Monday, 30 June 2008

What’s the difference?

Sorry another date whoopsy but the piece I think is thought provoking. I wonder if David Davies or Cameron would share this view?

Image A - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Image B

It’s a trick question. Both pictures are taken on the same estate about a quarter mile apart. Image A is a site being cleared for redevelopment. Note no litter and definitely no fly tipping. Image B is an old favourite of mine & councillor more needs to be done and the worst grot spot in our ward. I outlined in one of my earlier posts suggestions for what needed to be done and I did expect by now that some action other than regular clean ups would be taken. No clean ups have been necessary on site A.

The difference of course is this:-

A Dome Hawke camera is monitoring the site at Image A . Surveillance does work. Why can’t we have it at our grot spot along with some of the other measures I mentioned? Just cleaning up after our litter louts is not a solution. It’s not rocket science. Let’s have some high profile fines and name and shame em. When do we want this action? Why now of course, did you need to ask.

The numbers game

4/7/2008 last of the date whoopies I hope
When I had a propa job, month ends were always difficult as were quarter and year end results. We were chasing numbers, sales figures for the period, returns on capital employed, returns on sales; Key Performance Indicators KPIs the chase was unending. When you got the numbers right there always seemed some more to be concerned about. I dealt with this well in the main and managed to keep the numbers on the right side for our accountants, well most of the time. When I retired I sort of half expected not to have to worry so much about numbers. Then the world conspired against me. Now a days with stock markets being what they are pension investment numbers are all going in the wrong direction and there are two nasty blood numbers which keep going up and down like a yoyo but the general trend is the wrong direction. Problem is I personally can’t do anything about any of it. I’m in the hands of the doctors with the blood and market forces with the pension.
The good news though is that I am dealing well with my treatment and feeling stronger day by day. It will be a few days before I get the next set of blood numbers and the anxiety levels closer to the time more than match anything I faced when I was working. Failure in those days meant a bollocking at worst, failure now don’t bear thinking about.

A guest blogger today

Please ignore the posting dates for a few days I seem to have messed up with my editing. Normal service will be resumed towards the end of the week. (I hope)
You will have noticed on my “links I like” bar on the right of my blog a link to Poetry Wednesbury International. I am privileged today to have a contribution from one of their very talented poets. I call him the romantic geek! Sean Gould with his poem “You shaped hole”

There’s a you shaped hole
in the middle of my heart
Its been there since
we have been apart

I feel like
I’m stuck in a trap
and life is just
an empty gap

Nothing to occupy
my mind without you
and I know
there is nothing I can do

I need you here
to feed my soul
and help me fill
this you shaped hole

I hope more of the poets will allow me to publish their work. The poetry group is a lively intellectually diverse group who are not afraid to tackle any topic. I love the banter and humour at our meetings and the standard of poetry of all types is extremely high.

Liberals new image

Supporting the Friends of Red House Park

You saw it on my blog first folks.
Check out bonus and banana skins dated 2/1/2008 and scroll down to 20/1/2008.
I know what the Liberals are doing in my ward now, they are supporting the Friends of Red House Park or so the advertisement featuring the new logo in the program for the Party in Your Park event told me. I wonder though the wisdom of the Friends for allowing that kind of advertising. What did it cost to do that 50 quid? Not a bad investment. The Tory leader was judging the dog show and our Labour councillor was with me on the neighbourhood policing stand and with the crime prevention panel. I unfortunately did not feel up to staying to long but it was a lovely afternoon. Well done to the friends I hope you get your rose garden renovation.

across the pond

It’s always difficult when you have family on the other side of the world to share in their lives. Even with the best communications and best intentions it can’t be done. We always make a priority of communication with our American Grandkids and this has been increased because of my health problems. Birthdays and good news stuff is easy but when bad problems arise it becomes very difficult. This week USA granddaughter had a serious sports injury. Whisked off to the local ER she was operated on a couple of times to patch her up. Her brother is 5yrs younger than she and they have a typical big sis little brother relationship. Close but a lot of good natured rivalry and they take each other for granted. On arrival at ER the patient phoned her brother 8yrs old Oscar. After telling him she was OK she said “I love you” his reply was “I love you too” some hours later after the second surgical intervention when she was ready to be sent home she spoke to her brother again on the phone. At the end of the conversation she said “I love you” he replied with a frown on his face “I love you too” he then turned to his Dad in questioning mood and said that’s twice she’s said that to me today? Get well soon Lola, Cheer and USA athletics need you.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Dear Gordon 6

This week you have looked tired and very unhappy. Is the job too much for you? Sarah never looks happy these days either.
You have made some good policy statements in the last few days which ultimately might help. Problem is they are all too long term to be of benefit to folks like me.
I don’t think it’s fair to just complain about your leadership so I’m going to try to make some practical suggestions for how I think we might improve things.
This first one will seem a little controversial but think about it before sending it to the re-cycle bin.
Idea? If you read the technical press the motor industry has many products that are close to being introduced into production developments. Things like the engines that run on compressed air or hydrogen. The government should take the initiative and ban the production in and import into UK of all petrol and diesel engines for private cars and light vans above 1000cc by say 2015. The industry will scream and it will need help in changing over its production lines to cope but cope it will. A secondary measure would then have to include the change over of existing engines to alternative eco fuels, by say 2020. Electric vehicles should not be included until majority of electricity comes from renewable sources. While the electricity is produced by fossil fuels the efficiency of running our cars on electricity will be poor so why keep up the pretence?
The economic spin off for introducing a policy like this will be enormous. Land Rover are already recruiting engineers to make their products more acceptable why not do it on a national scale? Britain would again become the world leader in power train technology. We have the high tech manufacturing to make this happen what we don’t have is the right incentives. You could provide that incentive.
Idea? Introduce turning left at a red light when it is safe to do so. This idea works well in USA and would save millions in a year without compromising road safety.
It’s a year since you came to office. You will forgive me for not wishing you many happy returns but one really is enough.

Have a good week
Bob the Black Country Brummie

Friday, 27 June 2008

Petitions, Public Question Time and such

Last night was the first in this series of Town committee meetings. I usually think of Thursday evenings as quality time with my grandkids but because I had to go to the town committee I had to pick up the grandkids early. Hippy was asking me why we were in a hurry. I tried to explain by asking him what he thought a petition was. His answer was extremely accurate for one so young. When I asked him if he thought the authorities took any notice, he thought for a moment and said Nah. He’s a bigger cynic than his granddad.
The committee was a full house again with our councillors and the police being present. New chair and our new councillor as deputy chair. I presented our petitions on road safety on behalf of the Neighbour Hood Watch Association and I think it was warmly accepted. At public question time I asked the following question:-
" In Newton Ward this year we have had two local elections. Consequently we have received a lot of election leafleting. Some I thought was good, some claims a little doubtful and one I thought was an absolute whopper. In order to make the work of our local councillors more transparent can I ask that we have a report from them at the Town Committee meetings on what they have actually achieved?"
Judging by the comments from members of the public sitting close by this was considered to be a good question. The process now is for it to be forwarded to the council for a formal response. I think this will probably have to go to full council for a measured reply because of the wide ranging implications. I do not expect a quick response. I had to leave the meeting before the end but I received some information from a reliable source which needs clarification. I am advised that the leader of the Tories said that he would like to know what I had achieved and he would report if I did. Well Councillor will you confirm that that was what was said? If so I would point out that I am not an elected paid official of our council but I happy to match what you say if you will confirm your comment.
I can report that unlike him I did not go on National TV News besmirching my town to get cheap publicity and undermine the valiant efforts of those people who are trying to make our new cultural centre The pUBLIC work.
Some predictions:-
The petition, will get lost in council speak, they will claim that the road is safe and we should all go away and forget it.
Question, will largely be ignored on the grounds that they could not possibly submit to things like that because it may compromise their relative political postures.
The leader of the Tories will ignore my comments and carry on feeling smug about what he is doing.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Inflation what inflation?

I got to spend some time yesterday reflecting on the past and trying to plan ahead. I can hear myself saying “I remember when” but the sad thing is I do. In the past when inflation hit and hit hard I did what Norman Tebbitt said and got on my bike. I learned new skills went out into the market and played my part in earning the foreign currency that was necessary to keep our economy running. My family prospered and I never went on strike or even threatened to too get pay increases, they came because I had earned them and my employer rewarded me for the hard work I was putting in. It’s different now of course. Having done pretty much all we can in respect to energy saving features in our home we are at a loss to see what else there is for us to do to save money because that seems to be the only way forward for pensioners today. Pensioner inflation is now reckoned to be twice that of the official rate so I guess a lot of people are hurting more than us. There must however be ways of offsetting some of this. I can remember when at times in the past I wondered what to do there was always a way forward when you looked for it. Well I’m looking. I think its time for a joint effort from yours truly and my editor in chief to do a brain storm on this problem to see if we can come up with some ideas. Might be worth several posts if we come up with anything but your suggestions are most welcome.
My starter for 10. How about we shop every two weeks? EIC not impressed suggests I should get a job. Anybody looking for a computer literate oldie with web design and desktop publishing skills? Part time of course.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Neighbourhood news

I got a comment the other day from Gobby over at Black Country Gob. This site is dedicated to bringing together folks from the towns of the Black Country and ex pats, so for me it’s a good deal. One of my criticisms of our local councillors is that we have little community cohesion over here. By that I don’t mean the community is falling apart or we have a crisis but nobody is trying to get the various community groups to work together. Dave and Shirley have done a lot of work with their friendship groups and with organising things like the fun day at Tanhouse and the fireworks display but our other councillors I never see actually doing anything. This cannot be good for our community and I know in other parts of Sandwell councollors take the lead on many issues.
In collaboration with the local Neighbourhood watch association we are organising a petition to improve road safety on the main dual carriage way which skirts our ward. I’ve been asked to coordinate this and present the petition to tomorrow nights town committee meeting. It will be interesting to see the political stances on this issue. I’ll report back on Friday.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

To blog or not to blog?

It’s not often I sit I sit in front of my computer with nothing to say. I suppose today is no different except tiredness is creeping in and I wonder if it is worth the effort. I know what to expect the hospital have covered all the bases. All the side effects and treatment outcomes have been explained but it’s still a bit of a shock when things start to happen. I am now almost at the low point so tomorrow if all is well things should start getting better. Being an active bloke and involved with many things it was perhaps a mistake to tell folks what was happening. I’ve always been a straight in your face type of person who told it how I saw it not what I thought the others wanted to hear. So knock it off, stop treating me with kid gloves and let’s get on with it. OK I’m going to be a bit slower for a day or two but I’m still me and I’m still doing all the things I always did. Well almost!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Three cheers for Sandwell Libraries

In Sandwell we have splendid free library service. This year is 100 yrs of West Brom Central Library I wrote the following poem to celebrate this event. The theme was libraries past and present.

Our libraries were built for folks like me,
To make reading available for all for free.
So I went to the library to get me a book,
whilst I was there I had a really good look.
There’s fiction and science and many biogs,
big books for boys a big book of frogs.
They used to stamp books with date and time,
return it by then or get a big fine.
Computers for info and recording our books,
with staff that are helpful! No dirty looks.
Now if you’re older no fines do you get,
some of us oldies sometimes forget.
“Quiet please” lets have some hush,
talk to loud they all mimed “Shush”.
A place to learn, escape, lets see,
Rejoice the library service is still free.
I’m glad our libraries are there for me.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Dear Gordon 5

Well you have had a busy week. Saying good bye to George! That must have been fun. Let’s hope for world peace that Barrack gets in. Then we had the crisis with the Irish and the NO vote and you rushing to try to get the treaty ratified in a hurry. Off to the Euro summit I bet that was fun. Did you get a lot of ribbing that we did not have a team in the finals? All this and then a load more sensitive data goes AWOL. Can you explain that if a civil servant looses it and gets caught they get punished but if it’s a minister nothing is said? And now off to the Middle East to sort out the oil price crisis I hope you are not neglecting Sarah and the boys.
I’ve been watching and listening to the Chancellor this week. It was good to see him properly dressed for the Guild Hall speech but what he was saying seems a little contradictory. The theme seems to be “its not our fault it’s a world problem but we can fix it by working with our partners overseas” I seem to remember you were the Chancellor for 10yrs and as Prudence was always ready to tell us we need to be prudent in order to get away from the boom and bust policies of the Tory years. Why did you not see the credit crunch coming? It is basic economics if you borrow to much and can’t pay it back you go bust if you lend to much to people who cannot afford to pay back you go bust. Credit controls have been a powerful weapon in the past. You had the opportunity to use them.
Oil prices are a world phenomenon but don’t we have a large dollop of it left in the North Sea being under produced? And where are the incentives for our manufactures to invest in new technology to help reduce our dependence on the stuff? This site is worth a look we could invest in having this plastered on every government building or better still a plant in UK making it. We could also look at making our tax system fairer by some good old fashioned socialist policies. You must remember taxing the rich helping the poor, windfall taxes on excessive profits by energy & oil companies. A future fair for all.
The Governor of the Bank was telling us we are all going to get poorer, pay packets are going to shrink and prices are going to rise. I don’t think it will be his pay packet or that of most of his banking buddies MPs or civil servants do you? It’s nice to see you leading the way in not accepting the pay increase on your ministerial duties but our MPs and unions are all thinking stuff this I’m going for an inflation busting rise and blow you lot and if you really listen to what the Chancellor has said it don’t matter what happens here we can’t change it on our own. We seem to be heading for another winter of discontent and we know what happened after the last one, 16yrs of Tory Rule, a sobering thought.
So please dear Gordon stop dithering and lets have some real leadership on some of these issues before the new labour project is killed off forever.
I was with some pensioners today and one of them said to me “It looks like it’s going to be a choice of heat or eat for me this winter”
Have a good week
Bob the Black Country Brummie

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Councillors doing things in my ward. Or not as the case may be.

This ought to be a regular feature I think but I suspect it might get a little boring with the same ones coming up with the goods. I thought I might start with a little résumé of recent events that I am aware of and challenge them to correct me where I am wrong or perhaps had memory fade (I’m getting old after all) when I have missed important things. No mention of their politics though.
Recently C’llr Ward was in the news with his efforts helping to get a monument to the miners killed in Hamstead Colliery 100years ago. Well done Tony

C’llr Hosell organising friendship groups and assisting residents with gating schemes. He also founded Durham Association of Residents and Tenants DART which successfully campaigned to get all of the old miners maisonettes knocked down. Still two blocks to go but the cleared site shows what can be done. Well done Dave & Shirley
Now let me think what have the others done recently? Uuuuuuuuuum snooooooooooooooooor oh yes! we got Focus 272 thanking me for voting for them (I never did) crowing about their massive majority and telling me about all the items they have passed to Member Services to resolve. Does something seem a bit potty here? All councillors are free to contribute if I’ve got it wrong I welcome your comments.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Some more playground jokes from Hippy.

Steak & Kidney Pie goes into a pub.

The bar man says sorry mate but we don’t serve hot food in here.

Two blokes go into a pub with cheese sandwiches.

The bar man says sorry but you can’t eat your own food in here. So the blokes exchange sandwiches. Bum bum.

The Nuke in Newton

I did not intend to make any further comments about my health and the treatment I was receiving but C’llr Piper suggested if it was good I should tell all the local media. Towards the end Bob I promise I’ll write up a summary of events for the local press. I think the professionals call it the Patient Journey. Today though I want to look at some of the lighter side. I commented the other day about the scenario of having nuclear waste deposited in Newton. With all the radio active stuff they have pumped into me today I’m the Nuke in Newton. Better not go out after dark for a day or two I’ll probably glow. Pat & I were being briefed about the after affects of this treatment and what you should and shouldn't do. “Stay away from crowded shopping centres like Merry Hill on a Saturday afternoon” every cloud has a silver lining” I thought, better stop at home and watch the footy.
Although I expected to have more time for myself because I have had to scale back a lot of my commitments and I thought I might use this to do my blog and other computer related projects which I seem to never get around to I never accounted for the ME scenario. My concentration this week has been crap because I have found myself spending more time than I should thinking about the treatment. This will cease forthwith. No good looking back, forward and onward. My treat this week was lunch in the hospital cafeteria.

Neighbourhood News

I have taken to popping into our local community centre lately just to see what is going on. Last night I went along because I knew our local councillor had a surgery and I just wondered what sort of response he was getting. I was surprised to see a meeting of about 60 residents from the other side of the canal being addressed by our PCSO Adam and C’llr. Hosell. Being the nosey sod I am I sat in to listen to the proceeding. We have had some problems on that side of the ward with vandalism and muggings in the alleyways that are access to garages at the back of the properties. PCSO Adam had organised the meeting after concerns from the residents to help them organise the erection of gates at the various access points.
This a good example I think of where people are being encouraged and supported by their C’llr and the police to put in place measures to eliminate problems. I think this is the third of these schemes that are either adopted or in the process of being funded. I like to see this kind of proactive work by our police and councillors it is long overdue here. Down side I suppose is that the residents have to fund the work themselves but as one resident pointed out it should have the effect of increasing the value of the property and perhaps a reduction in their household insurance premium.
Well done Adam and David. Sadly we will be loosing Adam who is becoming a propa copa. We will be sorry to see him go, he will be missed.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Criminal Justice System.

There was a report on the above featured on the today program this morning. Apparently our PM had commissioned this about 8ths ago because he was concerned that although crime as been falling the general public don’t believe it. We don’t believe much of what our politicians are telling us so why should this be any different? The author Caroline Gammell went along to Downing St. yesterday to present her report, which contained no less than 32 recommendations. Being involved with Neighbourhood Watch I suppose I know better than most that this is in fact true. We have campaigned for improvements to the way that the police present the crime numbers and in the way they interact with the community and groups such as NHW. Neighbourhood policing is working. We here in Newton have a good team but I am less than confident about the views of their senior officers. I still think that electing our most senior officer in the borough is the way to go. The report mentioned the public’s perception which is supported by media is we need more Bobbies on the beat. I am perhaps one of the few people who do not believe this is necessary. PCSO’s do the job far more effectively. We campaigned to get our cops on bikes, now, you would think that was easy with a spread out ward such as ours but not so. We faced a lot of opposition from senior officers (no budget for uniforms) but eventually we got our Bobbies on Bikes. The report mentioned the police being more involved with regular monthly meetings with community groups. We already have this over here with their regular attendance at NHW and community forums. More needs to be done (I hate that phrase because one of our councillors uses it on his leaflets with a picture with his arms folded).
Recently we had an incident which might have been serious but turned out to be minor. I was involved in my NHW role so I knew a lot of what had happened. Some time later I was gossiping to a neighbour when this incident was raised. “The Police came but they did nothing” she claimed. Now I knew this was not true. I know the officers who were given the job of investigating the incident and I talked with them on a couple of occasions but the story was out there “cops did nothing” I quickly put the case for the police but I fear the damage was done.
I am coming to the view that community policing is closer to what we will have to move to, not just neighbourhoods.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Nukes in Newton?

I’m not wanting to be scare mongering here but last week the government announced it would pay local authorities to have nuclear waste stored in their boroughs. This is an interesting concept and one which will, I’m sure, cause some heated debate later. But consider the scenario:- a few years from now. Cash strapped Sandwell need some dosh urgently, “how about we have some of that nuclear stuff that will net us thousands” “Where would we put?” “Don’t we have a lot of old mine workings in the borough?” “Oh yes we do.” “Where is the deepest?” “Why it’s over in Newton and that is an easy political target? Ummmm they wouldn’t would they?

Bob’s poorly! haaaaaaaah

Come on you can do better than that HAAAAAAAAA. Yes folks I’m afraid it’s true over the next few weeks I need to have some treatment which is going to make me less active than usual but as I am having this treatment as a day patient my blogging should not be affected to much. Our local hospital at Sandwell has impressed me immensely with both its kit and the skills of the people who use. It’s very clean and I have the greatest confidence in the doctors and staff. The staff have been exceptionally helpful and accommodating to Pat and myself. Having spent most of last Thursday as their guest I can’t say I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead but I’m a lot less concerned about it. I spent some time in the Nuclear Medicine Dept. There is a plaque on the wall reminding us that the original imaging suite was funded by subscriptions from the people of Sandwell. I remember that time very well; almost everyone in the borough was doing some sort of fund raising activity. Amongst other things I organised a sponsored swim which raised about 500 quid which was a lota lolly in those days. I never thought I would need the services myself though. The kits come a long way since then but you can see where the massive investment in the NHS as been going. I don’t propose to give regular updates on this situation though and they won’t be posting bulletins on the railings in Little Lane. My Press Officer (the wife) has been advised to say nowt until yours truly is fit and well again.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Dear Gordon 4

Well you got your 42 days but at what price? And why go through all that knowing that it will be defeated in the Lords? Or are you cunningly going to use this issue to reform the upper house? I hope it is not true what I have been reading in the press that you have given away some of the family silver to obtain this hollow victory. My MP tells me I should not believe all I read in the press. I’m confused because if we can’t believe what the press tell us and we know we can’t believe you lot, what are we to believe? It’s interesting to note that the last time my MP said that I checked it out and what was printed in our local paper was correct.
This week I saw what I suppose is the best and worst of Labours policies. My health is not so good these days and I have had to attend our local hospital more than I would like. Although the hospital is due to close in a year or two the equipment and service was first class. The investment in the NHS is starting to pay off. The worst though is the ever rising inflation that we all now face. Labour’s flag ship pension’s credit scheme (means testing) was designed to and claimed to have got hundreds of thousands of pensioners out of poverty. Well thanks to below inflation pension’s increases and fuel allowances you can’t anymore claim to have lifted those folks out of poverty they are back in it. The people who were victims of pension’s failures that are covered by PPF are badly affected because there are no inflation increases. You might like to ask Alistair to have another look at that. Quite a lot of people affected in this part of the world.
I suppose all this secure data going missing is a continuous worry for you. What is it now? about half a dozen key pieces of data have gone AWOL? Once is unfortunate, two is perhaps careless, three is reckless but with two this week it’s well past the time you should have put your house in order. Most businesses would have fired their chief executive if similar events had taken place. Is someone is trying to put the skids under your administration?
It’s a bit difficult I think to really understand what the opposition are up to these days with David Davis quitting like he did. I am hearing that it is only the real opposition (The Sun) who are going to fight the Bye Election. Is that wise? No doubt the full facts will come out over time and you won’t have to face another humiliating defeat at the polls.
I’ll let you get on now with trying to run the country.
Say good bye to George for me.
Have good week.
Bob the Black Country Brummie

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Memorial to Hamstead’s miners

Friday afternoon saw the unveiling of a permanent memorial to all those people who worked in Hamstead Colliery and to those who lost their lives. The original concept was the brain child of a close friend of mine Ken Styler who with his wife Brenda has worked hard over a great number of years. They formed a committee and launched a memorial trust:-

Not often our local newspaper the Express & Star get it wrong but last night I think they did. The front page picture was a local councillor leering at us with the memorial and others very much a background item. Lots of people have helped in all sorts of ways. I’m thinking of the lady who runs our local stroke club who organised two concerts to help with fund raising. I know Ken tried to keep the project none political and tried to involve all the local politicians. Some helped others didn’t. I have expressed reservations about the wisdom of having a memorial on this site. Although we do not suffer greatly with graffiti it would be tragic if the site was vandalised. Good to see the funders provided a litter bin. I hope that whoever is going to be responsible for maintenance will keep it nice. Our community deserve it.
Hamstead Miners Memorial Trust Headquarters is at Tanhouse Community Centre Hamsead Road Great Barr. Which is about as close as possible to the original mine workings.
Well done Ken, Brenda, Maureen, Tony, Val & Tony

Friday, 13 June 2008

My teacher’s evil!

You’ve guessed it. I had my grandkids again last night. Hippy claimed that his teacher was evil and explained why he had formed that view. Although I do not agree with Hippy or the method used by the teacher to give him that view I am restricted from giving anymore details on threats from grandson. Who said if you use that on your blog you are Sooo deaddd granddad. Granddaughter however was in a more philosophical mood. When discussing careers she said I have a quote for you “Make the right choice because that choice will make you” sounds like somebody has been doing some deep thinking.
I am incredibly proud of my grandkids both here and in the states. Watching them grow up is a wonderful experience for me. I wonder though how kids go wrong and we get the spectre of Ferrell kids that so often make the headlines. The good kids are doing so much more and I expect mine will be making headlines again very soon because of the work that they do. You can be sure that it will be reported on this blog.
Sorry Hippy but I never broke my promise, did I?

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Newton Councillor Organises Friendship Group

They’ve been reading the blog
As far as I know this is a first for our ward and well done C’ll.& Mrs. Hosell. Last night I had an errand to run at our local community centre. Whilst I was there I noticed a group of people some of whom I knew holding a meeting. C’ll. Hosell called me into the meeting. He has set up a friendship group from a couple of the roads in our area who have some problems. The group bring along their problems to share but it is not a whinge meeting. As the title suggests its friendship. They share their problems offer help & support which they also get from their councillor. The group though had a very positive upbeat attitude, they were planning social events and an outing. The beauty of this idea is it cuts across age, race and cultures. What a good idea. How about the council taking this up and putting some money into it? Schemes like this might prove popular in other parts of Sandwell and help to solve a lot of problems. The C’ll. is in effect helping the group to help themselves a bit like group mentoring.
We have another group which is run by an ex councillor which is a community forum and although it works it is not quite as effective as the Friendship group for very local issues. I hope this is the start of a more proactive approach by our elected representatives and I do hope C’ll Hosell starts to tell the electorate what he is doing. A thank you leaflet is long overdue from Shirley I think.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Local Government Reform

My regular readers will know by now that I am disappointed with the performance of our local councillors. This post is my off the cuff ramblings I suppose and not properly thought through but nevertheless somewhere near the truth of what I am trying to say. We have three councillors per ward who are all part time. If they all happen to be in the same party they should in theory work together for the common good. Never saw much of that when we had three Liberals but now we have two Libs and a Labour councillor so I suspect they’re all doing their own thing. This year we have had two local elections in our ward and on my blog I have commented on the literature put out at election time. Some I thought was good some a bit doubtful with what they were claiming and one item I thought was an absolute whopper of a porky and stolen from the work of another group. These claims and counter claims are in my opinion not good for local democracy and put people off politics. We have regular town committee meetings in West Brom and I would like our councillors to give regular reports to this committee on what they have been “campaigning for” or working on. I don’t mean attended such and such a meeting but actually done. We could then challenge what they have been doing and have a better idea at election time when their leaflets make these claims. Good example is my present beef about lack of support for Poop Scoop week over here in Newton. The press attend these meetings so it would be good for them to have an accurate report and make their work more transparent. It would also help to reduce the risk of stretching the truth at election time.
I have always thought that councillors should live in the ward that they represent. I know that we have councillors who live in our ward but represent other wards across Sandwell. In principle this might seem OK but I worry that they are having an influence on local councillors’ activities to the detriment of our ward. It’s a complex issue and one which needs much thought and debate but let’s have the debate in open forum.
There is also a case I think for reducing the number of councillors, increasing their allowances and having a min time per week that they should be allocating to the ward a sort of time sheet. This is much more than a part time job these days. One of our councillors gives a weekly update on the council web site on what she has been doing but there is no history to this record which again I find unsettling. The shoving round of leaflets every few months claiming to be working year round doesn’t work for me and I suspect voters often vote because they have seen more of one parties leaflets or in the last case because our national government were making such a balls of it. In either case this is not good for local democracy. We are not getting the best people elected or even interested in standing for election.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Some playground jokes from Freddy

Freddy- How do you put an Elephant in a fridge?
BBCB- I don’t know how do you put an Elephant in a fridge
Freddy- Open the door push it in and close the door.
Freddy- How do you put a zebra in a fridge?
BBCB I knew this one. Open the door push it in and close the door.
Freddy- No silly you need to take the elephant out first!
Freddy- If all the animals on earth are called to a meeting which animal would be missing?
BBCB- I don’t know which animal would be missing?
Freddy- The Zebra of course that’s in the fridge.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Dear Gordon 3

It’s that bloke from Newton Ward in the Black Country again. A week’s a long time in politics! I think it was your predecessor Harold Wilson who first said that. I’m old enough to remember Harold’s time at No10 he had it rough but you seem to be having it a lot rougher. Last week though I thought you had a much better week. There were a couple of good news stories for us oldies. A back bencher has launched a May manifesto which as pensions at the heart of the document. That must be giving you some sleepless nights. It was also announced that over sixties will be getting free swims in a couple years to help us get more active for the Olympic Games in 2012. Why a couple of years I ask? This will be a bit of a problem for us in West Brom because the council closed our pools about 10 years ago and keep promising that they will be replaced but in the meantime we can travel half way across Sandwell if we need a swim.
Help the Aged published a report showing how poorly our older folk are being cared for. I wonder did you get a copy? And if so could you explain why it is that your constituents up in Scotland get free personal care yet us folks below the border have to sell our homes? You identified that the funding for long term care was inadequate but why do we have to wait another six/12months before the commission to look into this meets?
I asked my MP if he would arrange for me to meet you to explain why you removed the 200 quid council tax support but he looked at me with total incredulity I thought I must have been speaking gobbled gosh. By the way if you do decide to telephone me can you leave it until after 8am I’m a bit crabby first thing in the morning these days.
Have a good week
Bob the Black Country Brummie
Ps I support your stance on 42 days

Is this Newton Wards contribution to Poop Scoop Week?

In the past I have commented on irresponsible dog owners and I have published a couple of posters and poems on the subject. Recently I published a poster from C’llr Piper over in Abbey Ward re poop scoop week and I have raised this at a couple of local residents meetings where it as been brought to the attention of our councillors and indeed on this blog I challenged them to participate. To date I see no such inclination for any of them to do anything about it. In fact the Tory guy at one meeting had that smug smirk on his face which I interpreted to mean “what’s this nut case talking about now” yet all of them at some stage or other have conducted surveys where the problem as been identified. Well I’m doing my bit. We are still a poop free zone after three months so something is working. I find it strange that leadership from our elected representatives is so lacking on these key issues. But according to their election propaganda “they are working for me year round”

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Hippy “super talented grandchild”

His words not mine. I had the privilege of looking after the little chap on Friday because he had been of school sick for a few days. He was back to his 100 words a minute chatter on pretty much anything you can think about. I asked him about putting some of the stuff he comes out with on the blog. The answer went something like “you know you should always give credits to who said what” “its plaga somethin if you don’t”. Plagiarism I explained was if you copied someone’s work without permission and didn’t give them credit. That’s it he said you should put my name to my quotes. I do son I assured him but I use your web nickname. I know he countered just call me Hippy super talented grandchild. Nothing like being modest is there? Thank you Hippy for a lovely day.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Are community forums useful?

Last night was our regular community tasking forum. These are organised by our town team. The attendance is usually poor. We have the police in the form of our neighbourhood sergeant and a PCSO, two or three councillors, a member of the town team and yesterday about twenty concerned residents. The format is that concerns are voiced, recorded, followed up and reported back to the next meeting. Two of our local councillors participated in the debate last night but a third sat at the side just taking notes. I bet that all the concerns appear in their next newsletter. I’d rather see them actually doing something but then I’m a bit old fashioned like that. It’s interesting though to watch the body language and to listen to the concerns. Some appear to be minor but to the complainant are major matters which are affecting their lives.
We have a uniquely designed mini traffic island at the bottom of our road. This as been the subject of many complaints over the years and is a regular at these meeting. Nothing ever gets done. Recently though a resident who does not live in our road was campaigning to have drivers who use this island inappropriately prosecuted. I’ve seen the local police use it incorrectly and I am one of the regular offenders so last night in a moment of pique I suggested the cops arrest me. At this juncture several other members also admitted to the offence. I’m not saying we are right but the problem is the island design not the users who are not behaving badly or irresponsibly. I do however think that the busy body who was making the fuss should mind her own business. Let’s campaign for improved safety conditions on this road and leave the police to do some proper policing.
I love some of the council “speak” which comes with the feed back sheet and almost always means “clear off we are not going to do anything about that” example from the last paragraph concerning our island:-
“This item is still ongoing; we will be investigating in due course.
No works have been agreed to and our findings may be that, apart from minor maintenance works, none need to be undertaken. However if we do identify a requirement to carry out modifications to the junction, these will be subject to suitable funding.
Therefore I can confirm that, at the present moment, there is no time scale for these works.”

As I said clear off etc.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

What’s the difference between a geek and a nerd?

Thanks to for the following definitions.
a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.)
a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.

a stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person.
an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit: a computer nerd.

a foolish, inept, or unattractive person.
a person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.

Seems to me there is not a lot of difference but they both suggest someone who is a social outsider. I raise this today because recently a couple of my friends have referred to themselves as geeks or nerds and I would not have put them in that category. Last night I was asked to chair one of our local neighbourhood meetings. Dog fouling was brought up because I’m not alone when it comes to this issue. When I mentioned it was Poop Scoop week at the end of June I was looked at with a great deal of incredulity. I then said “I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to info like that. Afterwards though I thought, no I’m not! this is just good community info which all our councillors should be helping with. When I thought about my other mates who had claimed to be geeks I have to disagree. We use the term far too easily. They’re not geeks just dedicated to their hobbies.

Ps “Sean the romantic geek” how about sending me the poem “You shaped hole in my heart”? I’d like to publish on this site.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Go carting for seniors?

Yesterday I went along with a group of seniors’ total age I suppose about 730yrs to Raceway in Oldbury for an afternoon’s racing. Before anyone gets excited and starts shouting you pensioners are always complaining about not having enough money, the afternoon was sponsored by a local news agency that are doing a story on older people living life to the full. The story I think will probably appear in one of the national newspapers in a little while. The race director and his team were excellent in getting us started, safety issues and such. We were a mixed bunch blokes and ladies with age ranges from 60 to 81. First sessions were warm ups and time trials. I knew that if I was to have chance in the race proper I needed to be at the front of the starting grid. When we lined up for the start I was in second position and raring to go. Newsagency wanted a lot of pictures so start was delayed but well worth the wait. Five laps of flat out racing and despite one crash I was awarded third place by race marshals although the leader board gave me in 5th.
We then had the usual celebrations with lots of pictures and of course the bottle of bubbly. The winner 60yrs old Dick could not get the cork out of the bottle and needed the help of the course mechanic. Eventually though we all got sprayed in bubbly including the photographer. If I’d been stopped on the way home I would have smelt like a brewery. As you get older the aches and pains of the day are an excepted part of the day but I needed two burley blokes and an act of parliament to get me out of the cart. We can get exercise on prescription, having fun on prescription sounds a better idea to me.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Dear Gordon 2

I hope I find you well.
There are just a couple of issues I want to draw your attention to today. It must be very difficult being PM with all that conflicting advice coming your way. On the subject of advice I was wondering who had been advising you on the use of Podcasts and You Tube because your podcast for the last local elections was awful. I’m such a geek I actually watched it. My friend was standing as a Labour candidate. If you do a You Tube search for your name it comes up with some less than complimentary sites and although your recent presentations have been a little better I think perhaps you should leave this kind of stuff to Cameron. I don’t want to watch him pretending to be washing up and pontificating about national politics.
My second point is nearer to home. I live in Sandwell in the West Midlands. The midland links motorway runs through our borough and at times we suffer some of the worst traffic snarl ups in the UK. The M6 toll road was designed to ease traffic flow on our bit of the M6 but because of high cost of using this road heavy goods vehicles rarely use the toll. With the current high cost of fuel and the waste of driver time I can’t see the economic sense of doing this. In Sandwell we have several neighbourhoods who have air pollution levels at the stage where they need attention. Some areas are known locally as the Asthma triangle. One of the reasons for this in my view is the tail backs in traffic at peak times. Would it be possible for the three local authorities concerned and central government to negotiate with the company running the M6 Toll to allow heavy goods vehicles to use the toll free at peak times and for all other vehicles to use it at reduced rates? This would have a series of value factors. It would reduce pollution in the Black Country, reduce fuel consumption hence helping to stabilise fuel prices and it would reduce journey times for everyone using our motorways.
On a lighter note, it must be very gratifying knowing that your home sec thinks you’re cool. Don’t you lot have fun at cabinet meetings.
Have a nice week
Yours very sincerely
Bob the Black Country Brummie

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Poop Scoop Week

Over on the other side of Sandwell is Warley Woods. A regular contributor to this site Councillor Bob Piper sent me details of how they are going to publicise Poop Scoop Week. I intend to display the poster on my front hedge in the way I have with previous doggy poop posters. Thank you Bob for allowing me to use it. I can confirm that we are still a poop free zone. I hope our local councillors will support this event. So come on Dave, Joyce and Tony let’s have a bit of support with this one.