Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jan 1st - B-Day!

The way our bin bags are collected in the Perry Barr area will change on January 1st - and we hope for the better.

If it works, there'll be no more sticking bags out on the verge, maybe less of foxes, cats, squirrels and drunks breaking them open and hopefully less litter left behind after the crews come round.

From this date crews will be instructed they must collect bags and recycling boxes from the front of residents' properties - that includes the old-fashioned bin of course.

Residents should be getting leaflets over the New Year period informing them of this - and advising them that they no longer need to put bags out on the verges.

Strictly speaking this is no change - the crews have always been required to collect from the property. But, of course, once bags started going out on the verge, those few people who insisted on their right not to put them out increasingly found themselves missed out - so everybody put out their rubbish and even official advice started telling them to.

So what's been organised is a "big bag bang" approach. Residents will keep the bags on their properties and the crews will have no excuse not to go looking for them.

We'll have to see how it goes. No doubt there will be teething problems - as there always are when anything changes.

The exercise is being applied across the Perry Barr constituency, we understand - that includes Perry Barr, Oscott, Handsworth Wood and Lozells wards. Obviously where the housing is terraced and has no front gardens, such as the Yew Tree estate, this won't be possible.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Councillors in action

Earlier this year Jon Hunt led a scrutiny consultation with parents about the future of special education.

A report was produced on the consultation and Jon presented its findings to the city council in October. It's helping to shape the review of special education that is taking place and showed how valued are the facilities are in many of these highly specialist schools - as well as areas for improvement.

This became the first city council debate ever to be videoed and so provides an opportunity to for people to see what councillors get up to in the council chamber. The video is an edited version of the debate but shows all speakers, including Ray Hassall who also spoke. You can view it by clicking on this link (it will probably ask you whether you want to download or open a video browser:

As it was the first video of its kind it's taken a little while to be published.

You can find out more about the consultation and the work scrutiny is doing on special needs by following this link here:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Red light jumpers

Jon Hunt writes:
In the last ten days or so I have witnessed at least five vehicles jump the red lights at my local traffic light junction, where Perry Avenue meets Walsall Road.

When I say jump the lights, I don't mean going through on orange, I mean going through on red.

This suggests there are some incredibly dangerous and stupid drivers on our roads. I wonder whether this is unique to this junction or whether it's happening elsewhere.

Either way I'll be writing to the Chief Constable asking for action. I'll also in future be taking notes and details of vehicles myself and reporting them.

The latest and possibly the worst incident happened today, Sunday, at about 10.30am. Six cyclists, in yellow jackets, including children, approached the junction. It was obvious they were intending to cross to Church Road. As I was turning left and was directly behind them, it would not have been possible to safely overtake them so I waited for them to cross through the lights before attempting to go through the lights myself.

As I waited I heard a hoot behind me. Then the lights changed to red and I stopped. A white car, racing-type saloon car with rear wings, shot past me, through the red lights and turned right onto the Walsall Road. The car was dusty and had scrawled on it something like "...kill" and "don't hunt" (ironically).

A few days ago I crossed the Walsall Road to catch a bus on the pelican crossing just past Perry Avenue. The pelican went on green (and its traffic lights on red - I checked) just as the exits from Perry Avenue and Church Road went onto green. As I was almost halfway across, a small white van with a woman driver shot out of Church Road and zipped past me, over the pelican crossing. The people of Perry Barr were mercifully spared a by-election!

On another recent occasion I was crossing on green from Church Road to Perry Avenue when two cars shot up the Walsall Road in my path. To be frank I didn't take in what was happening, but my teenaged children were with me and confirmed that in their view, those cars must have jumped the red lights on the Walsall Road.

The first incident didn't place me in any personal danger but rather dramatically drew my attention to the problem. In this case I was crossing on foot to Perry Park to catch a bus during the rush hour when a car skidded round the left hand bend from Walsall Road to Church Road just after the lights switched to red. As it happened a truck was turning into Church Road, doing the right turn from the Walsall Road, where there is a green filter light. Again a narrow escape.

These are several narrow escapes but given what I have seen I fear for the safety of people using this junction.

We all know that traffic lights can be a nuisance and frustrating. But if you don't understand that driving is about give and take you shouldn't be behind a wheel. Traffic lights are there to share road space out fairly - and that includes pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists.

So let's get reporting...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wheelie bad idea part 2

It was Ray Hassall's turn to speak for Perry Barr in last week's city council debate on wheelie bins.

Ray stressed they are totally unsuitable for this word. A few years ago a resident, who did a lot of walking, surveyed the ward and counted the number of properties for which bins would be totally impractical. His estimate was about a third.

These are properties through which access is gained through steps and where there are no front drives. In many cases residents are elderly. Some roads are especially steep. In roads like Stanford Avenue the pavement itself is steep. Bins left on the pavement would soon topple over.

Proponents of wheelie bins say some households could stick with a bag collection. We say this would condemn most of Perry Barr to a second class service.

Our areas in Aston are not much better. In the Yew Tree area, residents live in terraced, two bed roomed housing with front doors directly on the pavement. Nowhere to put wheelie bins except massed on the pavement. We do need solutions in this area and maybe communal wheelie bins, collected a couple of times a week, would help residents dispose of surplus rubbish.

It's welcome that the Perry Barr constituency office has been looking at other solutions and may soon embark on a "keep bags off the verge" scheme. This would see both crews and householders being advised that rubbish collections are from the property where possible. According to city policy and bin collection contracts, residents are still entitled to a doorstep collection and cabinet member Len Gregory stressed this in last week's debate.

The council agreed to allow some constituencies to put forward proposals for pilot wheelie bin projects. We will oppose any such move in Perry Barr because, as we've stressed, we want collection services improved for everyone, not just a few.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Safer Travel

A respondent comments on the new high-tech CCTV on the new 451 buses. Fair comment but what's not readily appreciated is that Birmingham is way ahead of most of the rest of Britain (London excepting) in terms of bus security.

In 2004 the city council set aside some £700,000 for bus safety in a pioneering initiative. Half of this went to bus marshals in the city centre.

The other half went to the Safe Travel Team that was being created with some additional money from Centro and the Police Authority. This project means that police community support officers do indeed travel on buses where there are reports of antisocial behaviour.

They've had a special focus on school buses and on visiting schools to talk to children about behaviour. I've spent some time with them recently as part of my PTA role.

They are still spread quite thinly and will therefore organise themselves to investigate routes where problems have been reported.

You don't have to dial 999 or the other police number to report problems. You can also use their web site to report problems informally. I'd advise regular travellers to bookmark this page. You don't need to suffer in silence!


New gates and fences

This area has a proud tradition of resident self-help when people have banded together and created gating schemes to secure rear accesses and backland over the last 15 years. This has helped cut burglary rates and prevent flytipping.

Since 2003, the ward committee has been pump priming this by offering grants of up to 40 per cent of schemes. All schemes have been entitled to apply and almost all have been assisted. There's been further progress in the Aston part of our ward with help from Aston Pride

This year we've had a windfall and secured some £20,000 to secure some of the mopre complex areas. It's taken everyone by surprise and within days of the project being agreed contractors have been on site erecting posts!

Some large areas of back land off Foden Road, Perry Wood Road and Rocky Lane are among areas being secured.

And last night a telephone call illustrates exactly why this work is needed. A resident called to say he'd seen the posts and when were the gates going in - as somebody had been round with a truck and flytipped a lot of rubbish, including old heaters. This was on the land between Rocky Lane and Kingsdown Park. It's being secured with gates on Rocky Lane and Coleraine Road and a trip rail on the edge of the park. There's a whole area of wasteland here which does not belong to the council and is overgrown.

Monday, December 03, 2007

St Basils Sleep out

Karen writes:

This year's sleep out was a lot drier that last year. We only had a few showers but it was really windy. Some shelters did not survive the wind but there was help on hand from fellow rough sleepers. Around 3am it became really cold.
I was impressed with the number of young people who were taking part especially as they stayed for the whole night.

Cardboard is no subsitute for a mattress and no protection from the damp and cold. Though I have discovered that wrapping yourself in a wheelie bin liner is a good insulator. Thanks Dave for that tip!
The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress paid a visit during the night and talked to some of the rough sleepers. Nikki Tapper (BBC) and the Bishop of Birmingham the Rt Revd David Urquhart were also in attendance.

Although it was a really difficult night, I am really pleased that so far I have raised £420 in sponsorship and I have been told that some people donated directly to St Basils. This makes it all worthwhile.