It is just another example of a shy Government too afraid to stand up to big industries.

Over 5,000 young people in Birmingham have been out of work for more than 6 months. Each day a growing number of people in Northfield are getting in touch with me about their housing troubles.  The Government rhetoric has emphasised stopping the so called ‘something for nothing’ culture. But too often it is them doing nothing. As far as I’m concerned it’s the Conservative-led Government that need to do something.

You can read One Nation Labour’s alternative Queen’s Speech – one that is committed to jobs and growth here.

Wiping away Weoley’s ‘crocodile tears’ – when your home is not your own

While nearly half a million people are calling on Iain Duncan Smith to put his money where his mouth is, 430 of the poorest families in Weoley will be forced to pay higher rent or move home.

The bedroom tax will cause untold damage to our communities in Weoley, where families who receive housing benefit and live in council or housing association homes with a ‘spare’ bedroom will have to pay around £600 more a year or risk being forced to move home.

The Northfield Constituency, made up of Weoley, Kings Norton, Longbridge and Northfield wards, is one of the worst hit areas in Birmingham with around 1,400 properties affected. Over the past few months, Steve Booton, Weoley Labour Party spokesperson, and Richard Burden, MP for Northfield, have been inundated with requests for help from local residents deeply concerned that they will not be able to afford the extra charges on surplus bedrooms.

Steve Booton said: “What worries us in the Weoley Labour Party is that this policy will force already poor people into further financial hardship if they decide to stay put or it will displace entire communities if they decide they have to find an alternative property.”

Richard Burden said: “We’re finding countless situations where the bedroom tax will hit soldiers and pensioners and two thirds of the families affected are home to someone with a disability. If families are made homeless or pushed into expensive private rented accommodation, the taxpayer could actually be left with a higher bill.”

Crocodile tears

In a recent Birmingham City Council webcast, Conservative Cllr Peter Douglas Osborn was seen to publicly back the bedroom tax. Mr Douglas Osborn, by doing this, shows a complete disregard for some of the most vulnerable families in his own Weoley ward.

Cllr Douglas Osborn faced criticism from fellow committee members when he warned against shedding crocodile tears for tenants who face a ‘downgrade’ once the kids leave home and said that the term bedroom tax was ‘long on emotion and very short on fact.’

Steve Booton said: “It’s typical of Cllr Douglas Osborn to back this unjust policy when everyone knows there are not enough of the right-sized properties for people to move into. After all, the Tories are now known as the party of the rich.

“We met a woman on our street stall on Saturday who has been trying to move for years. She now faces an extra £28 a week rent. She and many others will see their benefits reduced further by changes to council tax payments and legal aid is now also outside the grasp of ordinary people.

“So whether it’s pushing people into private rented accommodation via the bedroom tax, punishing the vulnerable with welfare cuts or asset-stripping the NHS, Douglas Osborn and his Tory friends are out to make sure the rich make a profit while the poor pay more.”


Northfield District Committee meeting, live streamed on Friday 22 March 2013 at 2pm