Friday, 31 October 2008

What a difference two.

Margaret Macklin’s comment (What a difference) got me thinking about some of the broader issues. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with Dave belonging to the majority party in getting the basic things done he has. All councillors have access to member services and are treated equally. He is reporting the issues and actively following them up until he gets a satisfactory answer and it is this that I think is the difference. I agree with Margaret concerning Cllr. Mrs Underhill who responded well to a couple of concerns we have had recently but our other councillor seems to do very little and I have been aware of missing town committee meetings and full council meeting. I have complained that you can’t claim to be a strong voice for the ward in a newsletter if you don’t attend meetings and if you do not speak at meetings. Local elections in Newton are won on telling constituents via newsletter what is happening and it is this ability that has won the ward for Liberals for years. Labour has not recognised how important it is to us. I became interested in local politics when I was off work sick some ten years ago and really studied what the Liberals actually said in their Focus. By attending town committee meeting you also get better idea of what is actually going on. Sadly most constituents don’t have time or can’t be bothered so they remember Focus think well at least the Liberals are doing something and vote liberal. I know this is perhaps an over simplification but the principle here in Newton is correct.
Our MP is now actively campaigning against the Sandwell Gateway structure and again Margaret makes the point about him having a regular piece in our local free newspaper. I think that all local councillors should have a spot in the paper. You will remember I asked that they give a regular report at the town committee on their activities although no one volunteered to do this. I can’t help thinking that the MP’s intervention will amount to very little but it is good press for him and right in his back yard. His record of successful interventions is not good. I’m thinking of his very public spat with the chair of towards twenty ten program concerning the loss of our A&E. He lost and we are not only loosing our A&E but our hospital which is being replaced by a plastic palace in Smethwick. I’m not sure I would agree with Margaret concerning the effectiveness of the Tory opposition in Sandwell. The council meetings I have attended recently have shown them to be poorly organised. If you are right about Councillor Ward I will of course apologise but so far I have not seen it. Margaret suggests that we might have a Tory MP soon. Now although I feel our MP has let our ward down during his second term a swing sufficient to unseat him would be unprecedented. So although on his end of term report I think it needs to say “needs to improve” I think we are going to have him for a few years yet.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

What a difference

I got to thinking about my earlier post “Another first for Bob’s Blog” and the difference a labour councillor is having on our patch. I don’t think it’s necessarily a political thing any party would have done but what we needed was a different party and that’s what we got. The improvements may be due to a lot of reasons and I suppose for me I have had more to do with Cllr. Hosell than the other councillors so I have seen first hand how it works. I have to ask the question if he can get things done why have our councillors for years been happy to keep on blaming the council for not doing things. There are probably several things going on here. The new guy is very enthusiastic and wants to make a difference and get re-elected in a couple of year’s time. The existing members are thinking we better get going and start doing stuff. All round a win win for Newton. Our worst grot spot is still largely clean. No more pictures of Councillor “more needs to be done” with his arms folded at this site. Two issues here, one is that Cllr. Hosell’s walkabouts are highlighting problems but many of the people who were causing this mess are being moved out as part of the clearance work on what we know as the Durham estate.
This brings me back to my earlier comment that our Liberals are good at publishing and delivering regularly their Focus newsletter and Cllr. Hosell seems good at getting things done but lousy at publicising what he has done. My prediction for the next local elections a Liberal win by a mile.
What we need to see now in Newton is some real investment and some genuine action on things like our request for traffic lights and road improvements to Newton Road without being tied to schemes like Red Routes.
So there’s a challenge. Perhaps I’ll do a list of capital projects needed in our ward but perhaps you might like to tell us on this blog what your priorities are?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Confused dot Bob

Let me try and put the current state of our economy into some kind of perspective (for me that is). Borrowing from the banks with no real collateral causes a credit crunch which quickly spreads across the world and starts a recession. Banks have to be bailed out to the tune of £trillions whatever those numbers mean. Along comes our beloved PM who has allowed our economy to function on unrealistic credit for 11 years and calmly tells us that what we need to do now under his expert stewardship is to borrow more to allow us to spend our way out of recession. Now excuse me for appearing a little old fashioned but if you can’t afford to pay it back you should not borrow money and as far as I can see UK PLC can’t afford to pay back its existing debt let alone take on more. My grandchildren will eventually have to pay this back from increased taxes long after Brown and Co are history. How can he and his lackeys have the audacity to tell us that it is the right thing to do? All my instincts tell me to batten down the hatches, reduce debt and save. Today we heard about massive profits from BP, our PM although he feels the reduction in oil prices should be reflected at the pump he is not actually going to do anything about it. Although massive bail outs of banks have not yet stopped the run on the stock markets he was quoted again today in the same old way of how pensioners are to be treated. Tough, you lot take your £250 per household and get on with it you aint getting a penny more. You may have fooled some of the folks Gordon but us old uns aint so daft. Your measures to help poorer families and the more vulnerable in our society fall far short. I was not clear why he entered the row about Ross & Co when there were clearly far more important issues affecting the country. We all know that Ross and & Co are a bunch of overpaid piss takers who should be taken off the air but we all have choice in this country it’s called “switch off” which is exactly what I do when the mention of his program appears on Friday evenings.
I suppose Gordon is taking the best advice from Bank of England and the treasury on what he should do but aren’t these the very people who got us into this mess in the first place? The only politician recently who talked sense on this issue was Vince Cable. Now Gordon how about inviting him onto the team?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Another opportunity missed

The Public Gallery in West Brom is one of the most controversial buildings in our borough. Although the building itself as been open for some months now the money spinning part of it, the interactive gallery, is still not open. I have been an outspoken supporter of this project since its conception (well almost) but I feel let down by the fact that this week is half term and the gallery is still not open. We are taking our grandkids to a couple of workshops there and had hoped we could spend the morning in the gallery. We now have to start asking the difficult questions about the competence of the team leading this part of the project. Enough of the delays and soft promises,we need action now.
At a town committee meeting a verbal response to a question concerning the cost of hiring rooms in this facility suggested that hire charges would be affordable for voluntary and community groups. This is not the case and a commercial charge is being applied to all potential users. If this is incorrect then our cabinet member for urban form has a different idea of affordable to me. Difficult to see how we move forward with this project now because of its bad press and cost so far but something needs to be done without the leader of the Tories relentless whinging about it. My support is wavering.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Another first for Bob’s Blog?

I met up with our hard working Councillor Dave Hosell yesterday and was he feeling pleased with himself. One of the perennial problems along the Newton Road which borders our patch is blocked gullies which cause flooding whenever there in any significant rainfall. Although the gullies themselves are mostly not on Dave’s patch he had volunteered to get them cleared along with a litter hot spot near a busy local pub. These issues had been long standing items from community forum meetings, from neighbourhood tasking meetings and from neighbourhood watch. So it was refreshing to see a councillor actually volunteering to take it up. He now has confirmation from the Drainage Manager that all the Gullies on Newton Road, Queslett Road and Birmingham Road have now been cleansed. The litter from the pub is cleared and a notorious litter grot spot is also clean and staying clean. Again a Hosell monitoring exercise on one of Dave’s walkabouts. So, it’s a well done councillor and about time we had this kind of enthusiasm on the patch. Keep it up. But David please tell me why you are not shouting your achievements from the rooftops why are you not telling the constituents in a newsletter? Your opponents seem to be doing much less yet sending around the Focus on a regular basis. Let’s have a newsletter please.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

200,000 needless deaths this winter

This was a featured news item on 6oclock news last night. Yesterday was the annual lobby of parliament by National Pensioners Convention and was one of the items on their list. I also watched Prime Ministers Questions at lunch time and I could not help but notice how uncomfortable he is answering questions that relate to pensioners. Judging by his answers and that of his new minister for energy old pensions minister Mike O’Brian (sorry Gerry) we aint getting a penny more and we can go and rot as far as they are concerned. Hot shot bankers are getting bailed out to the tune of millions and still getting bonuses in many cases but bottom end of the food chain pensioners tough. No change in government thinking there then. Ever since Brown started to tax pension schemes the process as been going on. His bail out schemes of the Pension Protection Scheme and Financial Assistance Scheme are failing pensioners as is the pension credit. I’m not sure what proportion of that 200000 will relate to Sandwell. Last year it was 350 needless deaths this year probably nearer twice that number. This is from a labour government proud of getting pensioners out of poverty.
On the brighter side our MP got some good publicity with the arrival of his new greener mini ministerial car. Puts it into perspective doesn’t it! I better go turn the heating down another notch to help pay for it and put on another jumper. I look like the Michelin Man with all these jumpers on.
Don’t let us ever forget Captain Marvels 75p increase when the country was supposedly doing well. What now when we are in the depths of recession? Tony Blair said they were listening I think this bloke is bloody deaf. I wonder if we could name and shame him every time a death was reported?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Insomniatic rant

I’m at the stage in my treatment cycle when I have to increase the dose of steroids which as the side effect of keeping me awake. So this morning I am suffering from a serious dose of sleep deprivation. I have some sleeping pills but they can affect you for most of the following day so I’m reluctant to take them when I know I want to drive later. I’ll catch a nap before driving today.
But first the proud granddad bit. My two English grandkids were awarded their black belts by their Karate association on Sunday. Having been privileged to witness the grading I know why this belt is so coveted. Well done Hippy & Freddy.
Yesterday the consultant told me if I wanted to visit the states now would be a good time. The currency market this morning tells me the £/ dollar has slipped to a five year low so I can’t afford to go.
Good news is that oil prices continue to fall and subsequently petrol prices have been falling albeit miserly pennies per ltr. Come on Capt Marvel (Gordon Brown) stop dithering now would be a good time to steal Cameron’s fuel regulator idea. Bring the break even point at say 98p per ltr and have a two pence each side tolerance. I know it’s not that simple because prices vary so much across the country and location sites but the principle is simple and surely our new business sec could work something out. To my mind this would achieve what you want in keeping petrol prices high and hence less dependency on cars but it would also give some stability to the market and help to reduce further inflationary pressures.
The governor of the bank of England has been suggesting this week that gas prices could fall by as much as 100 quid by Christmas am I dreaming?
My grammar software is telling me that the above sentence should read “100 quid by Christmas is I dreaming?” I think I better go back to bed.

Monday, 20 October 2008


You need to be of a certain age to understand this post. Well to be honest old. After my last post and the references to our leader as Superman I got to thinking. After the box office success of Superman back in the forties it spurned some other super heroes who inspired me as a kid well into the fifties. One such character whose sole aim in life was saving the world was Captain Marvel. I used to buy the comic every week from my earnings as a paper boy. Captain M had a word he shouted when he wanted to change to his super hero role which was SHAZAM and poof he turned into a lycra clad hero with cape and helmet who could flew around the world saving the planet. I think Gordon fits in better with Captain Marvel because he uses the term Billions of Pounds before turning into his world saving outfit and jetting off to where ever to save us from, now let me think, who was responsible for this recession over here? Why none other than himself. SHAZAM! don’t panic Gord I’m on my way!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Super who?

I watched Prime Minister Questions earlier this week when Harriet and William were sparing with each other. I think I prefer watching those two than old misery face. Anyway one of the Labour MP claimed she was sitting in Supermans chair. Obviously a planted remark as were the cheers etc that followed it. I’m thinking Lex Luther but what would a poor pensioner from Sandwell know eh. This scenario where he has suddenly become a hero is a bit like a little lad setting fire to his brothers bedroom forgetting to tell his Mom he started it but getting praise for calling the fire brigade. You have to have respect for the Labour spin machine turning this one into a success story is classic and having the cheek to compare him with Churchill. I can’t remember from my history but Churchill didn’t start the war did he? There was a big debate about pension annuities this week which again I thought was typical Brown. Pensioners come at the bottom of his list although if you have managed to keep your pension pot up until 75 you must be doing pretty well so I don’t think this in itself is a major issue. What is more important is how he is planning to protect all those pensioners whose pensions were stolen by his policies and are supported by PPF and FAS which do not have inflation increases. The whole system seems to have forgotten this very large group of pensioners.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Rush Hour

I don’t usually do rush hour. Being retired I prefer to wait until the streets are aired before venturing out into the big bad world. Yesterday the wife and I had to attend a conference some 50 miles away which required an early start for us and we were caught in the rush hour traffic. For the last few years before retirement I worked in West Brom and despite its many faults traffic problems are not one of them. The missus and I got to talking about how it came to be known as rush hour because yesterday nobody was rushing anywhere. It reminded me of a picture the missus had painted in what I called her contemporary period. Picture courtesy Mrs BBCB. The number of lanes portrayed suggest her inspiration was probably drawn from our American trips experiences.
Perhaps I ought to write a poem for each of her works of art. The trouble is she paints em quicker than I write and the subject matter does not necessarily inspire me.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Blogging irregularly

You may have noticed my posts have been a little less prolific these last few days Well this is because I have sort of been challenged by a close friend to enter a Autumn writing competition being organised by West Brom Library. I’m not so happy with the way our library service organise competitions because last year they had an art competition which failed miserably letting down some artists me included who had excellent entries. But I’m up for this one and giving it a lot of thought. The categories are, words & pictures, poems, short stories with an autumn theme. I’m thinking of entering a poem in picture form for category one and I have a short story which is nagging at my fingers to be written. So my with my other commitments I’m falling behind with a few things and getting stroppy according to the editor in chief. I blamed the pills. Perhaps nearer the time I’ll publish the poem on the blog but Poetry Wednesbury will of course get to hear it. It’s a cracker.

Monday, 13 October 2008

What is going on?

Interesting to hear the responses from World Bank the IMF and G7 over this week end. I don’t think any of them know what to do. I have some sympathy with Gordon and Co. at the moment because the crisis is now truly world wide and it looks as though he is going to get away with his part in our cock up. The markets appear to have gone completely and independently haywire to the extent that it must surely be being considered that there is a wider force at work here trying to bring governments down. History shows us some notable rises to power of tyrants after stock market crashes. Could this be part of a terrorist plot to undermine the world economies or is it still the greedy unregulated market speculators in money making mode but in a new guise? I don’t know whether I prefer Brown in charge at this point because now is certainly not a time to be changing leaders. Perhaps his next move is “blame the terrorists”

Friday, 10 October 2008

Shock, get me a chair, moments

We all have them don’t we? those little moments when things are just better than expected. I had a couple recently which although not earth shattering I have commented on the down side on the blog. I went into the bank the other day. Knowing there is always a queue I left plenty of time. I was putting money in which these days I think we should have a special lane but anyway no queue and there was two tellers just waiting for me. I’m not telling which branch because it will cause a rush on the bank. I asked for a chair but sadly they never understood the joke. The second moment was my friend the Prime Minister who must have been reading the blog because last night he was being interviewed on a train for BBC news and he mentioned pensions and pensioners. Although he never actually said how he was going to protect us from the economic storm ahead. I definitely needed a lie down after that. Perhaps it's got something to do with the new cabinet enforcers "The Sandwell Two" ? nah

Thursday, 9 October 2008


I watched most of this yesterday because I wondered how our beleaguered PM would get on. To my surprise he looked better than he had for a long time. I gave him the result over Cameron, but if you can’t win on a day like that you’re never going to. I wish him well with his new measures because failure is too hard to contemplate. I like to follow the body language of the front bench. Yesterday they reminded me of a bunch of naughty school kids waiting outside the headmasters’ office for a reprimand. I never gave this much thought until I read Bob Pipers blog this morning. It appears two of our local MPs are responsible. What is the world coming to? What really pisses me off with our Prime Minister is his almost allergic reaction to even thinking about how this current crisis is likely to affect pensioners. An Age Concern report today claims that inflation for over sixty fives is running at 7% which is twice what his figures show. He keeps mentioning hard working families and jobs and mortgages but never pensions.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Neighbourhood watch

It was our regular monthly meeting last night and although I am vice chair I found it difficult. The usual round of crime reports which still show crime falling in our area so we must be doing something right. Our beat Sgt. is leaving which is particularly annoying. It takes about six months for them to learn the patch, get to know first the NHW (THE GOOD GUYS) and then the bad guys. Once the Sgt. is “trained” as it were, the police move him/her on and we start again. With neighbourhood policing it is not as bad as it used to be because the team is already in place and they have a commitment to the community but it is still disruptive and it does not take the villains long to catch on and I suspect our crime figures will increase later this year and early next, I wish Richard well in his new posting.
We submitted a petition to West Brom town committee on road safety in our area. This is the subject of a meeting later this week with councillors. I like to see how some people try to manipulate groups at meetings. One guy who is very vocal in writing to local papers sent a letter to the police objecting to our proposals. This was about six months ago. The letter was duly read to the group and included fully in the minutes. I was extremely miffed about this because a couple of meetings earlier the police civilian officer had read a statement to the group but this was never included in the minutes and they have persistently ignored efforts to have it published since. The guy who objected to our proposals last night claimed that the introduction of traffic lights at one of the junctions would impede emergency vehicles and thus endanger life. I never heard such tosh. This is typical NIMBY behaviour and I was having none of it. I don’t think he likes me much but then with an attitude like that he can get in the queue. The majority in our group want these traffic lights PDQ.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Is it just me?

I hear that hostilities have ceased within the upper ranks of the Labour party. I know we have a crisis at the moment and all families pull together at these times but to end hostilities seems a bit premature to me. Getting Mandy back was a master stroke (I think) and what a man. Yesterday he attended a meeting of the National Economic Committee and then went to hospital to have kidney stone removed. I feel for the bloke having had one myself how he managed to concentrate on such heavy affairs of state in that condition is amazing. I digress! hostilities are not over as far as pensioners are concerned. My pensioners against Brown campaign continues. There is a mass lobby of parliament later this month but unfortunately I will not be able to make it due to treatment obligations so I will have to rely on my peers.
I watched Alistair and Gordon yesterday trying to calm nerves in the city by talking reassuringly to the commons. Well it never reassured me or the city and after last nights meeting with the banks it never reassured them either. I’m afraid it looks like Gordon’s dithering again. I would be a lot happier if he went on TV and addressed the nation giving us some real news on what he is going to do with a time scale and then actually do it and at the same time come clean on his part in the build up to this crisis (oh silly me that would mean admitting to ignoring credit controls for last ten years and owning up to the bust situation we now see ourselves). I like his ideas for the NEC but again it’s a bit late. Ah well we better resign ourselves to watching him bumble along from one crisis to the next over the next couple of years. He will go down in history as the plague and pestilence prime minister.

Monday, 6 October 2008

I remember

This is one of my favourite poems although it brings back some moving images it was how many kids grew up in the forties.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Cultural services

I have not been happy with what I have seen of the performance of this department of Sandwell Council recently and I have in a previous post suggested a couple of officers should be considering their positions. I need to do some more research to find out what exactly they do. They had a stand at the Full of life festival which was quite lavish compared to ours and although we are a voluntary sector organisation ours is pretty professional. They must have had six pull up display boards at £200 each =£1200 we had one which did the trick. Can’t help feeling that the overkill was a bit much. Interest on the stand which was just across the way, so, could be easily observer was poor all day. Although they should have officer with some interest in older people I wonder if this relates just to Sons of Rest because no interest was shown in what we were doing. I have said before we would not want it if it manifests itself anything like their approach to SoR and we would not want any interference. I think this might be one of those areas were a merge with another better managed group would get better results. I wonder if they are fully behind THE PUBLIC?

Thursday, 2 October 2008

THE PUBLIC’S first successful event

Yesterday was the United Nations International Day for Older People. We celebrated in Sandwell by holding an event called Full of Life Festival at our new arts centre THE PUBLIC. This was a very successful even. Sponsored by Sandwell Council and our Primary Care Trust. Two levels of the building were used and it was packed all day. The organisation I am heavily engaged with U3A had a stall there which was overwhelmed with enquiries all day. We gave out more info and talked to more potential members than any other event we have ever attended. We also had the theatre for an hour to do a virtual antiques auction and to run some short films our interest groups had put together. We were second act on. I had rehearsed with the technician before hand how this was going to work with timings. We should have had a ten min break following the first act to hand out all that was needed and be ready to start on time. I had been asked by the organisers to stick strictly to time. The first act was a dozy gospel quire who arrived 15mins late. They were totally engrossed with there singing and blissfully unaware that their actions were in fact messing up a carefully choreographed following act. I hate being late and this failure of the organisers stressed me out. Eventually they got them off but our preparations then seemed confused and rushed we started about 20mins late. The quire then stayed for our act, they talked amongst themselves had sandwiches etc. I did manage to get them involved with the program but a major failure on behalf of the organisers and very bad manners on quires part.
It’s a well done to Sandwell for having the foresight to do this and a well done to the PCT for organising it and to THE PUBLIC for the venue but a big thumbs down to the theatre organisers on the day, these sorts of cock ups should not be allowed to happen. If we had been consulted before the first act started or they were made to keep to time then our performance would not have been affected.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Sons of Rest saved

You heard it on my blog first.
In a surprise turn around Sandwell Council announced at the full council meeting this evening that the three Sons of Rest buildings scheduled for closure on 1st November will not now be closed and the other four groups who were going to have to be self funded will continue to be free. The reason given was that Cllr. Horton had listened to the lobby of the Sons of Rest and she did not want to burden our older citizens any more. This on the one hand is good news about the closures but I do not support the groups being funded totally by the council. There are lots of other groups just as deserving who have to be self funded. One of the areas concerned is our ward Newton. Although this is good news the underlying situation remains the same, underused buildings and an organisation with falling numbers. These issues need to be addressed urgently. But first let me turn my attention to the council officers who have been involved with the initial decision. They of course should be considering their positions. I am not convinced the consultations with the groups were done well and I certainly would not want these officers anywhere near anything I was involved with. This also raises some issues with the bigger picture as to who is monitoring the report on the older people’s select committee and also some issues on how many of the older peoples groups are funded. For further information and advice on this consult Bob the Black Country Brummie. We are in need of a comprehensive review. Other groups do get concessions at some of the smaller leisure facilities but the rules and usage of larger leisure centres seem somewhat vague and variable.
Other recent decisions that now need to be looked at: -
Charges during week days for entrance to Sandwell Park Farm,
car parking charges during the week at this farm and finally:-
the massive increase in charges for meals on wheels.
Sandwell Council, you know it makes sense. Let’s see the spirit and letter of the report being addressed properly.