Friday, 31 March 2017

Grenade find leads the bomb squad to Chelmsley Wood

BOMB squad officials paid a visit to a Chelmsley Wood street this week after a live grenade, which apparently originated from one of the homes, was found in Birmingham.
The unexploded device was discovered by men sifting through a consignment of metal at a recycling site in Nechells on Monday (March 27).
Emergency services were called in at around 12noon and police set up a cordon so that the grenade could be assessed by the bomb squad.
Officers and explosives experts then paid a visit to Lyecroft Avenue, although a search found nothing dangerous at the address.
A photo of the van, with Royal Logistics Corps Bomb Disposal on the side, parked in the street was later posted online

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Cabinet minister visits North Solihull

FAMILY FIRM: Business Secretary Greg Clark (left) and Mayoral candidate
Andy Street visit TEAL Patents, Chelmsley Wood.

BUSINESS Secretary Greg Clark paid a visit to Chelmsley Wood today.
The cabinet minister was joined on a whistle-stop tour of the estate by Meriden MP Caroline Spelman and Andy Street, the Conservative candidate for West Midlands Mayor.
The visit gave Mr Clark - who was handed one of the most high-profile ministerial roles last summer - the opportunity to see the results of the area's Regeneration programme.
He also dropped in at TEAL Patents, a firm which is based in Waterloo Avenue and specialises in making portable sinks and basins. Mr Clark said the 58-year-old business was "leading the way" in terms of product development.
Manty Shanley, the company's managing director, said: "It was great to be able to show someone as influential as the Business Secretary what our company is all about and discuss some of the challenges we face."
Mrs Spelman said she was delighted to accompany her fellow MP around one of her constituency's family-owned enterprises.
"TEAL is an excellent example of how innovative products, designed and manufactured here in the West Midlands, are sought after and exported world over," she said.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Solihull Mayor welcomes students from Cholet


CASTLE Bromwich councillor - and Mayor of Solihull - Mike Robinson recently welcomed a group of students from the borough's twin town in France.
The delegation from Lycée Renaudeau, a college in the town of Cholet, were given a personal tour of the Civic Suite and had the chance to find out more about Coun Robinson's duties.
The group of 16-19-year-olds had been invited to the UK as part of an exchange programme organised by the Sixth Form College, Solihull.
Coun Robinson, who was presented with an embroidered towel by the French contingent, said: "It was a great afternoon, perfect for sharing some of Solihull's historical moments with a group of very nice young people."
The teenagers also visited some of the region's top attractions, including Warwick Castle, Cadbury's World and the Black Country Museum, during their visit.

Cholet:
* Is a town in western France with a population of more than 50,000.
* It found itself in the grip of a ferocious power struggle during the French Revolution.
* The biggest industry is the production of linen and linen handkerchiefs.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

1984 in B37 - but not everyone's happy!


A CHELMSLEY Wood community centre has been left baffled after someone reportedly contacted the police to complain about posters advertising a public screening of the film 1984.
An adaptation of George Orwell's dystopian novel is due to be shown as part of the latest SHEDtalk event, organised by the Three Trees.
The film night has been advertised with a series of flyers, including some which draw inspiration from the story's famous propaganda posters - carrying slogans including 'Freedom is Slavery' and 'Closed Minds Stop Thought Crimes'.
But yesterday, the Rev'd Neil Roberts took to Twitter to reveal that someone had appeared to object to the campaign.
Posting a photo of another one of the posters, this one branded 'Ignorance is Strength', Rev'd Roberts said: "It appears we've been reported to the police for advertising #1984. I am enjoying the irony."
1984 became one of the 20th century's most critically-acclaimed books, with its nightmarish vision of a future in which Britain has been transformed into a one-party dictatorship.
The film adaptation, starring the late John Hurt, will be shown at the Three Trees this Friday (March 31). Meet at 7pm for a 7.30 start.

Save Our Playground: People urged to turn out to meeting

A PUBLIC meeting will be held this week to discuss plans to secure the future of Meriden Adventure Playground (MAPA).
The facility has argued that a six-month funding package, agreed by Solihull Council earlier this month, does not give staff and volunteers enough time to make the playground self-sufficient.
The decision not to approve funding for a longer period - as a number of local councillors wanted - was heavily criticised on social media.
Solihull Council has maintained that the deal approved last week was the most feasible option given budget constraints.
Now, as MAPA begins to put plans in place to keep the site going beyond August, local residents are urged to come along and show their support tomorrow evening (Wednesday).
The meeting will take place at Bosworth Community Centre, Chelmsley Wood, and is due to start at 7pm.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Sessions for Smith's Wood snappers


THOSE with an eye for a picture are invited to join the Smith’s Wood Photography Group.
Sessions for those 16 and over are held at Auckland Hall on Thursday mornings (10am-12noon).
Paul Gwilliam, who runs the group, said: “Last year we went out just around the local area, but
this year we’re looking to go further afield.”

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Comment: Local news is turning its back on local people

To mark this week's Local News Matters campaign, organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Other Side of Solihull argues that publishers need to go back to basics if they're going to serve their communities properly...

I reckon there were many journalists across the country who sat up and took notice during a scene in a recent episode of ITV's Broadchurch.
The drama, which examines the impact of harrowing crimes in a small Dorset seaside town, occasionally has other things to say about communities around the UK.
In this particular scene, Maggie, the dogged editor of the Broadchurch Echo, was confronted by a fairly unpleasant woman from head office.
It was obvious to the viewer - even if they're not up-to-speed with the internal politics of the local press -  that we weren't supposed to like her, not least because she was eating her lunch with a fork (never good). She was that annoying mix of strident and smiley, and while we weren't privy to the contents of her LinkedIn page, you can well imagine that she'd describe herself as "a real team player" in the profile.
In the conversation that followed, Maggie complained that her story on a controversial planning development had been killed off in favour of a cuddlier tale about kittens in a bin.
She also grumbled that she had been left to cover the patch single-handed following the departure of her only reporter.
Her complaints were met with the blunt announcement that the publishing company would be shutting the town's branch office and filling the paper with more content from across the region.
"We're redefining 'local news'," sneered the woman on the other side of the table.
Unfortunately this is an approach that companies around the country are taking in real-life.
Now it's fair to say that cuts in local journalism have been going on for a while, with many people losing their jobs and, in the worst cases, papers closing altogether. Over 300 titles have folded in the past decade alone.
But in the last year or two there is an equally worrying trend of assigning the much reduced groups of reporters to stories which, simply put, local papers shouldn't be anywhere near.
The fact is, if you are visiting the website of a paper in York or Grimsby or the Shetland Isles it stands to reason that you want to find out what is happening in your local community.
Why were the police out in the park last night? Has the council given permission to build that new lot of homes? When are the potholes on the main road finally going to get fixed? Questions being asked by communities up and down Britain.
Yes, these events are small against the backdrop of global news, but if the local paper doesn't bother itself to cover them then they won't get an airing elsewhere.
Only this week I heard it argued that the regional press shouldn't be afraid to cover national stories. But if there is little or no connection to the community, what's the point? And when staff are no longer there to cover key council meetings, court cases, election counts and public protests, is it not a bit of an insult to local people to have the few reporters remaining churning out irrelevant tosh.
If people want to read a blow-by-blow live blog of the terrorist attacks on the streets of London, they'll go to The Guardian or BBC (who will be there on the ground and able to do it better.) If residents want to read about why Pier Morgan upset a Z-list celebrity on Good Morning Britain, then they'll pick it up in a glossy magazine or gossip site. If the readers need to know what day Good Friday is this year...well, they'll check the calendar won't they.
ECHOES OF REAL LIFE: The plight of the local rag in
Broadchurch has parallels with a real-life crisis in journalism
The problem is that too many press giants are pushing towards a digital future which is increasingly faceless, cut off from communities and packed high with national news.
This obsession with getting clicks for assorted crap recycled from Mail Online or The Good Pub Guide gives little thought for what the writers are missing on their own doorstep.
Patch reporting as it was - getting out on the streets, making local contacts, sitting in the back of dimly-lit council chambers - is not dead, but it's definitely in a critical condition
Just a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that one of the local papers had written a report on the council's budget - the annual event which decides how millions of pounds of your money will be spent and what services will be cut. This was knocked together entirely from the council's own press release, without a single critical voice or alternative viewpoint. The rival title, as far as I'm aware, didn't cover the story at all... It isn't good enough.
All told, the way papers are going is hard luck for local people who want to be kept informed and great news for councils, crooks and anyone else who doesn't want their bad behaviour splashed across the front page. This may be a bleak assessment, but if reporters are taught anything it's to cut through the froth and tell things as they are. If we won't do it, who will?

Funding boost for domestic violence services

EXTRA money will be pumped into Solihull to help support those who are victims of domestic abuse.
While this is a problem across the borough, previous studies have suggested that there is a disproportionately high number of cases in the north.
In 2014/15, figures collated by Solihull Council showed that more than a third of incidents took place in either Chelmsley Wood or Smith’s Wood.
Support available to sufferers was affected by the closure of the Make a Better Life (MABL) Trust a few years ago.
The charity had been in operation for over a decade and ran a helpline for victims.
Now there is hope of increased help after more than £600,000 was made available for the West Midlands.
Councillor Tony Dicicco, cabinet member for stronger communities and partnerships, said: “Domestic violence is a devastating crime that wrecks lives. Sadly, 10 per cent of recorded crime in the West Midlands is domestic abuse, and these are only the cases we know about.
“We also want to develop timely and dedicated services for target groups. I look forward to seeing the impact this funding will have.”
* Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid run outreach sessions in Chelmsley Wood every Tuesday and Friday. Call 07891 492 327 for further details.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Kids run riot for Red Nose Day

GOTCHA - Credit/The CTC
STUDENTS from the CTC Kingshurst Academy have raised more than £2,500 for Comic Relief.
Fundraising activities have been taking place throughout the week, culminating with a series of events to mark Red Nose Day.
Pupils threw themselves with gusto into sponsored jogs, basketball challenges and sessions on the games console.
The Cooks Lane school also played host to a Britain's Got Talent-style competition, which was won by Year 9 student Molly Mayo, and held an auction in which the children could bid for teachers to end up in the gunge tank.
The CTC has a proud tradition of supporting Comic Relief and its efforts were recognised back in 2009, when girl band The Saturdays visited the school to promote the charity single they had recorded for that year's appeal.
You can watch a video of some of the school's activities on YouTube and donate at the official website
This year's telethon gets underway at 7pm this evening, featuring celebrities including Sir Lenny Henry, Emeli Sande, Romesh Ranganathan, Warwick Davis, Jonathan Ross and French & Saunders.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Cleaning up the streets: Vacuum thief is jailed

A BURGLAR has been jailed after being caught on CCTV fleeing a Castle Bromwich property clutching a vacuum cleaner.
Paul Gloster, 24, of Bordesley Green, had been captured on film following a break-in in Windleaves Road on January 30.
He had been carrying the Dyson he had taken from the home and was accompanied by two other men who were also holding items stolen from the address.
The images allowed police to identify Gloster (pictured, right) and earlier this month, at Birmingham Crown Court, he was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
It has been confirmed that another man remains on remand over the Castle Bromwich break-in, awaiting trial on other criminal matters.
The sentencing comes after police have acknowledged that burglary rates are up in parts of the West Midlands, following a period of long-term decline.
Such were fears about the spate of break-ins in Castle Bromwich, scores of residents turned out for a meeting at Arden Hall in January to ask local officers what was being done to tackle the problem.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Meriden MP says "thoughts and prayers" are with terror victims


MERIDEN MP Caroline Spelman has given her condolences to those affected by today's terror attack in Westminster.
It is not immediately known if the former cabinet minister was among the politicians caught up in the lock-down of Parliament, triggered by shocking events earlier this afternoon.
Police chiefs have confirmed that a vehicle was driven into a number of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into railings. A man then ran into the grounds of Parliament and fatally stabbed a policeman. He was subsequently shot dead by other officers at the scene.
Two other individuals have been killed and at least 20 were injured - several seriously - in the incident, which happened at around 2.40pm.
In a statement this evening, Mrs Spelman said: "Following the tragic incident which took place earlier today in London, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured in this attack.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to commend the hard work and bravery of the emergency services and Parliament's security officers, who work around the clock to protect everyone who works in Parliament, as well as the many thousands of visitors to Westminster each year."

First anniversary of motorcyclist's death

FRESH tributes have been placed by the side of the Collector Road a year on from the death of a local motorcyclist.
Christopher Clarke was killed when his bike collided with a car on March 20 last year.
A subsequent inquest concluded that the 32-year-old had been travelling in excess of 100mph when he hit a Toyota Yaris near the junction with Auckland Drive. He suffered catastrophic injuries in the incident and his bike was said to have "disintegrated" on impact.
Mr James Bennett, Assistant Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, recorded a verdict of death by road traffic collision.
Twelve months on, new memorials have been left on the verge by wellwishers. But local residents have also voiced concerns that high-speed motorbike "meets" are taking place along the dual carriageway, with fears that a similar incident may happen along the same stretch of road.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Disappointment over playground's funding deal

AT RISK: Residents have been urging Solihull Council to help the facility
Picture/Meriden Adventure Playground

FEARS have been raised that a six-month funding package signed off by Solihull Council this evening won't be enough to save Meriden Adventure Playground (MAPA).
A number of local councillors and some of the young people who frequent the site had urged the local authority to step in amid concerns about the long-term future of the award-winning facility.
Supporters said that MAPA had been used by thousands of children since it opened in 2006 and was "very highly-regarded" by the local community.
While the playground has recently achieved charitable status, it has faced ongoing financial pressures. Staff are currently waiting to hear if an application for Big Lottery funding has been successful, with news expected before the end of the month.
The council this evening agreed that a six-month package (worth almost £14,000) would be made available, despite suggestions this wouldn't be a sufficient time frame for the project to become self-sufficient.
Alison Wood, chair of the playground, gave an impassioned speech and voiced concern that a facility which had recently had success at the National Playwork Awards could be cut off "in its prime".
"There is no way on Earth that within six months we could gain enough to be able to run the playground ourselves," she said.
"If the recommended option is decided upon today you need to know that effectively this will close the playground at the end of September."
HELP US NOW: Our story from
earlier this month.
Councillor Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said: "I've seen on a very regular basis the difference that the adventure playground makes to so many families.
"I've rarely had so much contact from residents as I have in the past week - phone and email - about concerns about the playground closing.
"I'm really sad to see that the adventure playground is essentially in crisis, but it doesn't need to be. It's on notice to essentially close if we can't find a funding solution from the council, from a grant awarding body or from somewhere else.
"Yet as I sit here, I don't think there is anybody in this room, around the table or in the audience, who want to see the closure."
Coun Flo Nash (Lab, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) said that ordinary people were in danger of being "deprived" of a community asset.
"People feel safe knowing their children are going to a playground where they know they're going to be looked after," she said.
Fellow ward councillor Debbie Evans (UKIP) said: "All I can think about is that we're obsessing over money, not people.
"MAPA saves this council a lot of money in social work, in teaching time, it feeds families, it gives out food parcels. It does a raft of other measures, it's not just an adventure playground."
Councillor Ken Hawkins, cabinet member for the environment, housing and regeneration, acknowledged the playground was a valuable resource and said efforts would be made in the coming months to help MAPA develop a business plan. He suggested the lack of any such proposal at present would make it difficult for the local authority to commit additional funds.
"I'm not entirely happy about this [decision]...but also I have to take into consideration the financial constraints and budgets of this council."

Nourish Kitchen in Chelmsley Wood


A FRIENDLY group of volunteers is offering free meals every Wednesday evening at the Three Trees Centre.
Nourish Kitchen provides a freshly cooked, nutritious meal for anyone who would like one.
Food is served at the venue, in Hedingham Grove, Chelmsley Wood, from 6-7pm. All welcome.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Generous donations after thieves target Chelmsley Wood group

A NORTH Solihull social enterprise has paid heartfelt thanks to community groups who stepped in to help after their equipment was stolen from a tool shed.
Gro-Organic, which runs a number of horticultural projects in and around Chelmsley Wood, was alerted to the theft last month - just days before it was due to complete surprise garden makeovers for elderly residents.
Following the setback, Shirley Round Table and The Heart of England Community Foundation came forward during the organisation’s “hour of need” and offered to make substantial donations to replace the items.
In a post on Facebook, Gro-Organic said: “There is a very small minority of scum who steal from charities but I have to say my faith in people has been fully restored.
“I can't believe how many residents,businesses and kids have rallied round to help us. It means so much.”
Eddie Halliday, from Shirley Lions, said the money had been raised through events such as the annual Donkey Derby and Cider Festival and that the group had been “happy to help”.
If you are offered any cheap tools for sale or know anything about the theft please call Solihull Police on 101.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

HS2 rail project gets the green light


WORK is all set to start on the HS2 rail link after the multi-billion pound project cleared its final hurdle in Parliament last month.
The rail line, which will carry trains a hair’s breadth from Yorkminster Drive, Chelmsley Wood, has divided opinions locally.
Opponents have been highly critical of the impact that the scheme will have on local residents, with the loss of green space and the disruption during the lengthy construction period among the main concerns.
Joe Rukin, campaign manager at the Stop HS2 action-group, claimed that “spin” had triumphed over evidence.
“This is a terrible project which will not deliver on its promises, come in years late, miles over budget, create havoc during construction and have disastrous environmental consequences.”
On the other hand supporters have welcomed the fact that the Bill has at last received Royal Assent, arguing that the first phase of the project, carrying trains between Birmingham and London, will be a major boost to the West Midlands.
Coun Bob Sleigh, a local councillor who also chairs the West Midlands Combined Authority, said that the region had been waiting for the legislation to be rubber-stamped.
“HS2 is going to happen and we’re ready to capitalise fully on the opportunities it offers to transform places, create jobs and attract investment. Royal Assent is important because it makes HS2 an absolute reality.”
Meriden MP Caroline Spelman, who spoke during the Parliamentary debate, said the impact on individual communities should not be underestimated.
While a supporter of the scheme, she has insisted there must be adequate compensation for residents.
 “You hear names like Bickenhill and Chelmsley Wood and they conjure up lovely rural locations but at no point are you any further than eight miles from the centre of Coventry or eight miles from the centre of Birmingham.
“So we’re talking about land which is very precious to those that try to keep the balance of green space and urban density... while a matter of three or four hectares of green space may not appear all that important to anyone else who is listening to this debate, for the residents of Chelmsley Wood this is an important issue.”
While construction could begin within weeks, stage one is not set to open until 2026.

Friday, 17 March 2017

North Solihull described as an accident "hot spot"

PEOPLE living in Smith’s Wood and Kingshurst are among the most likely in Solihull to be injured in a road traffic collision.
While the greatest number of incidents are recorded south of the A45, in areas such as Solihull town centre and Shirley, there is a disproportionately high number of victims in the north of the borough.
This is particularly the case for incidents involving under 16s, with North Solihull described as a “hot spot.”
The figures form part of Solihull Council’s latest road safety report and suggest that a historic problem has yet to be solved.
It is now eight years since David Jamieson, a former Road Safety Minister and now the West Midlands’ Police and Crime Commissioner, criticised figures which suggested that children in the north of the borough were at far greater risk on the roads.
Generally speaking, the number of people killed or seriously injured on the highways has fallen dramatically across the borough over the past 15 years.
At the turn of the Millennium, there were almost 140 incidents recorded in the space of a year, but by 2015 this had fallen to just over 40.
Children, young drivers and the elderly remain the groups most likely to be involved in a serious accident.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Castle Bromwich Singers to mark 50 years

GOLDEN YEAR: The Singers with Mayor of Solihull, Coun Mike Robinson

CASTLE Bromwich Singers are preparing to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
The group have raised tens of thousands for various good causes since first forming in 1967.
Their inaugural concert came three years later at Arden Hall and featured “John Leedham and his Xylophone.”
Almost half a century on, the troupe are putting the final touches to their new show, for which they will be joined by Spectrum Vocal Harmony Group, Duncan McLaurie and Chris Beebee.
The concert - which will be raising money for the John Taylor Hospice - is to take place at the Highbury Theatre Centre, Sutton Coldfield, on April 2.
Tickets £6 each from Greg (07825 969298) or Stella (0121 748 7635).

1967 - the way things were:
* Harold Wilson was half-way through his first term as Prime Minister.
* The Beatles release the seminal album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
* The last "amateur" Wimbledon tennis tournament takes place.
* Royal yacht the QE2 is launched at Clydebank.
* England football captain Bobby Moore is made an OBE.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Consultation begins into sixth form closure

THE sixth form at Smith’s Wood Sports College will close next year, following a fall in the number of students.
Solihull Council has now agreed a timetable which would see the set-up shut down after the current Year 12 pupils finish their exams in summer 2018.
A report prepared for councillors said that given the current roll-call, the current situation was unsustainable.
A consultation exercise has now been officially launched, ahead of the school becoming an academy on April 1.
On Other Side of Solihull’s Facebook page, a number of residents said they weren’t surprised by the news that the post 16 service was to come to an end.
Annette Short said: “My daughter had to go to CTC to continue doing the level 3 course she wanted to do, due to not passing her Maths and English. Smith’s Wood said she wasn’t allowed to do it there.”
While Rachel Stewart added: “Maybe if they actually offered the courses the students want and need they would have stayed rather than go elsewhere.”
Ann Pearson, Solihull Council’s director of children’s services and skills, said the sixth form had opened eight years ago and it was envisioned that it would cater for around 200 16 to 18-year-olds. Numbers peaked in 2012, when there were 160 students.
“[There has] been a steady decline ever since,” said Ms Pearson. “In September 2017 there were 67 on roll, of which only 37 are Year 12.
“Such small number teaching groups in the sixth form are not viable. In order to overcome some of the potential barriers, the school have timetabled some sixth form pupils to be taught in mixed year groups, although this is not ideal.”
Work is expected to start shortly on helping Year 11 pupils plan their future.
It’s thought the majority of students who want to continue their studies will go to other local sixth forms, Solihull College or the newly-opened WMG Academy, in Chelmsley Wood.
  • Parents can have their say by writing to the school (Windward Way, Smith’s Wood, B36 0UE), emailing or completing the online survey.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Official opening of revamped Chelmsley Wood venue

A MAJOR redevelopment project at a Chelmsley Wood community centre has been completed.
The Three Trees has confirmed that the extension of the current building, which has created three new meeting rooms, a training room and a lounge, is now finished.
The centre, in Hedingham Grove, has been at the heart of community life for more than 40 years, but was in urgent need of repair before work began.
The project, which involved a major fundraising campaign, was spearheaded by Rev’d Neil Roberts. A Three Trees spokesman said that the end of the work was “a fantastic achievement”.
“We started back in 2010 and loads of people have helped and supported through that time, as well as putting up with dust, being moved about, and being squashed and cold.”
An open day at the venue will be held tomorrow (Tuesday), with an art exhibition, storytelling and live music.
The Mayor of Solihull will attend the official opening at 6pm and a concert with North Solihull Singers will round off the day’s events.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Latest edition of our digital newspaper is out now


THIS month's edition of our digital newspaper is now available to read online.
You can peruse the articles for yourself on Issuu and remember to get in touch if you have stories for our next publication.

Solihull Council to raise tax as social care bill soars


COUNCIL tax bills are set to rise by almost five per cent in Solihull as the local authority once again grapples with cuts in funding.
In common with most councils, Solihull is being placed under particular strain by the costs of adult social care, a system sinking into crisis across the country.
The Budget, which was brought before councillors earlier this month, will mean that council tax bills stand at £1,269 for a ‘Band D’ property. This figure does not include sums levied by the likes of police and parish councils.
Councillor Bob Sleigh, the Leader of Solihull Council, admitted that the local authority was facing “massive challenges” and said he supported a national debate on how to deal with the financial pressures, which are being driven up by the growing number of elderly people who need support. Councillor James Burn (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said there were “no easy answers”.
“We may have seen less cuts per head than some of our colleagues, but it’s still been very, very difficult,” he told members.
“Council tax is obviously regressive, it hits the poorest hardest, but we have no choice – we have been cut to the bone.”
Coun Burn said that he supported the rise in itself, but joined Green colleagues in voting against the Budget. Among the opposition’s main concerns were a lack of transparency over cuts and a failure to ensure all the council’s staff were paid the Living Wage.
Coun Ted Richards (Con, Castle Bromwich) rose to defend the Tories’ record and rebuked the Green group.
“I think this is the 32nd Budget I’ve sat through in this council chamber and I have to say that this evening I have seen what I can only describe as the most pathetic attempt by the opposition to try to turn down a responsible Budget.
“They have got no ideas, they don’t know where they’re going and they’re just being a pathetic, whinging opposition.”
For Councillor Debbie Evans (UKIP, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) there were concerns over the scale of increases being imposed by parish councils – which do not face the same restrictions as Solihull Council in relation to the rises they can introduce.
“I have to say I am appalled that one of the parish councils in the poorest part of the borough has decided to put their council tax precept up by 58.5 per cent," she said.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

84-year-old shopper among the victims of "pickpocket queen"

JAILED: Margaret Johnson
A "COLD-HEARTED" thief who has been convicted of more than 150 offences across the region - including several in North Solihull - is back behind bars.
Margaret Johnson, 40, had often singled out elderly shoppers and her victims included an 84-year-old woman who had her bag snatched in Aldi, Castle Bromwich.
The incident had occurred at the Chester Road supermarket on January 25, just days after Johnson had been released on licence from prison.
In a separate incident the same week, the defendant had stolen a mobile phone from a shopper at the Chelmsley Wood branch of Asda.
The two thefts were part of a spate of fresh crimes and Johnson was soon rearrested.
She appeared at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday (Friday) and was jailed for two and a half years after admitting six thefts, as well as breaching the conditions of a Criminal Behaviour Order, which had been imposed following her previous conviction.
Sergeant Julia Slater, of West Midlands Police, said: "It's hard to find words to describe Margaret Johnson.
"She deliberately targets elderly, lone female shoppers - people she considers easy targets - and when an opportunity arises she slyly swipes their bags or slips purses or mobile phones from pockets.
"Even by her own despicable standards she has stooped to new lows with these offences."

Friday, 10 March 2017

Ex-Chelmsley Wood councillor hits back at complacency claim

A FORMER Labour councillor has strongly denied the suggestion that his party took support in Chelmsley Wood for granted.
Nick Stephens (pictured), who represented the community for four years, prior to losing his seat in 2014, was responding to an article in The Guardian about how the Greens had emerged as the dominant party in large parts of North Solihull.
The author Lynsey Hanley said that the surge in support for a proimmigration party suggested that the erosion of the Labour vote in former heartlands was not because working class people were becoming more right-wing in their views, and in fact their main concern was not being listened to.
Ms Hanley argued the Greens’ success on the estate where she grew up had been because they had engaged with residents.
She said: “Meeting people’s needs at a local level goes beyond leftright party politics, and this is where progressive parties can and must steal a march on right-wing charlatans who promise the stars and aren’t interested in delivering them.”
In a letter to the paper, Mr Stephens hit back and pointed out that it was he who had won back the seat in 2010 following the shock victory of the British National Party (BNP).
When he was unseated himself four years later, he said the Greens had played heavily on discontent over the Regeneration programme, but argued they had done a “poor job” holding the Conservative-run council to account since becoming the official opposition.
“The Greens established a foothold in Chelmsley Wood by bringing in swathes of supporters (and sometimes their candidates) from across the West Midlands, which was almost impossible to fight against,” said Mr Stephens.
“While I have respect for some individual Green party councillors who no doubt work hard as their Labour predecessors did, I totally reject the glib comments that Labour councillors took Chelmsley Wood for granted, as I gave a huge amount of time in serving the residents of an area with historical social problems, while holding a full-time job at the same time.”

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Rider badly hurt in Chester Road crash

A YOUNG man was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash yesterday morning (Tuesday).
Emergency services were called to the A452 Chester Road, near Birmingham Business Park, following reports of a rider in collision with an Audi A3.
The 23-year-old man was rushed to hospital after having suffered what were described as "life-changing" injuries. It is understood he is still undergoing treatment.
The road was closed for several hours while police dealt with the aftermath of the crash and they are now appealing to anyone who saw what happened or who was in the area at the time to come forward.
Det Sgt Paul Hughes said: "This collision happened on a very busy main road and there would have been motorists who would have seen what happened."
The incident happened at around 9am. If you have any information call officers on 101.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Ex-Kingshurst councillor backs mobile phone crackdown

THE region's Police and Crime Commissioner has given his wholehearted support to the tougher approach being taken with drivers who use their mobile phone at the wheel.
David Jamieson, who previously served as a councillor for Kingshurst & Fordbridge, argued that the increased penalties had overwhelming public support.
Under the changes, which came into force at the start of the month, those caught texting or making calls without hands-free equipment face six points on their licence and a £200 fine.
The Government said it had decided to make punishments more severe amid concerns that the seriousness of the crime wasn't getting through to many motorists - even though it is 13 years since the offence was first introduced.
Mr Jamieson, who actually steered through the original ban during his time as a Labour MP, said: "These tougher penalties are welcomed by all sensible road users, as driving while using a handheld mobile phone is potentially lethal.
"This is about saving lives. Studies have found that motorists who talk on their handheld phone while driving are four times more like to crash. Statistics also show that in just five years there were more than 3,000 accidents involving a driver on the phone."
Previous studies have found driver reaction times when using a mobile phone are  actually 30 per cent slower than someone who is just over the drink drive limit; and 50 per cent slower than under normal driving conditions.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Plans for Chelmsley Wood seat would tie together areas with "weak" links

REDRAWN: The Chelmsley Wood and Solihull North
seat was unveiled last year.
A COUNCILLOR has said that he cannot support plans for the new constituency of Chelmsley Wood and Solihull North, because he believes it will bind together communities with no historic ties.
Coun Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said that although he liked the name of the new seat - which would enhance the profile of his own ward - the plans to withdraw parliamentary boundaries didn't seem logical.
The electoral map is being heavily altered as part of efforts by the Government to give each constituency a similar number of voters.
But there has been criticism about the changes being proposed for areas such as the West Midlands, where for the first time some MPs will represent areas which may include districts from more than one council.
In Solihull, there is a view that the current constituencies could be kept largely unchanged, but are being bent out of shape as a knock-on effect of the alterations in neighbouring Birmingham.
Under the proposals, the north of the borough would form part of a new brand-new seat, grouped together with Sheldon and some parts of South Solihull.
Addressing a Boundary Commission event in Birmingham, Coun Williams argued this was far from ideal.
He said: "The Solihull wards north of the A45 have a weak community connection with Sheldon, Lyndon and Elmdon as well as a poor physical connection as the airport’s runway splits the proposed constituency very much in two."
Coun Bob Sleigh, the leader of Solihull Council, was similarly concerned about what was being put forward.
"I believe that these proposals will undermine the sense of community... and lead to less effective representation for the people of Solihull."
Interestingly only one resident from the north of the borough appears to have made a submission to the Boundary Commission and was broadly sympathetic to the changes.
By comparison there was a scattering of criticism from those living in those other areas which would form part of the Chelmsley Wood and Solihull North seat.
Steve Rogers, from Sheldon, said: "I do not want to be classed as part of Chelmsley Wood. This is a Birmingham address not part of Solihull and should be left this way."
And Andrew Redfern, of Hampton-in-Arden, said he was concerned that the village's needs would be overlooked if it was linked with an overwhelmingly urban seat.
The Boundary Commission is currently digesting the comments it has received around the country and it remains to be seen if the plans locally will be subject to any changes.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Marston Green school chef just misses out on title

A SCHOOL chef has been "highly commended" in the national finals of this year's School Chef of the Year Competition.
Jose Davies Kochakkadan, who is in charge of the kitchens at Marston Green Infant Academy, had made it to the final stage of the contest for the second time.
Last Thursday he represented the West Midlands against nine other top chefs from around the country.
In a contest held in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the finalists were asked to produce a two course children's meal on a budget of just £1.30.
Father-of-two Jose said that youngsters could be the toughest critics, but it was important to encourage healthy eating.
"If you can please children, you can please anyone in this world," he added.
He impressed the panel of chefs and catering professionals with an Indian-inspired main followed by frangipane made from mashed potatoes.
The eventual winner was Tracy Healy, who is the catering supervisor at a school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Residents urged to be vigilant following Castle Brom burglaries

POLICE have pledged to step up patrols after an increase in burglary offences in Castle Bromwich.
The suburb was one of two in Solihull, the other being Olton, which have been identified by officers as seeing a spike in break-ins.
Police urged residents to sign up to Neighbourhood Watch schemes and focus on home security, warning that opportunists will often take advantage if doors or windows are left open.
A police spokesman said: "We are taking additional police patrols and have set up a number of capture houses − homes fitted with hidden cameras and infrared sensors − which catch offenders in the act. "We are able to remotely track all of the items in the houses to provide damning evidence which we use in court."
A spate of burglaries was one of the main concerns raised by residents during a public meeting at Arden Hall earlier this year.
Officers had acknowledged that Castle Bromwich presented a tempting target to criminals because it was "a nice area" with larger properties.
Twenty break-ins were reported in the neighbourhood in December according to the website UKCrimeStats, making burglary the most common type of crime in the area. Figures for the first two months of 2017 have not yet been released.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Donate vital supplies to local foodbank

CASTLE Bromwich residents have helped feed more than 250 people since the start of the year.
St Mary & St Margaret's Church is a collection point for the Kingfisher Foodbank, which provides food to local people in need.
Tinned meat, tinned fish, fruit juice and toiletries are among the products that people are being encouraged to donate.
Bring items to the church on Wednesday or Sunday morning, or alternatively drop them in at the parish office on Monday, Wednesday or Friday.
Figures released last year by the Trussell Trust have shown that the number of people using foodbanks is still at record levels.Overall 1,109,309 emergency food packages were distributed by the charity in 2015-16.