Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Karen backs petition against post office closures

Perry Barr constituency Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Karen Hamilton has declared full support for the campaign against post office closures which will devastate Handsworth and Perry Barr.

Meanwhile Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood states he is opposed to post office closures - and yet that's not how he voted in Parliament.

Quoted in the Evening Mail he says: "This restructuring of the Royal Mail is an absolute nonsense."

Could he explain then why he voted AGAINST the following motion which was supported by as many as 19 rebel Labour MPs?

A few more rebels could have changed the whole situation, as it has done on other issues recently.

No wonder the Post Office proposes to slash the number of offices in his constituency by four. The proposed closures are:

  • Church Vale, 60 Robert Road, Birmingham B20 3RU, Birmingham, Perry Barr.
  • Coopers Road, 53 Coopers Road, Birmingham B20 2JU, Birmingham,Perry Barr.
  • Greenholm Road, 210 Kingstanding Road, Birmingham B44 8JP,Birmingham, Perry Barr.
  • Sandwell Road (Temporarily closed), 225 Sandwell Road, Birmingham B21 8PD, Birmingham, Perry Barr.

Constituency Lib Dem spokeswoman Karen Hamilton said: "This closure programme is indeed a nonsense and our party has consistently said so in parliament and locally over the years.

"It will devastate local communities, undermining local shopping centres.

"Our local MP says one thing in Birmingham and does something else in London. It's time he explained himself properly."

This was the motion that Khalid Mahmood voted against:

Post Office Closures — Suspend for issues to be re-assessed — rejected — 19 Mar 2008 at 18:45

* This House -
* regrets the proposal to close up to 2,500 post offices;
* recognises the vital role post offices play in local communities;
* notes the concern and unpopularity amongst the general public of closing such a large portion of the network;
* has concerns that the access criteria laid down for the closures consultation do not adequately take into account local geographical factors and public transport networks;
* is concerned that the consultation period is only for six weeks rather than three months, as recommended by Cabinet Office guidelines;
* believes that post offices must move with the times in the services they offer and that options for business expansion and developing business opportunities with local authorities should be explored further; and
* calls upon the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Limited to suspend the compulsory closure of sub-post offices while these issues are re-assessed.

An alternative motion was proposed and voted through in the following vote.[2]

The alternative motion which Mr Mahmood and most Labour MPs backed appeared to endorse the restructuring programme. This is what it says:

The majority of MPs voted in favour of the motion:[1]

* This House
* recognises the vital social and economic role of post offices, in particular in rural and deprived urban communities;
* notes the decline in post office customer numbers in recent years and the financial losses of £174 million incurred by the network in 2007;
* further recognises the effect of changes such as direct debit facilities and increased use of the internet for payment and communication;
* commends the Government's action to support the post office network with investment of up to £1.7 billion up until 2011, including an annual subsidy of £150 million;
* further notes that this subsidy did not exist under the last government and that without it thousands more post offices would be under threat; and
* urges the Government to continue working with Post Office Limited to ensure a viable and sustainable network for the future.

You can find the Evening Mail petition forms here.

Source: publicwhip.org.uk

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Midsummer morris dancing

Here's some midsummer madness...Ray Hassall morris dancing with the Bishop of Birmingham!

This occurred at the 175th anniversary of St John's Church, Perry Barr, last weekend. The video's not very clear but Ray's in the light purple shirt on the left and the Bishop in the dark purple towards the right. Father Crispin Pailing of the church can also be spotted in the line-up.

St John's has an interesting history and a fellow blogger at Liberal England explored some of it recently:
the rock musician who was a choir boy
the Villa player who was murdered

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ward-based cleaning

We had some good news last night.

We circulated a freepost survey to about 8,000 homes over the spring as part of an exercise to find out resident priorities. It's an exercise we've done by different means most years - but this was one of the most wide-ranging surveys we've done.

In the past these surveys have shown anti-social behaviour to be the major public concern. With neighbourhood policing teams, improved youth facilities and police community support officers - along with a focus on solving problems - you would hope this had improved. And it has a little.

So this year street cleanliness has emerged as the major issue. ASB is still a concern and we're going to do some more analysis of what people are telling us about this.

Now last night we heard that preparations to introduce "ward-based cleaning" in Perry Barr ward are nearing completion. This is an idea that has been tested in one or two areas in the city with success.

The council's own figures showed why our residents are reporting a problem. Dirt levels on the street in our ward are about half as high as in neighbouring Oscott where ward-based cleaning was piloted.

The reasons: well we get repeated complaints about refuse ending up on the street. One or two neighbourhoods were also especially littered - notably the Serpentine site used as a car park by Villa. We've been deploying the monthly Xtra clean up teams effectively and they've been picking up about three times as much litter as in other wards.

We have fought fly-tipping vigorously, fencing off affected areas. But sometimes these areas continue to be blighted by one or two anti-social residents - and this is a hard problem to tackle on what is defined as private land.

What the new teams will do: all street cleaners and refuse collectors will have a single Perry Barr ward manager, supported by a team leader in charge of street cleaners.

They will clean on the streets and off them. There should be a notable impact on neighbourhoods such as Trehurst Avenue where different bits belong to highways, housing and local services. They will seek to follow the refuse crews round, cleaning up after them.

That's what we know so far. We are waiting to find out more and work with the new manager. There are for instance a number of public alleyways that are a constant battle to keep clean - that should change. Examples are the path from Rowdale Road to Perry Park Crescent and the path from Northolt Grove to Scott Arms.

We also intend to keep the enviromnental warden based in the ward. We were out with him the other weekend assisting with a neighbourhood clean-up in Witton organised by the churches' group Hope 08. There's a discussion about how the post is funded but we are keeping the money aside from community chest until it's resolved.

Hopefully the warden will be able to spend more time on jobs such as education in schools and making sure dog fouling does not happen.

Here's hoping our next round of surveys shows people really feeling the difference!