Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The West Midlands Mayor - FAQ

SOLIHULL Council has given its support to proposals to elect a Mayor who will represent the whole of the West Midlands. Other Side of Solihull looks at some of the most common questions about the new role.

Who will the new Mayor represent?
As the name suggests, the Mayor will oversee the whole of the West Midlands (an area of more than four million people.) At its core are seven council areas: Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell. Neighbouring councils such as Redditch and Tamworth will be involved in a more limited capacity.

Will the Mayor of the West Midlands replace the Mayor of Solihull?
No, largely because they're totally different roles. The Mayor of Solihull is a ceremonial position - a senior councillor who is responsible for chairing  council meetings and attending community events. He or she will serve for 12 months and must remain politically impartial during that period. By contrast the West Midlands Mayor will have significant powers and will have terms of office which last four years.

Who elects them?
The public! The first election is due to be held next year.

And they will represent a political party?
More than likely; all the major parties plan to contest the election and the balance of power in the West Midlands would mean that the Labour candidate would be the obvious frontrunner. That said, independents have previously run and indeed triumphed in cities including London and Bristol.

What powers will the new Mayor have?
The role would be similar although not identical to the Mayor of London in that whoever is elected will command considerable influence over issues such as transport, employment and housing. Unlike the Mayor of Greater Manchester, they will not take control over NHS spending locally.

What are the advantages?
The Mayor will head a combined authority which will have far greater powers passed down from central government and the arrangement will also unlock significantly more funding for the region. Leader of Solihull Council, Bob Sleigh, has said the deal would make it easier to tackle public transport problems and air pollution, which are harder for individual councils to confront.

But not everyone is happy?
The arrangement hasn’t been universally popular, with concerns that the individual authorities could lose much of their independence.
It's also worth noting that residents in both Birmingham and Coventry voted against installing directly-elected Mayors as recently as 2012. Some resent the fact that the idea has now been "rail-roaded" through regardless.
Chelmsley Wood councillor Chris Williams (Green) has said it is important to have a robust process to hold the Mayor to account.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Birmingham Business Park plans to go on display

CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand Birmingham Business Park, with the creation of four new industrial units, will be put on public display next month.
There are concerns about the impact that the development will have on nearby homes in Coleshill Heath Road and Blackfirs Lane.
Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council have said that Solihull Council's planning committee must take the "utmost care" when they consider the application at a future date.
The exhibition will be taking place on Wednesday, June 8 at Holiday Inn Express, Bickenhill Parkway. The event runs from 4-7pm.
Further information and reaction to the proposals will be included in the June edition of OSOS.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Motorway roadworks at Castle Brom completed ahead of schedule

THE slip road to the M6 at Castle Bromwich has been reopened in time for the Bank Holiday weekend.
All diversions and traffic cones were due to be removed by the close of play yesterday (Friday), with total access restored to the motorway's southbound carriageway.
The roadworks at Junction 5 were originally expected to continue until the end of June, but have in fact been completed a month ahead of schedule.
Highways England project manager Jess Kenny said: "We would like to thank drivers for their patience over the past few months while we have been carrying out this vital improvement work.
"We’re really pleased that we’ve been able to complete this work earlier than anticipated, and we hope that it brings smoother journeys for drivers, particularly during the half-term break."
The news is a stark contrast to the problems experienced at nearby Spitfire Island, where a multi-million pound road improvement scheme has overrun by almost a year.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Money awarded to projects that boost North Solihull's economy

GROWING STRONG: Gro-Organic, based in Chelmsley
Wood, are among the recipients of the latest funding

COMMUNITY projects across the north of the borough are to be awarded grants as part of efforts to boost the local economy.
Every year, the North Solihull Partnership puts aside around £150,000, with the money shared out between schemes which provide jobs or improve employment opportunities.
Eight initiatives in the local area are to benefit from the latest wedge of funding, including:
Solihull Moors FC - The football club is to establish a training and employability programme for young people who aren't in work or education.
Gro-Organic - The award-winning social enterprise has been involved in projects such as Chelmsley Wood's Victory Garden. Their Roots to Employment scheme will allow residents to develop skills in landscaping, gardening, food growing and carpentry.
Northern Star Arts - The organisation, which is based at the Three Trees Centre, will be taking on an apprentice for another year.
Bullfinch Cycles Ltd – A new manufacturing business that will bring the manufacturing of bike frames back to the West Midlands for the first time in a generation.
Councillor Ian Courts, Deputy Leader of Solihull Council, said: "By supporting and working with local organisations and businesses, North Solihull is increasingly raising its profile as a sound location for business investment."

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Building confidence of children with autism

A SPECIAL lego-themed event is being organised for youngsters with autism.
The ‘Fan of the Brick’ workshop will be taking place at Bishop Wilson School, Chelmsley Wood on Saturday, May 28.
Tickets are available on 07494 346474. Make sure to book early to avoid disappointment.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Fundraising effort hotting up in Chelmsley Wood

A CHELMSLEY Wood community centre will be encouraging people to take a stroll across red hot coals to help raise money for the venue.
The Three Trees Centre will be hosting the fire walk this weekend, with every participant raising at least £100 towards the redevelopment of facilities.
The building work will include the improvement of the existing hall and the creation of several new rooms, allowing Three Trees to expand on the support it offers to local people.
The centre has already received a £499,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund and hopes that the daredevil fundraising event will help to cover the remaining sum.
The fire walk is taking place on Saturday, May 28. Find out more at the Three Trees website.

Monday, 23 May 2016

WW1 exhibition to take place in Chelmsley Wood

THE story of the local men who served in the First World War will be told in an exhibition coming to Chelmsley Wood next month.
The event will place particular emphasis on the infamous Battle of the Somme, ahead of its centenary this July.
The four-and-a-half month offensive was one of the bloodiest periods of the war, with more than 57,000 British soldiers killed on the first day alone.
Objects which were used in the battle will be on display and there is also an opportunity for visitors to find out about the role that their ancestors played in the conflict.
The exhibition will be held at Bosworth Community Centre on Saturday, June 4 (10am-4pm). For further details call 0121 770 8570.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Eight arrests made as police continue crackdown on off-road bikes.

SEIZED: Police posted this photo on Twitter during the operation 

POLICE swooped on addresses around Solihull yesterday (Friday) as part of an ongoing crackdown on off-road bikes.
Officers confirmed that eight people had been arrested during the operation, with five vehicles seized in the exercise.
Incidents of bikes tearing around public roads and local parks traditionally increase during the summer months and the operation follows a flood of complaints from local residents.
Kingshurst - where there have been regular reports of racing in Babbs Mill Park - was among the areas targeted.
Chief Insp Jack Hadley, who provided live updates on Twitter during the operation, encouraged Other Side of Solihull readers to provide information about offences being committed in their area.
"The more we have, the more we can do," he said.
If you can help police with their inquiries, call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Analysis: In recent years, reports of people illegally riding quad bikes and mini-motos have become a frequent cause for concern in both North Solihull and the wider borough. There have been particular fears about the dangers of bikes tearing along pavements and racing in open parkland. There is also the fact that the sight of a large group of riders, often with their faces covered, is extremely intimidating for local people. One resident, commenting on Facebook yesterday, reported that bikes riding around after dark had woken up her children on a number of occasions. No wonder then that councillors have identified the problem as one of the main issues raised on the doorstep.
The difficulty of course is catching the culprits and, at a recent Solihull Council meeting, concerns were raised that residents often felt that the authorities weren't doing enough to respond to their calls. Yesterday police were keen to send a message that they would go after offenders and numerous photos emerged on Twitter of bikes being loaded onto the back of lorries. Pending further investigation, these vehicles could well be crushed. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Call to get more local teenagers to university.

THE proportion of students in North Solihull who are going on to attend university is still far smaller than across the borough as a whole, it has been revealed.
The gulf either side of the A45 in the number of 18-year-olds who go to study for a degree is significant, despite the fact that performance in primary and secondary schools has improved greatly over the course of the past decade.
Statistics quoted at the recent Full Council meeting laid bare the scale of the divide.
In Smith’s Wood, fewer than 10 per cent of teenagers are going to university, compared to more than 90 per cent in St Alphege (the council ward which includes Solihull town centre.)
Councillor Joe Tildesley, the cabinet member responsible for education, admitted the difference was “stark” and said that the council would do all it could to ensure that people in different parts of the borough had the same opportunities.
“Every single day all of us in this chamber have got to work to ensure we change that,” he said.
“There are amazingly outstanding children even at a challenging school… and we are making progress everyone. I’m sorry it’s taking so long, but we are making a difference to their lives.”
He paid tribute to the excellent work at many schools, but suggested that council members should not be afraid to bring pressure to bear where appropriate.
Chelmsley Wood councillor Chris Williams (Green) urged the council to consider commissioning a report specifically looking at ways to encourage more young people in North Solihull to continue into higher education.
“Of course university attendance isn’t the ‘be all and end all’ of life but that disparity that you pointed out is enormous.
“Where you were born and your parents’ income must not – and I know the cabinet member shares this with me – determine your life chances.”

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Castle Bromwich councillor is elected as Mayor

A CASTLE Bromwich councillor was tonight elected as the new Mayor of Solihull.
Coun Mike Robinson will be the first Mayor for a decade who represents a ward in the north of the borough (Marston Green man Alan Martin held the role in 2005-06).
Addressing Full Council this evening, he said that he would make "bridging the gap between generations" the theme of his term of office.
Coun Robinson was first elected to Solihull Council 12 years ago. His wife Jenny will serve as Mayoress.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Radical changes needed to improve public transport in North Solihull

POOR public transport links continue to create major challenges for residents in North Solihull, a recent report has found.
Irregular and unreliable bus services – with especially limited service during evenings and weekends – is serving to reinforce the divide between the north and south of the borough.
The research revealed that the journey times meant that many people living in areas such as Chelmsley Wood and Castle Bromwich were put off seeking work in other parts of Solihull and instead tended to find jobs in Birmingham.
Workshops involving local residents, schools and parish councils were held last year, with local views incorporated into the Solihull Connected report, which had been commissioned by Solihull Council.
The document reveals that many residents don’t feel the public transport network is up to standard and that radical changes would be needed to improve the situation.
While overcrowding and ticket prices were highlighted among the concerns, the reliability of services was identified as the main problem.
Amrik Manku, from the council’s transport and highways team, said: “Public transport services do not currently provide a realistic or viable alternative for many people.
“It is clear that some residents would be willing to try different modes of transport if they were to be improved. Addressing the negative perceptions of bus services would be a key area to prioritise in this respect.”
One possible solution would be the introduction of so-called “sprint services” with a route potentially running from Chelmsley town centre to Blythe Valley Business Park, stopping off
at main destinations such as the NEC and Solihull centre.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

New edition of our digital newspaper is out now.

THE latest edition of our digital newspaper is available now at Issuu.
If you have any stories for our next issue or the blog, please get in touch.

Surprising find at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

VOLUNTEERS at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens were stunned to discover a family of Great Tits have built a nest under a traffic cone.
The bollard had been placed next to a flower bed at the visitor attraction, but it turns out that the birds had used a small hole at the top of the stripy marker to carry nest material inside.
When the cone was lifted up a few days ago, a perfectly woven bed of branches and moss was found underneath, with two eggs having been laid inside.
A sign has now been put up to prevent the great tits being disturbed, it reads:
"Please do not move this. Birds nesting in this cone. None of yer timber framed housing for this bird....modern housing only please."
A spokesperson for the gardens said: "Ten acres of trees to choose from and they prefer a plastic cone. Nice and cosy."
Great Tits are one of our most common garden birds, with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) noting that they have "readily adapted to man-made habitats."

Friday, 13 May 2016

Man who killed well-known Marston Green woman sentenced to life

A MAN who killed his aunt - a much-loved resident of Marston Green - was jailed for life earlier today (Friday).
Gareth Emery, 25, was told he would serve a minimum of nine years after previously pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Anne Dunkley on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Mrs Dunkley, a retired teacher who was well known in the local community, had died following the attack on June 5 last year.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that Emery, who has since been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, had attacked the 67-year-old outside her Elmdon Road home.
She was punched, kicked and struck with a garden spade, suffering fatal injuries.
Her son Matthew had heard the commotion and was badly hurt while trying to restrain the defendant.
Neighbours, who also tried to help, called police and Emery was arrested nearby.
Following today's court hearing, Mrs Dunkley's family released the following statement:
"We are relieved to have reached the end of this legal process and now we can focus on beginning to rebuild our lives.
"We would like to express our gratitude to the agencies who have worked with us over the last 11 months. West Midlands Police, our legal representation and the Victim Support Service have supported us with empathy, understanding and professionalism.
"In addition, we need to thank family and friends across the community and further afield, who continue to be a source of support.
"We will now concentrate on remembering Anne as she was; full of love, energy and generosity, and the many happy times she shared with so many."
Social media sites had been awash with tributes following Mrs Dunkley's death last summer. Many knew her from her work with the scouts, her time at Hatchford School and as a member of the congregation at St Leonard's Church.
Det Insp Shaun Egan said: "The attack devastated Anne’s family and I cannot begin to imagine the sense of loss they feel.
"I hope that by knowing Emery has been given a life sentence, preventing him from harming anyone again, will be of some comfort to Anne’s family and friends and help them to rebuild their lives."
Emery, of Clinton Road, Shirley, will be detained at a centre for people with serious psychiatric conditions.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Chelmsley Wood residents rally around following playground arson

VANDALS have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage after setting equipment alight at the Meriden Park Adventure Playground.
Fire crews were called to the Chelmsley Wood facility last Friday night (May 6) following reports that equipment had been torched.
The £8,500 "playpod" was badly damaged by the flames, with the crash mats, nets and other kit stored inside destroyed.
Footage caught on nearby CCTV cameras shows a group of youths arriving at the facility at around 10.45pm.
The community has rallied round to help following last week's arson attack, with many pledging money to help replace the equipment.
There has also been an offer of help from students at the Grace Academy, who are keen to get involved in the clean-up operation.
A spokesman for the playground thanked local people for their many messages of support and encouragement.
"There are hundreds of children and their families who use the playground, a group of four has done this," they said.
"We must have regard for the hundreds, and not focus on the four, other than to catch them."
The incident is the latest in a series of arson attacks at the site. If you have any information about the most recent offence, please call Solihull Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Inquest held into Chelmsley Wood teenager's death

A CHELMSLEY Wood teenager died after taking ecstasy during a night club's New Year's Eve celebrations, an inquest has heard.
Eighteen-year-old Dylan Booth had taken the tablets at the Rainbow club, in Digbeth, and was rushed to hospital after falling ill the following day. He died on January 3.
Despite initial reports, the police subsequently ruled out the possibility that the ecstasy had been contaminated and it is thought that the teenager either took too high a dose or suffered an adverse reaction.
Assistant Coroner Emma Brown said she believed this was the first time that the teenager had taken drugs
"That was not his lifestyle in any way," she said.
"He was usually a sensible young man but on this night he’d been drinking and took drugs during the excitement of a big night out."

Monday, 9 May 2016

Marston Green dancers in fundraising drive

A MARSTON Green-based performing group has made it to the finals of a nationwide dance competition, but needs some help in getting the costumes for their big performance.
Inca Arts is looking to raise £1,500 towards new outfits for the forthcoming contest, which will be taking place in Blackpool this July.
The performing arts troupe, set up by local woman Nichola Burley, booked their place in the grand final following a barnstorming performance in the preliminary rounds in Port Talbot, Wales.
A fundraising disco will be taking place at Chelmsley Wood's Catholic Community Centre on May 21. You can also support the group by visiting their fundraising page.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Chelmsley Wood - the new home of the Peaky Blinders?

NEW HOME: The cast of Peaky Blinders series 3

HAS the poster boy of BBC drama Peaky Blinders upped sticks and moved to what is now North Solihull?
The screenwriter, Steven Knight, certainly seems to hint as much in an interview to coincide with the première of the third series.
In the opening episode, leading character Thomas Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy) has left behind inner-city Birmingham and moved to Arrow House - a sprawling mansion in the country.
"It’s probably near where Chelmsley Wood council estate is now," said Steven, when discussing the location of the opulent estate.
It's well-known of course that the area was open countryside until the second half of the 20th century, with building work beginning in earnest during the 1960s.
Peaky Blinders, which follows a family's efforts to build a criminal empire during the 1920s, has proved a massive hit internationally.
Famous fans of the series include football manager Jose Mourinho, the rapper Snoop Dogg and Hollywood stars such  as Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Spitfire flypast in Castle Bromwich

A SPITFIRE returned to the skies of Castle Bromwich earlier this afternoon.
More than 70 years since the famous fighter plane helped Britain to victory in the Second World War, the aircraft completed a fly-past.
The event was organised as part of Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens' 1940s weekend and there was a decent crowd gathered on the village green to see the Spitfire pass overhead.
Activities continue at the gardens tomorrow. To find out more visit their website.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Local Elections: The results in North Solihull

LABOUR has successfully defended its last remaining council seat in Solihull.
Flo Nash was re-elected in Kingshurst & Fordbridge despite a threat from UKIP that could have seen the party wiped out in the borough.
It is possible that a late push by local activists from Momentum, a grassroots group set up by some of Jeremy Corbyn's most ardent supporters, helped see off the challenge.
Elsewhere in the local elections, the Green Party won a crushing victory in Smith's Wood against their former councillor.
Mike Sheridan, who defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) last year, polled just 17 votes and finished last in a ward that he had represented for almost a decade.
The Greens also won a thumping majority in Chelmsley Wood, where Chris Williams, one of the architects of their local success, was up for re-election.
In the staunchly Tory seats of Castle Bromwich and Bickenhill, two of the borough's longest-serving councillors, Ted Richards and Jim Ryan, were returned for another four years.
Ballot papers were counted at North Solihull Sports Centre overnight; the first time for a number of years that the local authority has not left local results until the following day.
Overall the shape of the council was barely altered by yesterday's vote. The Conservatives remain the ruling party by a comfortable margin, although the Greens have cemented their position as the official opposition.
South of the A45, Solihull lost its solitary independent with the defeat of Linda Brown in Blythe and the Liberal Democrats - who didn't field a candidate in the north of the borough - will have been pleased to hold their ground.

Full results:

Bickenhill ward (includes Marston Green)
Mike Longfield (Lab) - 565
Gary Macnaughton (Green) - 403
Jim Ryan (Con) - 1493

Castle Bromwich ward
Cheryl Buxton-Sait (Green) - 268
Ian English (Lab) - 465
Ted Richards (Con) - 1859

Chelmsley Wood ward
Sally Bell (Con) - 91
Emma Chidler (Lab) - 224
Chris Williams (Green) - 1652 
Rosie Worsley (UKIP) - 231

Kingshurst & Fordbridge ward
Max Barker (Con) - 266
David Davies (Green) - 116
Sarah Evans (UKIP) - 537
Flo Nash (Lab) - 780

Smith's Wood ward
David Cole (Lab) - 364
Jean Hamilton (Green) - 1306
Graham Juniper (Con) - 96
Mike Sheridan (SDP) - 17
Gary Smith (UKIP) - 264

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Polls open for local elections

POLLING stations have opened across North Solihull as people vote in this year's local elections.
While Solihull Council is almost certain to remain under Conservative control (the ruling party has established a comfortable majority of seven), there will be a number of important clashes in the wards locally.
As well as voting for their local councillors, residents will also have a chance to choose the region's Police and Crime Commissioner - the elected official responsible for holding West Midlands Police to account.
Labour's David Jamieson, who previously represented Kingshurst & Fordbridge as a councillor, is the incumbent.
For a full list of council candidates please click here. Polling stations will be open until 10pm tonight with votes to be counted at North Solihull Sports Centre.
The full results will be available later.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Support sessions in Chelmsley Wood

REGULAR sessions to help those with anxiety and depression are being held in Chelmsley Wood.
The meetings take place on alternate Wednesday evenings at Bosworth Community Centre (6.00-7.30pm.) They are an opportunity for people to share their experiences over tea and biscuits.
For further details call 0121 770 8570 or email authorsrcrawford@gmail.com