Monday, 31 March 2008

Local election, bonus and banana skins is back.

This post will be updated regularly. Scroll down for daily updates
Post last updated on
Thursday 1st May
The colour of the date entry is the party who are winning.
On quiet days I’ll comment a little more on the priorities in the ward, just to remind our candidates and also I’ll add to my cost saving ideas which will I suspect be very contentious.


ding ding they're off
Round 2 of the blog based game to brighten up local elections.
Let me remind you of the rules!
Candidates will be marked on the content and presentation of their leaflets. I should add that these views are entirely mine and not aligned to any political party. I will try to be completely neutral.
I propose to give a bonus point for the first leaflet published. Bonus points for the first phone call but a banana skin if it’s some idiot who knows nothing about Newton. The game will move on with commentary by me as the points are awarded or deducted. I need to change the rules a bit this time round to include what I published as my top ten. For every candidate who mentions a top ten feature I’ll give a bonus point if more than one top ten is featured in a single leaflet I’ll give an extra point for each one and a another bonus point. The rules on banana skins stay the same. Just to remind our candidates here are my top ten in reverse order:-
The Top ten
10) Gongs
9) Adult Education & Culture
8) Parks & Green Spaces
7) Older people & Welfare Services
6) Planning & Affordable Housing
5) Education
4) Health Care
3) Litter, Dog Mess & Ground Care
2) Council Tax
1) Commitment
Is that all clear? So let’s play Bonus and Banana Skins and good luck to you all.
We have already had two leaflets one from the Tories and one from the Liberals which I have already commented on and awarded points.
So we start today with :-
Liberals on 1 point
Tories on 3
Labour on 0
This will probably be a more predictable election than last time and I think run at a much slower pace so I will update this post only when something happens which might be a bit like watching paint dry.

2/4/2008 29 days to go
The campaign as got off to a faster start than I expected with the Liberals putting out another leaflet and a hand written note addressed personally to my wife and I asking for our help. The leaflet is not to the standard that Martyn used to put out but a respectable effort and better than last time. They must have been reading the blog because three of their "Priorities For Action" are on my top ten list so I have to award three bonus points plus and extra point for more than one. Not a lot of substance ,although, she admits that things have gone down hill during her watch (“I have seen many changes to the area since I first became a councillor. Unfortunately not all has been for the better”). The back page is extremely disappointing with lots of poor quality pictures and vague captions. One of the pictures relates to the building of a Supermarket but the picture is of a disputed residential development. I hope they know the difference.
The help letter though I think must be a mistake. I have been criticising them recently so I would be surprised if they really want my help. Always glad though to support my community if they are serious they can leave a comment on the blog and I’ll get back to them. My votes up for grabs.
Labour earned themselves a banana skin on Monday with Brown’s dower and smarmy launch of the new policing policies. We here in Newton have most of that already, we can tell him how to do it.
Although it’s early days the guestimometer is giving the Liberals a 280 vote majority with Tories second
Liberals 5
Tories 3
Labour -1

3/4/2008 28 days to go
Labour attacks pensioners again

In another miserly move Sandwell have introduced entry charges to Sandwell Park Farm and car parking charges are to be introduced at this popular venue for older people. Week end charging had always existed but this change of policy is again meanness personified. There is a very cosy coffee shop on this site which will now not be available to many old folks (it will be an expensive cuppa) a visit to the loo will now cost £1, is this the most expensive toilet in Britain? There is another toilet across the field but it is a lottery if it’s open and the facilities are poor. The weekly health walks will also be affected which in turn will have a knock on effect to the health of the walkers.
I do hope our opposition councillors are going to kick up a stink over this. Because of the large Labour majority on the council we can expect this kind of behaviour to continue. Sandwell Labour Group are not Socialists they’re closet Tories. This has to be another banana skin for Labour I’m half a mind to make it two.
Perhaps I should spell out a new policy initiative for them:
If Sandwell want to save money which is better than alienating the population in this way I can make a load of suggestions.
Money saving tip for today turn of the chandelier in the council house reception. 50 plus bulbs at 60watts and during daylight hours: useless. There you go, more than enough savings here to allow free entry to the park during the week.
I might make these cost saving tips a regular feature of these election posts. I ought to charge for everyone they use. Ummmm Yes it’s definitely two banana skins.

Liberals 5
Tories 3
Labour -3
What a disastrous start for Labour after finishing first last time they have a lot to do. But will the electorate see it that way?

4/4/2008 27 days to go

A quiet day, so it’s Gongs

So far none of our local candidates have raised the issue of awards. I included it specifically in my top ten because it is one area that West Brom does really badly.
The picture was given to me by my friend Val Bowen on the right at the Wednesbury Labour of Love Awards. She was being presented to a well earned award for her work with Neighbourhood Watch. The guy in the picture is a local councillor from Wednesbury. My question is: why our lot don’t do this. I come back to my Pride in Newton Award for the best kept front garden or grassed area. So why not??????????? If you don’t care who does. It is my view that if our area was part of a Britain in Bloom style competition the place would be a much better place to live.
In Great Barr and Newton we have 50 NHW groups. The coordinators all give up their time voluntarily to run their individual schemes and fund the whole thing from their own pockets. NHW is none political but wouldn’t it be nice for once in awhile some recognition of their contribution was made. So come on one of the candidates let’s hear it for NHW and mean it. I’ll give a bonus point for the first one. Now this is pretty sneaky on my part because I know all the candidates and their work in our community so it will be interesting to see how they play this. Ignoring it gets a banana skin.
Liberals 5
Tories 3
Labour -3

5/4/2008 26 Days to go:

And it’s a bonus point for the Tories
Local free paper carried a large picture and good story of local residents fighting the council over a building it is alleged is in the wrong place and too high. Tory candidate was front of picture with the disgruntled residents.
As it’s a quiet day, I thought I might explore some more of the cost saving potential within Sandwell, because if I can spot such an obvious waste of public money with just one short visit to the council house: what else is lurking there?
I propose the council run a suggestion scheme for all direct council tax payers, with a prize worth winning: two years community charge for the winner and one year for each of three runners up. The tax payers would be asked to make suggestions on cost saving initiatives. I know from my time in industry that schemes of this type will only bring a small number of really good suggestions but these will have significant savings attached to them. I estimate over a three year period after implementation a saving of perhaps 2% of the budget for a tiny outlay. I’ve got lots more but I better put my house up for sale before publishing them.

Liberals 5
Tories 4
Labour -3

6/4/2008 25 days to go

Labour entered the fray today with a nice piece of electioneering. An A5 four page leaflet that was sharp, to the point and interesting. Low profile on Labour but high on brand Hosell. This has to be the best leaflet since Martyn Smith’s A3 Election Specials that read like the Express & Star. Who is writing their stuff? It has to be Saatchi & Saatchi or Campbell or perhaps a good local PR firm. Anyway well done Hosells. They must have been reading the blog because they bullet point no less than seven of my top ten, so by my calculations that’s 7 bonus points and an extra point for mentioning more than 1. There are a couple of banana skins though; on the back page they mention our local MP who is the Minister for Blogging and in my opinion not popular in this ward. They also claim to have cleaned up litter and put in place measures to prevent it. WELL IT’S STILL THERE (see picture for proof)so two banana skins. In this leaflet there are two other very relevant issues worth mentioning. Shirley comes across has very committed and I know from the work I have done with them that she is, so another bonus point. None of the other candidates have touched on this commitment aspect yet. The last paragraph though is perhaps the most important and one I would like to know the answer: - “ Your Liberal Democrat Councillors failed to attend the last Town Committee & full Council Meeting which decided your council tax. You should be asking them why?” I would like to know why. Answers on the blog would be appreciated.
It appears the personal letter to us from the Liberals was a scam, every body who voted seems to have got one so I’m going to award a banana skin for that.
I make that
Liberals 4
Tories 3
Labour 4
It might be neck & neck on the blog but with all the other factors the Guestimometer is giving the Lib Dems a 150 vote lead.

7/4/2008 24days to go

It’s a quiet day so I want to return to cost savings or in this case revenue raising. Why in Sandwell are car parking charges only made in West Bromwich? The other five towns are free. Let us introduce the same rigid car parking regime across the whole borough. This question of car parking is quite complex and later I will raise some other more contentious parking anomalies. It’s difficult to estimate the amount of revenue that this one single measure would raise but it’s in the thousands but I guess because of the politic map of the other towns this is never likely to happen.
With my first three cost saving ideas we are looking at potentially many thousands, so why do our councillors dilly dally with what they talk of as efficiency savings lets get on with it.
I don’t want this to appear I’m having a witch hunt with my Council but I do think they should consider the efficiency options before taking the easy route of raising taxes and particularly where they affect vulnerable older residents. You are after all a Socialist administration.
Liberals 4
Tories 3
Labour 4

8/4/2008 23 days to go
Labour back bench MPs are revolting! There's a lot of revolting these days
It’s another banana skin for Labour.
Forgive my slight distortion of the Times headline this morning. The lead story was that back bench Labour MPs are angry with Bruiser Brown over the elimination of 10p tax band and its affects on low paid families. Well Pleeease they have only just decided to complain about it because they can see their seats being lost at the next election and according to BBC news constituents are complaining about it. Over here in Newton we have a lot of families that will be affected and the reality will strike home just before the election. Well done labour for shooting yourselves in the foot. Even the brand Hosell magic is unlikely to be able to overcome this.
Liberals 4
Tories 3
Labour 3
The Guestimometer is now giving me a Liberal lead of 230 votes

9/4/2008 22 days to go

This is getting monotonous. It’s another banana skin for Labour.
Gordon was advertising his webcast Monday so sado that I am, I took the time to watch it. I was not impressed. The technical quality of the webcast was poor the body language stiff and the questions so obviously planted with spin answers that left me feeling exasperated. He seems determined to undermine the efforts of his local candidates. Does he have to wear that same shirt, tie and suit for everything? Tory PPB tonight was excellent, one segment actually mentioned pensioners. I think I’ll award them a bonus point.
Some good news though! Our litter hot spot as been cleared but no preventative measures have been put in place. This is verging on another banana skin for Labour because they have claimed that measures have been put in place.
Liberals 4
Tories 4
Labour 2

10/4/2008 21 days to go
It’s a banana skin for the Liberals and the Tories move into top spot.
Last nights PPB was the worst so far, with Nick Cleggover claiming big reductions in crime in areas that are Liberal controlled. Well he might be right, crime as reduced but it’s because of Labour policies with the introduction of neighbourhood policing that have made the difference. I don’t believe they would put the massive number of police on our streets and I certainly don’t think that on its own this will make people feel safe. The problem is more complex than that. As for our local lot! Well our Lib Dems do less than any of the other candidates in our efforts to fight crime. So it’s definitely a banana skin.
Liberals 3
Tories 4
Labour 2

11/4/2008 20days to go
I hear today that the Greens are putting up their candidate again. Well that’s another 40 votes from the Liberals. Other than that it’s a quiet day so its cost savings.
If I go into work in West Brom it costs me £2 to park all day, unless I scratch around for an on street parking spot which is inconvenient and rarer than rocking horse shit. If I go to our council house I park free after getting the token for the barrier. Can you guess what’s coming next? Got it in one! Introduce car parking charges for councillors and council staff. Off the cuff :- 300 car park spaces £2 per day = £600 * 5 = £3000 per week * 48 = £144000 per year. A similar situation applies at the training and development centre. So perhaps if applied to all sites it’s a much bigger number. Now that’s worth having. I can feel a big reduction in council tax coming. Perhaps you could make the case against this scenario. Why haven’t the Tories come up with this?
Liberals 3
Tories 4
Labour 2
Greens 0

12/4/2008 19 days to go
I’d like to encourage the Greens to take part in this discussion. So Mr. Hawkins when you read this can you contact me. I will not publish your comment if you ask me not to. I think it is important for Newton ward that your party does come clean and not act anonymously in the way that you did last time. My personal view is that you probably helped Labour get elected because they won more or less by the same vote you polled. The make up of our electorate is such that with the right involvement in Newton you could become a major player in local politics. You must have ten local people to get nominated and although your support appears miniscule I believe Newton would respond to a strong local Green candidate and who knows perhaps the first Green Councillor on Sandwell Council. Newton has been a Liberal strong hold for 30 plus years. It is not a naturally labour electorate and with the way Labour are behaving nationally they cannot expect to win. If they do locally it will be on brand Hosell. Liberals are a diminishing force after disappointing performances over the last few years and the Tories well? So the opportunity is there but not in the way you are approaching it. Unknown candidate who does not live in the ward! no chance. Well known, hard working candidate who lives in the ward, a very good chance. So who are you? Tell us about you & your policies but if this is just a cheap publicity gimmick we don’t need you in Newton.
Liberals 3
Tories 4
Labour 2
Greens 0

13/4/2008 18 days to go

Our local free paper missed our ward completely off their piece on the local elections, so, miffed that I was, I came up with the following little poem which I have sent to the editor to remind her we are here.
For Newton!
Oh dear oh dear what can I say,
the Observer newspaper has lost its way.
“Thirty to fight” the headline you wrote,
with just six seats to get your vote.
But that’s not true as well know,
Newton ward you forgot to show.
Libs, Tories, Labour and Greens as well,
Hawkins, Underhill, Ward and Hosell.
A really close race, are you keeping notes,
Labour won last time by just 35 votes.
On councillors surgeries you failed to tell
We have a new councillor he’s called Hosell
It’s going to be close this electoral fight,
So please can you get it right on the night.
Liberals 3
Tories 4
Labour 2
Greens 0

14/4/2008 16 days to go
It’s a quiet day. I was expecting the banners to go up this week end but nothing showing yet so I guess it has to be cost savings. I’ll perhaps do a summary of my ideas at the end of this campaign when I suspect we will be looking at somewhere in the region of £250000. Today its litter picking! Why not introduce a payment by results scheme instead of paying by the hour pay by the bag and change the routes so that they all had a go at the grot spots. Perhaps add some interest by making the pickers wardens with the ability to fine offenders. Difficult to estimate the savings here but from my experience in industry we would find a substantial saving and cleaner borough. I’m estimating £25K in the first year. Let’s have the debate, cost saving should be an agenda item at every council meeting. If you have a culture of trying to prevent waste you will keep costs and hence council tax down. Remember in any brain storming session 95% of ideas are junk. Many of mine I'm sure will be but do not approach this with a closed mind. Think outside the box.
Liberals 3
Tories 4
Labour 2
Greens 0

15/4/2008 15 days to go
Cost savings again today and this time its councillor’s and council officers expenses. Ask the question is that overnight stay really essential? Do we have to have a seminar in the most expensive venue in Sandwell? Could we use cheaper hotels when overnight stays are necessary and should we be paying a drinks allowance. I know you could argue that we have to offer the best facilities to get the best people but this kind of thinking is only adding to the problem. Sandwell is a poor area, we need to encourage wealth into the borough not waste what we already have. Realistic savings I suppose in the order of £50k per year.
I’ll run the Guestimometer again tomorrow.
Liberals 3
Tories 4
Labour 2
Greens 0

16/4/2008 14 days to go
It’s bonus points and a banana skin for Labour but let’s do the negative first and you guessed it Grumpy Gordon. He was on the tele yesterday in a long interview which I found painful to watch. It was reminiscent of the bundling days of John Major and I could not help but think of the famous “Crisis what crisis” comment that finished the Callahan government. So a banana skin! Our local Labour candidate though has been very busy promoting brand Hosell with a real natty piece of electioneering. A local news from Dave & Shirley leaflet which went out to about I would guess150 homes detailing one of the problems they have fixed and another oldie they are working on. This is absolutely brilliant stuff, tiny mention of Labour no request to vote for them only concentrates on what they have been doing. Well done Hosell! Who is advising them on this campaign? Because it is really excellent stuff. It’s great to see some fresh thinking and a clear strategy emerging. Labour are winning the communications battle here, according to their mini local leaflet they are going to publish an e-news for Newton! Sign me up please. If you would like a copy email them at This has to be two bonus points and I’m going to award banana skins to the Tories & Greens for doing nothing. After several re runs the Guestimometer is giving Labour a tiny lead and I think that if they keep this up they might just scrape home in what will be a phenomenal result.
Liberals 3
Tories 3
Labour 3
Greens -1

18/4/2008 12 days to go
And the litters back.
So I’m going to award banana skins in varying degrees to all our candidates. This grot spot is not new, various councillors have been “taking action" for years. Well! I’m fed up with it. It’s bad enough having to drive past it a couple of times a day but what ever do the Mums and kids who have to walk past twice a day think. So; I’m going to award a banana skin to Labour, who although they have only had a councillor in our ward for 4 months have promised to put measures in place to fix it. The Liberals I’m awarding two banana skins because they have been in power for years, there are two of them and they have identified this problem years ago. The Tories are getting two banana skins because their leader lives in the ward, they have also known of the problem but seem to think if they ignore it, it will go away. Well, it won’t unless some of the measures I mentioned in my top ten are put in place. Where is the litter bin, the camera, the warden? Consider yourselves reprimanded you are collectively as guilty as the people who drop it.
Liberals 1
Tories 1
Labour 2
Greens -1

19/4/2008 11 days to go
Labour are holding onto the slimmest of leads. Councillor Hosell contacted me last night concerning the litter item yesterday. It would appear they are reading the blog and are as concerned about this as I am (see comments 5&6). I’m going to award a bonus point for this but sadly I have to award a banana skin to. Because of the way the government are performing. Gordon's visit to the states can only be described as farce. I haven’t seen comedy like it since Yes Prime Minister. He has to leave a meeting with the president of USA: to quell a back bench rebellion and now five ministerial bag carriers in revolt at local election time. It’s almost as bad as Prescott with his trousers down. I doubt even the popularity of brand Hosell will be able to overcome much more of this. The Liberals must be enjoying this enormously. They wont have to work to win, Labour nationally are winning it for them.
Liberals 1
Tories 1
Labour 2
Greens -1

20/4/2008 10 days to go
And Labour go on the attack. Posters are appearing on our lamp posts with Labour the first to show and picking the most strategic spots. The poster is good strategic thinking, small on Labour and big on brand Hosell. On the same day they send around a good old fashioned election address with a colour picture of the candidate. This was accompanied by a surgery card with a picture of our new councillor and some really useful phone numbers. Although I don’t agree with a lot of the election address stuff the two leaflets together and the erection of the posters give the impression Labour are in it to win it. It’s such a shame that their leadership is messing up big time. Labour in our ward deserve to win but I think it will be the Liberals who benefit from central government bickering. Labour get another bonus point because they are winning the communications battle here in Newton by a mile. The guesstimometer is giving a Lib Dem win by 90 votes.
Liberals 1
Tories 1
Labour 3
Greens -1

21/4/2008 9 days to go
Sadly I have to award another banana skin to Labour. With the continuing row within the party over the 10p tax band it is difficult to see how this can be resolved before the local elections. Hapless Alistair was vaguely suggesting yesterday that he might do something in his next budget. Does he really think the English electorate are that na├»ve? Memories of the missing 200 quid from pensioners council tax support, of the I’m listening speech from Tony after Browns 75 pence increase for pensioners and many many more acts of meanness will not convince the electorate to trust Labour this time. I was listening to Frank Field MP last night having to remind his fellow MPs what being a socialist was and why they were in politics. Until Gordon is replaced and a new front bench team are in place the electorate will have no confidence in Labour. We here in Newton have a good local Labour candidate who under any other party colours should win. Head and shoulders above the other candidates and being shot in the foot by Brown and Co. If you look at the way the party behaves in Sandwell it is a similar pattern of anti socialist policies aimed at the poorer in our community. Well Gordon & Bill it’s time for a serious re think. I think I would be more comfortable voting labour if the local candidate was campaigning to get Brown replaced. Do I see men in white coats coming to take me away I must be back in cloud cuckoo land again. Quick, get my happy pills.
Liberal 1
Tories 1
Labour 2
Greens -1

The Guesstimometers now ginving the Liberals a 150 majority with the Tories in second place.

22/4/2008 8 days to go.
The Liberals "Election Special" arrived through the letter box today. A lavish full colour A3 amateurish leaflet that is the worst piece of electioneering since the Tories “an urgent message form your neighbour” at the bye election. I was disappointed to see the party’s Grandee Sadie Smith associated with this. Almost every article is attacking Labour in a very negative and I felt nasty way. Their lead story implies that Labour had a gate locked at a local school during the bye election and as a result they sneaked in by 35 votes. It is this kind of arrogance that puts people off politics. I know Dave & Shirley Hosell and they are honest hardworking folk who are doing their best for Newton. If David you want to complain I will award yellow card. In the same article she refers to her opponent as a little known Labour candidate. What absolute rubbish: after last time they claimed their new candidate who no one had heard of was a “local champion”. Shirley Hosell is perhaps better known than the Liberal candidate. There is absolutely no substance in this leaflet, it just appears to me and I hope the electorate, to be credit by association.
The worst example is the article referring to “Action for speed limits and safer junk- no it’s not about our rubbish! but the campaign to get traffic lights installed at one of our most dangerous junctions. It is the Neighbourhood Watch Association that has taken the initiative on this and are organising the petition. The Liberals never attend NHW meetings they found out about this initiative at a neighbourhood forum meeting. It was agreed at the NHW meeting that the campaign would be non political. There’s a lot more but I won’t bore you with it. I just hope the electorate are not fooled by this lavish publication. Their leaflets have lost the flair of Martyn’s contributions and I feel they are now a spent force in Sandwell. I have now decided the one party I will not be voting for. We do need someone who can make a difference but it aint the Liberals on this performance. I’m awarding them a banana skin. My postal vote came today, so I suppose I better get around to making up my mind.
Liberals 0
Tories 1
Labour 2
Greens -1
Because of the 10p row the Guesstimometer is giving the Liberals a 90 vote lead.

23/4/2008 7days to go.
Before making up my mind to vote I went to watch the debate at the last meeting for this term of our local council. We have a couple of world class athletes from West Brom who have just completed 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents. This massive feat is big enough but when you consider one of them is blind, it puts in into perspective. These guys were present at the meeting and were awarded medals. The meeting was a good natured affair unlike last time. Typical end of term stuff but interesting. Our two Lib dem councillors were present this time, the first public appearance this year. Our new Labour councillor made his maiden speech, a nervous affair thanking a retiring councillor for her help. Never the less well done. The decision went something like this:- Liberals, disappointing performance over the last 6 years and what I believe to be some dodgy claims in their leaflets, Greens? doesn’t live in the ward, Tories, looking at that lot would I trust them to run Sandwell? No, that leaves the Welsh wizard and his Labour gnomes. Not much of a choice but I know I’m voting for the best person for our ward.
The Tories delivered their leaflet today, a very posh affair, they’ve been reading the blog. I was surprised to see that the NHS is now their No1 priority. Strange that because it was them who almost put it into terminal decline. It was a little late because we postal voters already have our voting papers and mine was completed ready to post before their leaflet arrived. It would not have made any difference if it had arrived earlier. I’ll award them a bonus point though for a good try.
Liberals 0
Tories 2
Labour 2
Greens -1

24/4/2008 6days to go
Is Frank Field MP the last socialist?
I feel for all the Labour candidates up and down the country and in particular ours in Newton. With a humiliating about turn on the 10p tax issue and the climb-down not being done with good grace it’s no wonder there is a massive anti Labour movement at the moment. It’s a case of too little too late to save the day for Labour. Even after the climb down they are still only half promising to do something. Our MP it was alleged was one of the Curry House conspirators who hatched the plot to get rid of Tone I think it’s about time he got his mates together for another curry. Frank Field for PM I say. I was with a group of local older people yesterday and enquired about their voting intentions. That was not a good idea! I got the “I always vote Liberal” factions, the they’re all as bad as one another group, the rest seemed to say in much the same way and I report without the expletives: - Brown is a waste of space, government inflation figures are a con and we won’t ever vote labour again or words to that effect. So it as to be another banana skin for Labour.
Liberals 0
Tories 2
Labour 1
Greens -1
The guesstimometer is giving the Liberals a 230 vote win with labour and Tories neck & neck.

25/4/2008 5 days to go
Things are starting to hot up around here. Local freebie newspaper had a good piece “The parties fighting for your vote” with comments from political parties. I guess the party leaders must have been asked for a quote. The Greens banging on about performance certificates for council building and entrance fees to The pUBLIC. Not inspiring stuff and not really local, got to be a banana skin and because they now have two skins and have done nothing locally again, I’m disqualifying them. Labour, typical borough wide stuff with little relevance to our ward. Very disappointing, a banana skin. Liberals great piece all good local stuff, it’s a pity they haven’t been practising what they claim for the last thirty years but they are winning the press battle this weekend. A bonus point here then. Tories in Sandwell were not mentioned so I have to award a banana skin for not participating.
Liberals 1
Tories 1
Labour 0
Greens D

28/4/2008 2days to go
In my entry for 25/4/2008 I referred to the Sandwell Tories not being mentioned in a local newspaper article. I got a call this morning from their candidate who pointed out that they in fact were mentioned. My thanks to Val for pointing out my error. I will of course give you your bonus point back and another for spotting my error and pointing it out to me. Having now read the rest of the article I still think the Liberals won the day locally. So well done Tories, and its 2 bonus points, which according to my sums put you well in front in my little game. The guesstimometer is giving the Liberals a 90 vote lead but looking at the opinion polls this week end Labour might finish a poor third this time in Newton. The Labour candidate also queried my maths. I have had a look at the sums and I can’t see the error but I’m going to give them a bonus point for sheer hard work in the ward. Sorry Shirley but with the Pensions Pirate running things in the way he is you are bound to be at a disadvantage.
Liberals 1
Tories 3
Labour 1

29/4/2008 1 day to go
I was looking over the campaign material published by all the parties. Assuming I have received all the material (I say this because some of the Labour stuff has been very targeted) Labour to date are winning the local campaign with some very innovative stuff. Their leaflets have been sharper and to the point. Pushing brand Hosell above Labour, which locally is exactly what is required. If by chance any of my readers are aware of any other strategically distributed literature I would appreciate them letting me know. I think this idea of Labour’s of telling an area of approx 250 homes what they are doing in their back yard so to speak is excellent stuff. We had our mini leaflet today and what a nice piece of work it is. Takes up the distraction burglary initiative that NHW have been pushing and talks about the problems we have with a grassed area at the top of our road. Well produced leaflet not asking for our votes and not knocking any of the other parties. I think they should after the mauling they had in the Liberal leaflet. Labour seem to be on top of the local stuff, so well done again, to team Hosell and another bonus point.
Liberals 1
Tories 3
Labour 2

30/4/2008 last day of campaigning
Oh dear oh dear have Labour put the skids under the Liberals?
In what can only be described as inspired electioneering the labour team have put out another of their local leaflets. This time the leaflet targeted the area close to the home of our Liberal councillors and points out to the residents, problems concerning an old sub station with litter and drug paraphernalia and literally yards of dangerous footpath. It points out the proximity to the Liberals residence and asks the questions why have they let these problems arise and why are they not doing something about them. I’d also like to know. Well done again team Hosell. Who is writing their copy? With their problems with Grumpy Gordon you have to admire the way they are fighting back. It’s got to be another bonus point. Which according to my maths puts Labour and the Tories neck and neck but I’m giving Labour the advantage because of their far superior campaign. Liberals are not so popular here these days and with the Tories gaining ground the guesstimometer is now showing a small lead for Labour if this is true Labour will squeeze in with an even smaller majority than last time. Any chance of an invite to the count? Anybody?
Liberals 1
Tories 3
Labour 4

1/5/2008 polling day.
Its all over bar the voting. My guesstimometer is still giving Labour the tiniest of wins with the Tories in third place. Good luck to all the candidates today.
Its now time for my much coveted awards for the campaign
Most Amateurish Award goes to Lib Dems for their hand written letter asking for my help.
Biggest bore award goes to Lib Dems for their A3 colour leaflet.
Poshest poster award goes to Labour for their election address.
Worst Poster award also goes to Liberals for their A3 effort which spent to much time slagging off Labour.
Best through the letter box award goes to Labour for their A5 four pager which was extremely well put together.
Biggest turn off award goes to the Tories again for their full colour effort which again spent to much space criticising and not enough on policies.
Most innovative award goes to Labour for their local leaflets targeting around 250 homes.
I make Labour the overall winners of Bonus and Banana skins 2 so well done team Hosell. I just wonder if any of this will make the slightest difference to what is going on in our ward. I will try to monitor the progress of our councillors and report on this blog their successes and failures.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Pensioners are revolting?

On Saturday I went on a protest march and rally organised by the National Pensioners Convention. Their aims are much as mine to improve the pay and conditions of our pensioner population. I suppose we had about 300 but it was a miserable afternoon. Local TV news and some of the local papers were present. It will be interesting to see how it is reported. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Act of Parliament that set up the state pension. I couldn’t help but think although we have moved on a long way the same struggle exists with the government to get a living wage for all pensioners and how futile our protest sometimes appear. Nobody is listening. So I came up with a spoof scenario for the prime ministers office on Monday morning.

So here it is folks!

Good Morning Gordon a playlet


Picture the scene 7am Downing St. The PM is sitting at his desk reading the papers and drinking coffee. His political adviser (PA) comes in.
PA, "good morning Gordon"
PM, "huh"
PA, undaunted, "did you know that there was a pensioner’s protest march in Birmingham at the weekend?"
PM, "what’s that got to do with me?" He starts to scratch his crutch.
PA, "well they are complaining that your policies are seriously affecting the value of their pensions and many pensioners are still living in poverty"
PM, picking his nose, "don’t be daft I introduced that lovely means tested benefit to get them out of it"
PA, scratching his head, "yes but with inflation running at 10% oops sorry 2.5 % the value as been eroded and they all hate it and many thousands haven’t applied because the form is so complicated and they don't trust you since you pinched the 200 quid you gave em at the last election"
PM, "we must be saving millions then, how many were on the march?"
PA, "about 300 I think but it peeded down with rain so I guess that kept the numbers down.
PM, good, that would have kept them quiet"
PA, "it didn’t actually Gordon it was a noisy good natured march followed by a protest meeting"
PM, "honestly I don’t know what these people expect! They’ve all got bus passes that was down to me. I really milked that one. They got a quid a week on fuel bills and a below inflation increase on their pensions. What more do they want? We aren’t made of money. They should have saved for their pensions like what I do" (sorry Ernie)
PA, "thousands of them did but you plundered their funds and caused many of the manufacturing schemes to go under"
PM, biting his nails. "I know but I introduced the PPF and FAS, nobody could have done more"
PA, sensing he might be getting a little nervous. "The PPF only gives cover at a fixed amount no inflation increases and the FAS was only 90% of what was lost"
PM, getting a little irritated. "We can’t afford any more I’ve got two banks to bail out and two lovely wars to support. What do you think this is a socialist bloody government?"
PA, wishing he hadn’t started this conversation but very much on the side of pensioners (this is a saga ) "We could actually afford it Gordon we have a massive surplus on the National Insurance account"
PM expiring loudly, "so what I’m not going to spend that on pensions we might need it for another war and anyway that’s not public knowledge, is it?"
PA, sensing he is loosing makes an excuse to leave, "I better go now I’ve got a deputation from the unions" but reminds the PM that he has an election next year and pretty much all pensioners vote.
PM, "that’s OK we’ll give the 200 quid back next year that’ll do it. On your way out send in my diary secretary and the foreign sec I’d like to meet that lovely Mrs Sarkozy again and send for Tom Watson he’s been trying to claim all the credit for the Bevin Boys Badges in his local paper and he only mentioned me twice. And I’m going to be shouted at again at lunch time by that nasty Cameron bloke"
PA, raising his eyebrows and with a deep sigh, "good morning Gordon"

Friday, 28 March 2008

This takes the biscuit

When my eldest granddaughter was seven she greeted me one evening with a big smile followed by a hug and kiss. She then went into the kitchen and produced a plate with a large slice of fruitcake. On offering me the delicacy she pronounced proudly she had made it “all by herself”. Because no one else was offered such a treat, I was a little suspicious and intrigued to know why just me. “Well granddad” she explained “no one else will eat it”.
Isn’t it nice to be wanted?

Bureaucracy wins again, or did it?

Last night was the final meeting for this term of West Brom Town Committee. After the local elections a new committee is formed. We said goodbye to a well respected chair and local councillor. Our two Lib Dem “a strong voice on the council” councillors were absent again. I made it known publicly that they had missed the last meeting and the full council meeting and that the people of Newton deserved better. Our new Labour councillor though filled the gap very adequately, strongly supporting a petition he had personally spoke to all of the petitioners and coming out strongly in support of a pensioner who was having difficulties with anti social behaviour. This bloke might even persuade me to vote Labour on May1st. The meeting was again packed but not so many pensioners. The bad news is they have not yet got their bus back and it does not look like this is going to happen. All the quangos have been consulted; the council lead on transport came to tell us but sorry folks no bus. The good news if that is what it is, is that a limited service from Ring and Ride is being introduced and Community Transport are being consulted about possibly introducing a mini bus service. Neither of these options is satisfactory. Community transport usually charge for their services so our bus passes might not be valid. The battle continues. In typical Tory fashion the leader of the Tories was asked to re park his Jag which was blocking access to a resident’s property. My wife raised a question about charges for Sandwell residents to our new art centre which is due to open at the end of June or is it July or August or ?? I was surprised that she got what amounted to be agreement on her question but I think their idea of affordable prices is far different to hers.
A pensioner who had made many complaints to the committee over the last two years raised the issue of anti social behaviour near his home. He got the biggest fob off from a council official who claimed the police had given him a report and it was not ASB and that this should be the end of this issue. The official would have got away with this answer until our labour councillor stepped in to support the resident. I had to point out that the police who are supposed to attend these meeting had been absent from the last two and therefore their report could not be challenged. The Council lead on ASB gave him some advice which basically meant he had to continue reporting these incidents until it was recognised it was a “hot spot” then action would be taken. This upset the resident because he has been making these complaints for the past two years. I don’t think the ASB Hotline in Sandwell is working well. Unfortunately I had to leave at this point as did a lot of the petitioners. The committee is an exercise in local democracy but if we are to get real results more members of the public need to see the short comings of their representatives and how much hard work others put in. So a big thank you to those members who do try to make it work and a big raspberry to those councillors who don’t.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Thank you Spot Zoe and Rover.

I must be going soft in the head because here I am writing to the dogs again and in verse. But let me explain. Since I put the poster on the front of my garden asking the dogs to stop messing up my drive we have not had one incidence of doggy poop (see comment doggy poopIII 7th Feb 2008) I think this deserves a word of thanks to the dogs and their owners. I have come up with another poster. My earlier one is likely to be used in other parts of Sandwell where they have similar problems. Can anyone who spots one please let me know. I need the copyright payments.

West Brom buses go right to the top.

Our local evening paper at one time would not go to press without a story or picture of our local MP. Well that’s how I visualised it because he was certainly featured very regularly. Yesterday we had a report on the ever increasing rate of inflation which the government insist is only 2.5 % but we all know is probably 4 times that and especially if you are a pensioner. Tucked away though on page 20 was a small piece about our MP promising to take the concerns about buses being withdrawn in his constituency “right to the top” All very interesting but the story is about two months out of date because it is the same story I reported on in my blog on 1st Feb “Pensioner power! I luv it” He should read my blog a lot more to find out what is happening on his patch. This Thursday sees the next town committee meeting where I expect the matter will be aired again especially if the pensioners have not got their bus back. oh yes it will!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008


Eldest granddaughter when we took her home one evening to find Mum and Dad out. We had a key but no one knew the alarm number. Its OK she said they never put it on. But if they don’t put on the alarm how will we stop burglars from getting in. That’s easy she said they don’t have a key. She was only five at the time. She is now a clever dick teenager who tries to tell me what to do. I’m going to get into trouble over this post, I just know it. Thank you Freddy have a nice day.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The Tories intouch? Oh no they're not

Not in Newton anyway. We finally had the thank you leaflet from the Tories. I suppose it is better late than never but I have to say it is very disappointing. It’s pretty clear now that the election campaign is going to be the battle of the couples. Val & Tony for the Tories, Joyce & Tony for the Lib Dems, Dave & Shirley for Labour and perhaps Donald & Daisy for the Greens. All the declared candidates so far live in the ward and they are all women; I wonder what the significance of that is?
I’m not going to comment much on the Tory leaflet because it is so poor and does not really address any of the real problems we face here. They have not been following the blog. One interesting statistic from their leaflet was that the BNP polled more votes in Sandwell at the last local election than the Liberals. If the Tories are going to make progress on May1st they will have to do better than this. In terms of Bonus & Banana Skins bonus points they mentioned two of my top ten, council tax and street cleaning, so I suppose I will have to award a couple of points. The Liberals never mentioned any of the top ten major concerns. Are they living in this ward?
It will be a strange contest this time and more difficult to judge the result than in January. We clearly have an outstanding candidate in Shirley Hosell but she represents Labour and I believe that with Gordon Brown as leader, his continuing bundling, inflation and the affects of the budget they will get punished this time.
Dave & Shirley have to some degree, wisely distanced themselves from Labour and are trying to sell the Hosell brand, which is currently held in high regard locally. Ward and Underhill brands are in decline but because of the long standing nature of Liberal loyalty in this ward and the shock defeat last time they will be working hard to keep this seat. Without having enough data yet to run my guestimometer I predict a Liberal win but its going to be close.
In respect to how I am likely to vote? It’s likely to be none of the above but there’s a long way to go yet. Labour has so failed my generation but the others locally have been a big disappointment. I wonder if a well known local Independent candidate might do well?

for lola

A few years back we were in America for thanks giving. Our granddaughter who was in second grade at the time had been learning about the Pilgrim Fathers. One evening at dinner she was in thoughtful mood and asked her Mum, Mum you came from England, right? Sure did honey her Mum replied. Were you one of the Pilgrims, my granddaughter asked? We all collapsed with laughter. I can’t remember who explained the time difference.
Thank you Lola, carry on doing what you are doing.
Lotsaluv grd

Friday, 21 March 2008


It’s always a pleasure having my eldest grandson in the car with me. He is an 11yrs old chatterbox with a splendid grasp of the English language and a wide vocabulary. Last night we were stuck in traffic and happily chatting away. Somehow the subject of categories of kids at school came up. He said something like you know granddad there are four types of kids at our school. The popular kids, the ones who think they are popular but not, the nerds, the ones we all hate and the kissups. I had never heard this expression before and turning towards him I asked. What are kissups? He gave me the raised eyebrows, don’t you know anything look then explained they are the kids who suck up to the teacher by doing extra homework to get in the teachers good book. We never did establish which group he felt he was in. I think we have a bit of a rebel. Thank you Hippy and keep up the good work.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Special relationship.

With news yesterday that today is the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war 2 I got to thinking of some of the issues affecting us. Not the political hullabaloo but the personal stuff. With family in the USA we have a very special relationship across the pond. I was reminded of the events of 7th of 7th when very late in the evening our telephone rang. That late at night for us usually means trouble but this time it was our six years old grandson. I did not know he was capable of using the telephone on his own let alone call us. He said, I heard something really bad happened in your country today are you and Nana alright? You can’t hug someone who is 3 thousand miles away but I sure wanted to hug him. Both his Nan & I were in tears. Thank you Oscar for being so thoughtful. I later phone his Mum only to discover she did not know he had called us and neither she nor his dad had coached him to do it.
I know I have three other grandkids and no I have not forgotten you I’m so proud of all of you and will unless Nana stops me be giving little write ups on you all.
Lotsaluv grd

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

I’m new to this blogging stuff

I did a bit of a review of my recent posts and I seem to have been banging on a bit about our local councillors. If you get the idea that I’m a little disappointed with them you would be right. However today I promise not to mention politics again. It’s been a lovely day and having got out the mower for the first time at the weekend the garden is starting to look cared for again. My neighbours and I did the front area which now looks well cared for. I have a nice feeling of satisfaction whenever I walk towards our house and see the grass properly cut, the bushes pruned and a few daffs starting to flower. The crocuses my neighbour planted around our Oak are starting to fade but we all enjoyed about a month of their beauty. We still get the occasional dropped bottle or chip paper but on the whole very little litter. I have a view that there is a direct correlation between areas plagued by litter and crime. It’s not the only reason but there is a clear link. The biggest litter makers in our road are the green bin collectors who seem to make a habit of leaving tin lids and paper strewn across the road. Generally though our bit of Newton is a pleasant place to live. Spring is just around the corner, the birds are starting to build their nests and the light nights are upon on us. Have a nice day. Blimey I'm getting soft.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008


A busy duel carriage forms one of the borders of our ward. This road has seen some serious accidents over the years. In the past few weeks there were two bad accidents at the junction with another major road which runs through our ward. Recently I have been at two meetings where councillors have been present that safety on this road has been raised. One meeting a group wants to start a petition to get improvements to the junction. Our councillors did what I have now come to expect: said, it should not be a political issue, we’ll help with the wording of your petition but sorry we can’t help. At the second meeting I overheard two councillors discussing the issue. I don’t want to report what I think was said but they think that whatever we do we will not change the minds of our highways dept. Traffic lights have been discussed but it was said that speeds on the down hill section of the duel carriageway approaching the junction would make having lights more dangerous. During recent gas main works lights were placed at this junction with no accidents occurring. Once again I feel that this is an issue that needs leadership that we are not getting. It is no wonder that the electorate is complacent when we see this happening and feel helpless to do anything about it. Do we have to wait until the slaughter on this road becomes an issue before someone does something about it? In the meantime I will be supporting the good folks to organise their petition and let’s hope we get improvements before anyone else is killed.
Since I started to take an interest in local politics and since I started this blog I have been asking myself more and more why we need councillors. We have three per ward and as far as I can see there’s only one job. There was talk awhile back that the number would be reduced to one super councillor per ward. Perhaps if it became a full time job and was paid properly we might get better results. This is disappointed of Newton ward returning you to the information super highway. I’m sure we will be hearing a lot more on this issue.

Monday, 17 March 2008

I’m flattered.

My Mum used to tell me that imitation was a form of flattery. Well I’m flattered. The Lib Dems put out their first leaflet of the campaign, Focus 270, which used has its lead story a feature I had used on the Neighbourhood Watch Association Newsletter which I edited on their behalf back in December. This newsletter goes out to about a third of the homes in Newton who are associated with NHW groups. Although I say so myself our newsletter gave a lot more advice on what to look for and how to avoid the kind of criminal activity mentioned in Focus. I think the Councillor is looking for the sympathy vote. Apart from this I can see little inspiring about the leaflet which must be the first of the campaign. Bonus and banana skins will begin at the end of March but I will give a bonus point to them for getting in first. I need to change the rules a bit this time round to include what I published as my top ten. For every candidate who mentions a top ten feature I’ll give a bonus point if more than one top ten is featured in a single leaflet I’ll give an extra point for each one and a another bonus point. The rules on banana skins stay the same. Just to remind our candidates here they are:-
The Top ten
10) Gongs
9) Adult Education & Culture
8) Parks & Green Spaces
7) Older people & Welfare Services
6) Planning & Affordable Housing
5) Education
4) Health Care
3) Litter, Dog Mess & Ground Care
2) Council Tax
1) Commitment
I’m struggling with Focus, nothing about any of the top ten so no extra bonus points here then. I hope the others can do better or this is going to be a boring campaign. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday, 16 March 2008

I don’t see the bigger picture.

Oh yes I do.
I was talking a few days ago to one of our leading opposition politicians who had obviously been reading the blog. He was referring to my post “Ignorant git” He claimed that it was all opposition tactics to upset Labour to making mistakes. I explained that from where I was sitting in the public gallery it looked anything but. After awhile he explained the deputy leader would have to make a public apology and it was all part of a plan and I could not see the bigger picture. From where I was sitting the picture was big enough and clear. Our controlling labour group were arrogant and our opposition were weak and ineffectual. A senior labour member has commented on this blog about their behaviour. I would be very happy to give the opposition has many column inches to put their case. Two of my own councillors were missing from the meeting so I don’t ever expect any input from them but I will be covering that nearer the local elections.

Friday, 14 March 2008

For d cyba kids

Hi Lola hope the picture tells the story. I would have loved to have published your comments but you gave just a little bit too much personal info. Remember we said use nicknames and such. Because you are such a long way away and Freddy and Hippy are just around the corner we know a lot more of their day to day lives than we do yours and you must admit they were special events I reported on. I know you had some great news this last weekend but I have not got the full details yet. You could have emailed me the results etc. How are Oscar and the animals? Let’s have a longer than usual chat this weekend. Dad is working on getting the textings sorted. Perhaps we could get the web cam set up again? Wadayathink? Lotsaluv grd
Nan is going to email you, that’s a bit scary eh?


That’s all that pensioners are worth under this government. Gordon Brown set the scene for how he was going to treat the older generation with his first budget and the famous 75p pence pension increase. In his latest budget (oops sorry hapless Alistair’s first budget) he takes inflation into account and makes the fuel payment increase up to nearly a quid a week. Yippee! But here’s the best bit it’s a one off payment. With his record (remember the £200 council tax payment) that’s what he means, gone next year. I’ll go and put on another jumper get a cup a tea and that about covers the increase. To add to the humiliation we hear that pensioners who are to get back pay under the financial assistance scheme are going to be taxed in one year for what amounts to five years back pay and then its only 90% of what should be paid. Bah Humbug he’s the biggest Scrooge since Scrooge.
I could rant on a lot more about this but I got ticked off by my youngest granddaughter about my last proud granddad bit and have to address this.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

And a new arrival at No1

My earlier posts on this subject were about policy this is about the person. I have deliberately brought it in as No1 because in my opinion it does not really matter what party they belong to unless their policies are extreme left or right wing. There is little to choose between the parties these days and if like me you vote on local issues at a local election, the candidate and what they stand for is the real issue.
I firmly believe that councillors should live in the ward they represent because unless they do they can never really be committed. I don’t want to see a political party trying to sell us a candidate from outside our ward on a slim prefix that they are championing issues in our ward. I want to see candidates who organise neighbourhood watch schemes, are leaders on tenants and residents groups, school governors in our ward and organise cultural and social events in the ward. They should be alongside residents when the council or a developer dumps on us. I don’t want to go to another residents meeting and listen to a load of excuses as to why they can’t be involved with a problem. I want to see them showing some real leadership.
So will Wonder Women or Captain Marvel please stand up. Shazam. Sorry but you need to be in my age group to understand the last bit.
I think I just about covered everything with my top 10. I deliberately missed off ASB and policing but if there is anything our candidates would like to add I'll be pleased to accommodate them.

No 2 controversial issue but must be tackled

Council tax.
This tax in my opinion is unsustainable. It has to be one of the most unfair taxes ever invented and almost as bad as the poll tax it replaced. It is particularly unfair to pensioners and those on fixed incomes. Since Labour came to power council tax has more than doubled with no improvements to the services we are getting. Our council was buoyant in claiming our increase of 2.9% was lowest in West Mids but they had a few days earlier increased charges for meals on wheels by 30%. Our opposition parties never effectively spoke out against the budget and when it came to the vote none of them voted against it. Liberal Democrats have the right idea with a local income tax. With the current atmosphere of political parties pinching each others ideas, how about it Alistair! Pinch this one. We are seeing inflation running at its highest level for 15yrs. Pension increases are based on last years inflation numbers. Petrol, fuel, and food prices are going through the roof. Sandwell residents and particularly pensioners are in effect getting poorer. What are we doing about it? It is time for a change. In Sandwell I think we should be campaigning for an elected Mayor who should be paid by results. Part of his/her brief should be to radically reorganise Sandwell from top to bottom with a brief to reduce council tax year on year without falling standards. It could be done with some lateral thinking. Labour partly has it right in planning longer term budgets but they all lack the will to radically improve things. It is not a bad idea to have the chief of police elected along with other senior officials. It works well in local government in the states, why not here?

Monday, 10 March 2008

No 3 is an old faithful

Litter, dog mess and ground care.
I’ve included these as one post because they are all issues that crop up regularly at residents meeting. I will however deal with them one at a time.
We have perhaps only three litter grot spots in our ward. We know where they are and the problem is perennial. Clean it up one day a few days later it’s back. I took the above photo a couple of days ago at one of the grot spots. This has been the subject of many a leaflet over the years but sadly it’s still there. The council have spent a lot of money fitting new handrails and safety barrier along the path and a new path has been constructed but as you can see the line of sight path which most users take is un-kept and dangerous. The litter is a disgrace. It is not rocket science to fix this problem once and for all. I’ll give you a few clues: repair the path, clean up the mess, site a litter bin on the grass, advertise that the wardens will be patrolling the site, catch a few offenders, name and shame with on the spot fines and monitor the site more frequently. Put pictures of the offenders on a notice board at the site. Some creative planting on the embankment would also make this site a lot more cheerful.

Dog mess,
My notice to the dogs works very well Newton dogs can read. Well done Spot, Zoe, Fred and Rover. Whuff whuff. I want to campaign to change the by-laws so that it becomes an offence to be walking a dog without means of cleaning up its mess. This would make it easier for the wardens to prove the offence as they would not have to catch the animal in mid poop.

Ground care,
Our verges and grassed areas when cut are never done regularly or very well. The work on gas mains as also left some of these sites in a shabby condition. Some of us cut the grass ourselves and plant flowers and scrubs and generally maintain the area. Many front gardens are well maintained and a joy to see during the summer months. Could we campaign for a series of awards similar to Britain in Bloom to encourage those people who do look after the areas in front of their homes and those whose gardens are well maintained? So come on lets have the Newton Pride in your Neighbourhoods Awards NPNA. Let’s really try this time to make Newton a better place to live. You know it makes sense. I don’t want to see pictures of a candidate with arms folded at a litter grot spot claiming “more needs to be done” We know that! Please do it.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

At No 4 welcome back to an issue that has been missing for a long time.

Health care.
Sandwell PCT has recognised publicly that we need a Clinic in Newton or Great Barr with a satellite facility in the other ward. Although they have said this and given a written commitment to start in March 2009 the project has slipped to an unknown now start date. This slippage occurred without consultation with local residents and only became public by concerned residents pressing to know where the site was going to be. In Newton we have lost a doctor’s surgery and despite the PCT giving a commitment to replace this doctor, it is now not going to happen. Martyn Smith was a dedicated councillor who always monitored closely what was happening on the health agenda and published in Focus his concerns or plans where appropriate. A new hospital is being built in Smethwick which was opposed by many people in our ward. The plan was to have local clinics established and community hospitals in place before moves to the new acute hospital. Recent neighbourhood meetings have expressed concerns over the delay to our clinic. The only local councillor that I know who has supported this and the doctor campaign was Dave Hosell, as far as I know the others have ignored it. This is another example of where our community needs strong leadership. We need to see our candidates campaigning strongly to get the local project back on track, to raise the profile of our lost doctor and to make sure the community hospital and acute hospitals are built on time and our community has a strong voice in the project throughout. We need regular independent updates on the projects. These are the most important health care developments in over 60yrs our local politicians need to be seen fighting the Newton corner. Newton needs to be flexing it’s muscles because unless we do we are going to be moved to the back of the health provision queue. One of the criteria used when making these decisions is public opinion. So let’s hear it for NEWTON.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Still in the top group but slipping slightly at No5

We were told during the last campaign that more money than ever is being spent on our schools. Our kids deserve the best and I want to hear our candidates shouting this over the roof tops and seen to be working to get just that. Dartmouth Academy when completed should help to raise the opportunities for our kids but what happens during the time that it is being built and have we enough safeguards built into the agreement to run the school? If candidates are school governors then they should advertise it with their record on education. Our kids will earn their livings in a knowledge society and therefore must be well equipped to deal with this. Tony Blair was right when he said Education Education Education. The candidates’ commitment to this topic should be a major factor in May. I would like to see candidates campaigning to support our schools such that our schools are in the top 200 nationally over the next three years.

Friday, 7 March 2008

An old faithful that manages to stay in the top ten at No 6 this time.

Planning and Affordable Housing.
There are at least two partly constructed buildings in the ward that have been either built too high, in the wrong place or not to plan in some way. It appears that once built there is little we as residents can do to get them changed. In Waddington Ave they have a fighting fund to challenge the developers. Its time we campaigned to get the law changed so that decisions like this can be challenged without the council being faced with a massive legal bill which in effect means they will not challenge them. Residents also need guidance on how to go about these challenges and real leadership from our councillors on these issues. The law needs to change to give residents back the right to have these developments knocked down if they are not built to plan and planning applications should reflect more on the views of the residents that these developments affect.
The old miners’ maisonettes on the Durham Estate are coming down but the site is a miserable outlook for the residents still living there. Could a candidate who has been involved with this project give an update on progress and an indication when re building will start? Although many Sandwell homes properties are being upgraded many people in our ward still do not have double glazing. We need to be campaigning to speed this up and to try to develop schemes so that older owner occupiers can keep their properties up to date without being ripped off by dodgy equity release schemes. If we are not careful Newton will become the apartment’s capital of Sandwell. There are no developments in our ward for older people and there must be if the area is to remain viable for them to continue to live here.
We have to face up to the fact that the council has little interest in our ward except to do the minimum it is required to collect our council tax to invest in other labour stronghold wards. I would like to see our candidates recognising this and actively campaigning for A BETTER DEAL FOR NEWTON. IT IS LONG OVERDUE.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

The proud granddad a bit more

I have two pieces of good news. Firstly happy birthday Freddy a teenager today. We are all very proud of what you have achieved so far. With the education you are getting and the way you apply yourself you can be anything you want to be. Prime Minister, Brain Surgeon, Barrister, first woman on Mars. You have the ability to do it. See ya lata for the party and is that right Dad is paying?
Second to Hippy many many congrats on following your sister to grammar school and well done son. I can see you at the Royal Albert Hall. But stay happy. You are both wonderful kids and we love you to bits but you know that. Se ya lata
Lol grd

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Ignorant git

I need to leave the leaflet top ten themes for a couple of days because of events which are not outside my control that I want to address.
Last night I went to a council meeting and sat in the public gallery listening to the debate. It’s been a long time since I attended one of these. The debate was to accept the budget for this year. Our new councillor for Newton proudly took his seat for the first time. I was surprised by the number of opposition members who were absent, I counted eleven. I suppose many of them are up for election and don’t expect to be re elected. Our two Lib Dem councillors who claim to be a strong voice on the council were missing. This is the second major meeting they have missed recently.
On a point of order one councillor it was alleged had come for dinner signed the register and then left. Not a good start but it got worse. The Mayor who I know and greatly respect is quietly spoken and mumbled so that he could not be heard in the public gallery. During the debate when the opposition were talking the labour benches continuously and noisily interrupted. When the opposition did the same “on a point of order” the deputy leader objected. The council leader made it clear that with their massive majority they could do more or less what they pleased because they had a mandate to do it. I don’t know what orbit the council are in but it is a different one to the planet Sandwell that I live on. The deputy leader made his case for 2.9% increase in council tax but the opposition never tabled an alternative budget or voted against it. I think it is sad that Conservative Central Office could not assist with such a vital document. It left the debate flat and our opposition parties looking as they are: ineffectual. The debate ended for me when the deputy leader called the Tory leader that ignorant git opposite. The mayor never challenged this or asked him to apologise and the Tory leader although he complained, meekly accepted it. Labour lost the debate for me at this point and I left shortly afterwards.
Verdict: very disappointing, must do better. I think I’m going to attend a lot more of these over the coming months and report on the blog the antics.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

In for the first time at No 7

Older people and welfare services.
At the last election only the Tories bothered to mention the needs of our older residents and then only fleetingly. When I challenged them they dropped the issue. We oldies are a minority group in that we are only about 25% of the electorate but we do vote regularly and hence are a much bigger electoral group. Ignore us at your peril. Over the last few years we have seen some pretty mean acts carried out by officialdom. I am referring to the introduction of car parking charges for blue badge holders at Sandwell’s hospitals. To the changes that took place to improve the meals on wheels service and to the recent decision to increase these charges by 30% and the concerns there are about the future of luncheon clubs at Tanhouse Centre. None of our councillors or candidates have as far as I know spoken out publicly against any of these measures. Well it’s about time you did. A couple of years ago there was an initiative to increase welfare payments in the ward so that people who were entitled to them got advise on how to get them. This scheme was for a small area only but very successful. I would like to see our candidates campaigning for another scheme that covered the whole ward for families and pensioners whether in Sandwell Homes properties or owner occupiers. The housing office was closed down in Tanhouse and moved to Stone Cross so that it made life more difficult for older people to get advice. It strikes me these changes are made to save money without any consideration of the effects they are having on our community. We need some strong leadership on the council to fight for Newton. Lets hear it. Liberals have been claiming to be a strong voice but if they are then no one has been listening. We used to have a handy man and garden help scheme for older owner occupiers lets campaign to bring it back. You’re all going to be old one day. You know it makes sense.

Monday, 3 March 2008

A big riser this time to number 8

Parks and Green spaces.
In Newton we only have one green space of mention that is Gorse Farm Wood. We do however have two major green spaces that touch our borders: Sandwell Valley and Red House Park. Both are to some degree at risk. I want to see our candidates campaigning hard to support the friends of Gorse Farm and Red House Park. Each of these green spaces has different issues that threaten their existence. The most urgent I think is Red House Park. The friends need help. We have to accept I think that the battle for the house is lost but it will be a brave politician to come out and say this. We should now be drawing the line in the sand with Sandwell Council and organising to protect every inch of our park. First the friends need to get heritage status for the park and I would like to see our candidates coming out strongly in favour of supporting all aspects of the work of the friends. Leadership on this issue will be vital over the next couple of years. Our park really is at risk. We cannot believe anything that we have been told about its future. Its future really is in our hands. If the council think we don’t care I firmly believe we will loose it to the developers. Sandwell Valley is at risk from vandals in the summer, from developers who are chipping away at our ward one block at a time and from the council who have now suggested it might be a prime site for a wind farm. The residents of Newton will be damned if they complain about this and we will be damned if we don’t because we will have to put up with the extra noise and nuisance. So let’s start here “HANDS OFF SANDWELL VALLEY AND RED HOUSE PARK

Sunday, 2 March 2008

New in at number 9

Adult Education, and Culture.
Sandwell Council seem to me to have a perverse idea of what culture actually is and their attitude to further education leaves me thinking they are still in the dark ages. But let me explain. Recently, Sandwell Council’s Cultural Services Dept published a smart handbook called Culture & Leisure Services Access Guide. I suppose it does what is says on the tin, lists community centres, leisure centres libraries and museums. It must have cost a fortune. But there does not seem to be any policy to increase or improve cultural activities in Sandwell or support the few that there are. THE pUBLIC which we are told is opening shortly should have given us a splendid opportunity to do just that and become the centre for culture. We are now getting to understand what it is going to mean to West brom residents with £5 entrance fee and exorbitant room hire costs. I have always supported this project but not anymore. Do they think that only the well off are cultured? Sandwell residents have already contributed £15 million towards the cost of this, now they expect us to pay up again. I think not. So I will support any candidate if they want to have a swipe at this. In Newton we have no real cultural activities except for the occasional concert that is put on by a local group. I would like to see our council candidates actively helping to organise cultural activities and blatantly plugging them in their leaflets. It’s good for the community. Adult education in our ward is perhaps the real Cinderella with virtually no FE offered and if it is there is little choice. Even afternoon keep fit classes are being out priced for most local people. There are groups available but they are all outside of Newton. Newton is home to some very cultured and talented people and I want to see them recognised and catered for. Could our candidates start to campaign for more FE and cultural activities and mean it?
I thought I ought to mention swimming because GRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr we don’t have a pool and as far as I can see never will. Campaigning for a pool at Dartmouth is a vote winner but lets be honest do we have a snowballs chance in hell of getting it?.
In Sandwell we have a wonderful Library service which is empathetic and accommodating to the needs of all community users including older people. Let’s have some of this thinking applied to other cultural activities and campaign to improve the service. No sneaky changes that will add charges for the service to older residents which seems to be the way our council operates these days.
The headline might read Culture Culture Culture

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Local election leaflets No 1. “In at Number 10”

No No Not Downing Street! Don’t start getting excited. With the pensions pirate in Brum to rouse the party faithful for the coming local election this is a good time to start my series of posts and ideas for our local leaflets. Whatever GB says this week end is going to make little difference to us minions in Newton unless he announces doubling pensions and cancels council tax for the over sixty fives or some other “your off your trolley” scheme. So back to earth before they come to take me away.
I want to try to raise the quality of leaflets that are put through our letter boxes during local elections with some of the issues that are affecting us here in Newton and perhaps try to broaden the thinking of our local politicians in the way they canvass and for what they stand for. Some of my top ten will be predictable and some will be controversial and I hope new. They will not necessarily appear in strict priority order because that would be a subjective assessment on my part. I do not want to see candidates pictures with arms stuck in bottle banks or with their arms folded in front of a pile of litter claiming “more needs to be done” What I do want are positive well thought out campaigns that are relevant to our ward, without slagging of the others and with some fresh thinking.
So in at Number 10 is - “Gongs” I have lived in Newton for 45 years and I can’t ever remember a local resident being mentioned in the Queens Honours List. I can think of at least one person who should have been awarded an MBE or been made a Dame many years ago for her contribution to stroke sufferers. I blame the body politic for this and I would like to see all our candidates’ campaign publicly for more awards for the massive amount of community work that is done by volunteers young and old alike in our ward. We have some fantastic community champions who do not make a fuss but carry on week in week out. I realise that for a candidate to mention someone directly could be seen as a bribe but to campaign for more awards for Newton generally would be a good thing and might encourage more people to become involved with voluntary work. Email me for a list of possible recipients; we could have a bus to the palace. Now I’m back in cloud cuckoo land.

Footnote, the Tory candidate tells me they are going to put out another leaflet which I guess will be a joint thank you and launch of their campaign. I await with interest to read what they have to say.