Saturday, 28 February 2009

MP gets quote in local press?

Well who bloody rah
Our MP had a front page quote in one of our freebie newspapers The Chronicle concerning a red route scheme which will bring a massive improvement to road safety in our area. “Plans for a major revamp of a notorious commuter route through Great Barr have won the backing of a West Bromwich MP” “West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson has given his backing to the scheme and urged Black Country motorists and Great Barr residents to have their say”
I mention this because as far as I am aware he has done nothing towards this until getting his quote published. On the other hand the Great Barr & Newton Neighbourhood Watch Association has campaigned for the very measures being consulted on. Our local Labour Councillor is chair of this group and I am its deputy chair. A series of petitions were held in the area and I had the privilege of petitioning West Bromwich town committee and hence Sandwell Council on their behalf. So not overly impressed that our MP should lack understanding of what is actually happening on his patch. The petitions are in the public domain. Perhaps Cllr. Hosell you could spend some time with our MP briefing him on what is actually happening over here in Newton and Great Barr to perhaps prevent some of these hapless gaffs.
I feel our MP is so out of touch with what is happening in Great Barr & Newton and so close to Gordon Browns back that Gordon thinks West Bromwich East is in Renfrewshire.

Friday, 27 February 2009

The Tanhouse coven

An apology.
Having re read my earlier post on this I feel it could be misunderstood. In no way did I wish to imply any impropriety by the management committee. There is an element on that group that have in the past displayed an aggressive and vindictive attitude to myself and my family and it was to this element I made my remarks. I have therefore withdrawn the post. Please accept my apology.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Bulletin on the Railings

His majesty has asked me to inform you that after a visit to see his consultant at Sandwell Hospital yesterday his condition is much improved. He will not now require the intensive treatment the family had feared and expected. His majesties health will continue to be monitored by Sandwell and he thanks the team for the dedicated work they are doing. He will continue with all his public duties.

In reality! blood numbers looking better than for a long time you might say a dramatic improvement. Which was a big relief to my family. I’m going to do my best to continue with all my hobbies and campaigns. So our clinic stays on the front page. Our councillors and MP will continue to be brought to task from time to time but in short I will continue to try to make Newton a better place to live because that is what this is all about for me.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Andy Person update

Handy man scheme II.
Well what I thought was a good scheme is not turning out quite so good. After my registration for the little job I needed doing I sorta waited and expected a visit to fix my door. After about a week I enquired and was told Oh no luv, there is usually a three months waiting list for this service. Oh dear I said (perhaps a little stronger than that but you get the idea) I can’t shut my door (it’s inside so no security concerns). I then get typed back into the computer and told we’ll try and get to you some time next week.
It strikes me this is a good idea which is under funded and they work on a priority basis. So a door that wont fit because of a new carpet is never going to be a priority is it. Ummm, first able bodied mate visiting looks like getting the job. Can’t help feeling though that perhaps the scheme needs a little rethink on how it’s administered and sold to those of us who qualify and need it. Thank you Alan, my door is now fixed. I better put in a call to them and cancel the handy man.

Monday, 23 February 2009

300 not out.

Yes folks I can hardly believe it. 300 posts and still going strong. So to celebrate something a little lighter if you’ll pardon the pun.
Light shades.
Last week end the misses smashed one of the shades on a twin wall light. Never mind, I said accidents happen and I was very magnanimous about it. I deny clumsy sod ever came into my comments.
Monday morning, I said we’ll pop along to that big lighting shop in Erdington and get a replacement. Oh silly me. Sorry mate said the lady we don’t do shades like that anymore, nobody does, upstairs is where all our shades are. No lift so I’m struggling to get up the stairs. After a while I realise she’s right, so, back down stairs for a little conference. The shop is devoid of customers except for us, the management and staff is only really concerned about cleaning; a customer actually wanting to talk to them about a product is a bit of drag on a Monday morning. I ask to get samples of all the products around a particular size and in due course I’m brought about ten items. I quickly work out a compromise which the wife is delighted with. I’ll have two of those shades and a couple of economy candle bulbs please I ask. Oh I can’t sell you those says the lady they are part of a lamp set. With a shop full of customers and doing roaring business I could perhaps understand this but as things were, quite frankly, she was potty and why had she brought that shade for me to see in the first place?. A simple change to one of the other shades would have done the trick. But no she would not flog me the shades.
We decide to visit Homebase in Oldbury and surprise surprise the exact same shade is available there except no economy candle bulbs. At the check out I need the loo. With my condition when you gorra pee you gorra pee. Sorry luv says the girl on the till we don’t have toilet facilities anymore because people vandalised them. But I gorra pee I insisted again and I’m platting my legs because it is getting uncomfortable, no movement or sympathy for the customer. We purchase the shades and make a quick dash across the road to Save a Centre where we know they have toilet facilities. I eventually get the bulbs and the light fixed. The misses is very happy with the result. Moral here is I won’t be using Homebase Oldbury for a long time, and as for the Erdinton shop well I won’t be surprised to hear it’s going bust and it won’t be as a result of the recession but their own stupid fault. Glad I got that off my chest.
My hats now got a new badge. I don't suppose it's going to make a bit of difference but the present rules on public loos do seem to discriminate against us oldies.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Health Clinic for Great Barr & Newton III

Campaign up date.
My humble little blog was picked up by our local freebie newspaper The Great Barr Observer. I’m flattered and delighted that my readership has expanded and that they felt the story was newsworthy. Their headline “Plans for new £5M medical centre on hold” sums up the situation very well and the story was well written and factual.
My thanks to them for following it up and publishing. There are some aspects of my earlier post I need to deal with first. Our MP Tom Watson has continued to ignore the problem. In terms of practical help from him we can assume it is not going to happen. Fortunately two political champions have emerged in the form of Cllrs Joyce Underhill and Dave Hosell. A dialogue of sorts has started with the PCT and council and we have names for their responsibilities. It is strange that I could not get a response from my email but the press got a direct quote from Jon Dicken deputy director of commissioning at Sandwell PCT concerning the use of the Tanhouse Centre: - “The Tanhouse centre is one of a number of sites subject to further work by the Primary Care Trust, to assess suitability and potential for a new Neighbourhood Health Centre. The PCT will continue to work with local people to establish a preferred site”. Now isn’t that strange and a complete about turn since our Neighbourhood Forum. Then the official line was all sites considered none suitable no others under consideration and no they were not working with local people they were just telling us. So perhaps just perhaps they will now start to work with us and by that I mean our local councillor champions and myself.
On the very evening the Observer article went to press a headline in our evening newspaper The Express & Star read: - "Three GP surgeries move a step nearer". The story concerns new GPs in Great Bridge, Wednesbury and Langley/Rood End with a new health centre in West Bromwich as a bonus. Chief Executive of Sandwell PCT is quoted as saying “with three new family doctors surgeries and a new health centre people in Sandwell will have greater access to the services they need when they need them. This is a major step forward in our plans to provide more choice and access to primary care services across Sandwell” That is of course unless you live in Great Barr & Newton where we have the continued threat of loosing doctors. West Brom already has a new health centre at the Lyng why do they need a second in preference to a mere clinic in Great Barr? The logic does not make sense if you live here. I would like to invite Mr. Bacon to meet with Cllrs. Underhill, Hosell & myself to explain why and for us to explain why the distribution of services in Great Barr is wrong because clearly the PCT do not understand the geography of the area or the demographic dispersal of the older population in respect to the canal and its significance. We need some further assurances from the top that the clinic is going ahead with fixed and clearly visible dates for start and finish that they can be held accountable for.
A general observation though, the best politicians are not in the council chamber or the benches of the commons or dressed in Ermine they are working for PCTs up and down the country.
Watch this space we are going to continue with this campaign until our clinic is a reality.
My sincere thanks to Nick Horner, Joyce Underhill and Dave Hosell for their support with this campaign.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Watch this space

Health Clinic for Great Barr & Newton.II
I’m going to pause for a day or two to let yesterdays post sink in with our MP and PCT. I’ve got plenty more to say but later.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Health Clinic for Great Barr & Newton.

Campaign Update.
After the last meeting of our local community forum (post
Great Barr & Newton Neighbourhood Forum Friday 6th Feb) I felt extremely concerned that the project would never happen and reported this on the blog. I then took the unusual step for me of emailing all the senior politicians and PCT bosses about my concerns. Following is a copy of that email:- Addressees Tom Watson MP Cllrs Joyce Underhill & David Hosell PCT Chair, Chief Exec, Jason Evans and PPI Manager.
"Dear All,
Yesterday I attended the Great Barr & Newton Community Forum. Jason Evans from Sandwell PCT gave a report on the position with a clinic for Great Barr & Newton. This was very disappointing listening. Of 14 possible sites in the area all had been rejected and there are no other sites under consideration. This is extremely bad news for our area. May I remind you all that the project was supposed to start March 2009 and I have copy of a letter from Rob Bacon to that effect. Listening to Jason Evans makes me realise that this project is not going to happen. Because of my recent poor health I know more than most how essential it is for our area to have a clinic. It should not be some pie in the sky pipe dream, it is needed now. I have suffered directly and indirectly by the closure of Dr. Abyhankar’s surgery and by the temporary closure of Dr. Chitre’s surgery. Health care provision on the south west side of the canal is inadequate, although on the north east side there is a plethora of services which cloud the issues.
This email is I suppose a plea to all of you. To the politicians to put aside your political differences and work together to get this project moving, because without some real political leadership it is not going to happen. I do not see that leadership in fact yesterday those politicians present just seemed to accept the situation. To the leaders of the PCT to take off your blinkers re look at the sites provided start to think more for your patients and not of the preconceived site profiles you seem obsessed with. It had always been assumed that members of the public would be involved with site selection yet as far I know this is not happening.
I would like some assurances from all of you that this project is going to happen and your support for it.
My best wishes to you all"

So far I have received replies from Cllrs Underhill(2) & Hosell. I publish the responses from our councillors:-

From Cllr Underhill
"Hi Bob,
I feel the Tanhouse Centre will turn out to be the most viable option. Unfortunately this will mean losing the community centre although at the moment it is 3/4 empty. This situation doesn't help the centre at all. Dr. Chitre is desperate to leave the clinic and find a new location in Hamstead. Tentative enquiries have been made with the owners of the Joker Pub but they are reluctant to sell.
What I don't want to see is the loss of another G.P. in the area.
I am investigating further the comment made by Jason about the Council having different plans for the Tanhouse Centre.
I see the loss of the community centre a small price to pay for a clinic.
If it is left to the P.C.T. there will be no clinic and the loss of a G.P. Great Barr and Hamstead residents will be expected to use the Heart of Birmingham facilities proposed in Handsworth.
I have not been sitting on my hands over this but it is difficult getting residents to see the benefits of a clinic when their health is good at this moment in time.

Joyce Underhill"

From Cllr Hosell
"Dear Bob
As you know I have been from day one the loudest voice in Newton
Ward regarding the urgent need for a clinic in Hamstead to house the doctors and other health services urgently needed to serve the residents of this area, I will be speaking to Tom Watson at the earliest opportunity to ask for his help in our hour of need, I feel sure he will support us. I will keep you and others who have contacted me informed on any progress or actions I plan.
Yours David Hosell.

Also from Cllr Underhill 12/2/2009

"Hi Bob,

Have started a dialogue with the PCT and Council. The PCT are happy at combining a clinic along with community facilities. Apparently this has happened in other areas.

Joyce U."

Where does our MP stand on this issue? The silence from him and the PCT is deafening.
Our MP is in the bowels of the Cabinet Office has minister for blogs amongst other things. Ironic, that a constituent should be using that medium to criticise his lack of action over a major local issue. I can understand his reluctance to get involved because this area usually votes Lib Dem so he would perceive he would not loose too many votes. He also lost a very public spat a couple of years ago with the then Chair of the Towards 2010 program who is now Chair of our PCT. The row was over the potential loss of our A&E major trauma unit which we are loosing to the new hospital if it ever gets built. This leaves him politically weak and he probably is not up for the fight. At the very least he is guilty of neglect of our area which in my view is verging on abandonment.
So, shame on you Tom Watson MP.

The PCT silence though is rather less predictable and perhaps more worrying. They will have to go into a huddle and seek legal advice before responding to a thing like this. If, what Cllr. Underhill reports, is true then we are making some progress. My experience though is that we should approach this with caution, so, without some more detailed information on her dialogue I’ll remain sceptical. I can understand them not replying to me because I am known to them and they probably think “awkward old git” and why should we even consider replying to a single citizen with a bee in his bonnet about our plans. After all they know best. I have had meetings with their officers in the past and been mislead, I’m not about to repeat that exercise. I think we over here in Newton and Great Barr are being duped.
Any further responses and actions will, I hope, be reported on the blog. Where to from here and are we getting our clinic?
Watch this space.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

A slight pause

Blogging will be delayed for a couple of days for which I apologise. I am working on a somewhat lengthy and controversial local issue concerning a clinic in our area. I want to ensure I have given all the possible respondents time to reply before publishing.
When I started the blog I never expected that I would have to use it in this way and I suppose I am a reluctant campaigner but I feel so strongly about what is happening that I have little alternative.
Somebody has to do something.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Andy Person

Politically correct again. we used to call them handy men, well I need one. I’ve posted before on some of the problems encountered as you get older. When ill health adds its contribution to the equation, life can be very difficult at times. Normally I would deal with any DIY issues around the house. Not a problem for me, fix a door, mend a fence fix the washing machine etc. Nowadays these activities are getting more difficult and on occasion not an option. Very frustrating when you know you could and should do it. Have to accept help and I’ve got a lot of mates who do just that when required. Recently though I discovered we have a Handy Person scheme in Sandwell which is designed to help folks like me. I’m now registered with this service and although there are limitations on tasks they can do it does seem a useful scheme. I am going to test it next week when they are coming to fix an internal door for me which will not open properly after our new carpet was fitted. I’ve looked at this door all week and pondered how I might do it myself. The misses has given me the warning, attempt it at your peril, don’t even think about it message. So I guess it’s the handy man (or lass) who are going to do it. The service is also free (with some restrictions) to us older residents. I think this is another well done Sandwell, they have been listening.
I better go have a lie down this praise for my local council is getting to be monotonous they are going to start thinking I’ve lost it.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Bankers in the spot light.

Tuesday saw the first public grilling of the big four bankers who have been leading exponents of the current banking crises. What wonderful crocodile tears of apology and what a big load of dosh they have been stashing away. One of them is still being paid. Very civilised the questioning by MPs which showed, I thought, just how badly they had managed their respective businesses. One of them didn’t think he was personally culpable. Let’s not mince words here they are just bloody crooks and should be locked away. They have defrauded their share holders with script issues that they must have known could never be repaid. The damage to our economy and to the lives of the many thousands that are suffering as a result must be addressed via the criminal justice system. As far as I know no criminal charges are being considered but until they are and this lot is locked up and their assets stripped the country will have no confidence that anything as been learned. What is also very clear is that two of them are Knights and another a Lord. To me this implies just how corrupt our Honours System is. Gordon whilst you ponder what to do with this bunch you might consider it is long overdue to repeal the Lords and the Honours system so that real people like the stroke sufferer in my ward who runs a stroke club is rewarded and not over paid bankers. What are you going to do? Pay them their bonuses!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Political correctness, a bit of tongue in cheek.

Much hype recently on this issue and particularly with beeb. The arrogance of Jonathon Woss was quite staggering and the way the BBC handled it was disproportionately inappropriate. The man should have been sacked. We though as viewers can have the last say and vote with our fingers. I now turn him off. His smirk and brand of cynical sarcasm is just cheap laughs and I find him offensive just as he opens his mouth whatever it is he wants to say. How the beeb can justify his salary from the licence fee is questionable. As the offence was against an older person the beeb must be practising age discrimination here for not dealing with it more harshly. Carol Thatcher with her comments on Gollywogs in a private conversation then gets sacked. Seems a little bit of double standards here, don’t you think. I used to like the Gollywog on marmalade jars it was a poignant reminder of childhood after the war when things were starting to get better and we had marmalade. So I find it offensive that other folk find the term Gollywog offensive. The beeb are in effect practising discrimination against white older people who have fond memories of this logo nothing at all racist about it.
Now I come to the final piece in this jigsaw of political idiosyncrasy. Jeremy Clarkson with his one eyed Scottish idiot remark describing our PM. In my neck of the woods the term “one eyed” is a local colloquialism for being very focused on one particular subject to the exclusion of everything else. Our prime minister is very focused on saving the world from financial meltdown so to me he is one eyed (nothing to do with the loss of his sight) Scottish, he is, and he’s doing a marvellous job for his constituents over the border at the expense of the older folks in England. The idiot bit, well no problems with that is there?. So why indeed has Jeremy been asked to apologise. The beeb are guilty of prejudice against me a white male older brummie who has fond memories of marmalade uses the term one eyed and thinks our PM is an idiot. The DG should either offer me an apology or resign. Jeremy should not have had to apologise. Mind you I’ll still switch him off because I think he’s an over paid twit. Is that politically correct? And can I say that? Oh I just did.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

THE PUBLIC and Politics Show

Interesting article on the Politics show BBC1 on Sunday.
The beeb gave a very balanced short film on this project which was the best I have seen. They recognised where this building fitted in with future development of West Brom and there was no hysteria about the cost etc. Just good reporting with little political bias.
The two panellists though were poles apart. I wonder where the beeb got the Tax Payers Alliance spokesperson from (somewhere up in Cuckoo land) and indeed I wonder what gives her the right to speak out against this project. She had never been in the building and as far as I know does not live in West Brom and her unscientific claims to have talked to residents about it were totally unsubstantiated. She represents an organisation which is not elected and as far as I can see represents nobody. I never heard such tosh being claimed in such a patronising way about the good people of West Brom. She gets a big thumbs down from me.
Councillor Badham on the other hand gave a well thought out account of what is happening and what will be the future for this building. I think the good councillor won the debate outright and well done to him.
I have said many times on this blog that the centre of West Brom will be revitalised by this project when the rest of the development is underway. At the moment it is perhaps five years ahead of the rest of the development and as such it must be hard for many residents to see where it all fits.
To Sandwell Council please keep faith but not to much council tax money it must be a wealth creator.
Stop press!
We now hear that a Tory MEP and the leader of our local Tories are coming up with proposals for the building and according to local press this gives real hope for the project. The proposals so I believe include a bowling alley and an up market gym. Why am I sobbing over my keyboard? Excuse me for appearing cynical here but the Tories have done nothing but complain about the building with little or no thought what their negative campaigning would cause to the projects future so I have little faith in their crocodile tears approach at this critical time. My advice would be to shut up and leave Sandwell council to get on and run the place.

Monday, 9 February 2009


I posted some time ago about the number of solar panel lights we had installed in our back garden and how I felt they were almost like the runway lights approaching Birmingham airport. A bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea. During the summer we get a lot of pleasure seeing the garden lit in this way. During the winter months performance of these things is very disappointing. Some will accept the charge and give off a little light most though are dormant. We do though have one little “star” that out performs all the rest. Problem with this light is that when the batteries are running low it goes in to flashing mode and brightly flashes away all night. Great hazard warning if that’s what you need. Flashing gets up my pip in the early hours when I get up to start my nocturnal ramblings on this blog but I’m reluctant to switch it off.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Bank bonuses

I’ve posted my views on the bank bosses and how I think they should be treated before on this blog. Which in summary is fire em arrest em charge em and reclaim their assets when found guilty lock em up and throw away the key. This week we hear RBS is going to give big bonuses to many of its top staff. At this news I go into my Victor Meldrew “I don’t believe” it mode. President Obama takes a more refreshing line this week capping the salaries of bosses who have received state aid at $500,000pa. By American standards a very modest sum. It sends a message though to all CEO’s about their behaviour and in the States some of the offenders are already in the legal process. It may also have a positive effect on future requests for state help i.e. they may be slow in asking if they think they are going to have to accept a massive pay cut.
Over here what do we get from Lord Mandelson? It’s not very good PR and they are looking at it and I think I’ll scream if I hear Gordon Brown utter those now famous words “the government is doing all it can”. When we see what is still happening. We hear that seven of the non exec directors of RBS are leaving, with a golden handshake I suspect. The government have not done half enough to bring those responsible within the banks and financial institutions to book over this crisis. What worries me is that they are still out there working in the sector and I think still largely unchecked.
Stop Press: - I now hear Lord Mandleson is thinking of capping their salaries. More to come on this story I think. He’s been reading the blog.
So Peter here is the bottom line! No bonuses no way, until such time that the bail out is paid in full and the banks have started to pay dividends to share holders.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Great Barr & Newton Neighbourhood Forum.

I went along to this forum yesterday. Well respected forum run voluntary by ex local councillor. Issues discussed always pertinent to our area. Yesterday only six attended and two of them were councillors. Police attended as did the man from the PCT and a chap from Hospital Trust to talk about the new hospital site. Police report was pretty predictable. A spate of burglaries in the area and a suspicious silver people carrier seen near where these have occurred.
The report from the PCT on our long overdue clinic was extremely disappointing. The issues have always been around getting a suitable site in the area. Of 14 sites reviewed all have been rejected. No new sites so no clinic. Not ever no way. This to me is not acceptable. Politicians present seemed to accept it in fact one Liberal suggested they should build it on the Conservative Club which is apparently up for sale. It’s a bit of a dilemma for me because I have been an up front campaigner for this clinic and I’m not going to be able to let this go. More on that later. The guy from the hospital trust brought along his power point presentation which contained some what I thought were totally patronising questions about our knowledge of the new hospital project. He was quickly told we had been consulted to death then totally ignored. People in Great Barr feel aggrieved at loosing Sandwell has the main hospital and that our views were just washed over in the mad rush to get the Smethwick site accepted. There never was any real alternative. We do not need to accept it but there now seems we can do little about it.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Significant weather event?

6am view from my office at home window. I think today I’m happy to be retired go back to bed with a second cup of tea and let the rest of you get on with it.
I know that getting older can seriously affect the way we remember things from the past and indeed how they affected us. It’s a big grown with the family when I announce “I remember when” but there ain’t nowt wrong with my memory. Which brings me to this week and the snow. I can remember clearly the winter of 1947 ZZzzzzzzzzzz. Please try to stay awake it’s relevant, honest. Some comparisons with today were inevitable. We were living in abject poverty after the war and trying to rebuild our lives. There was not enough fuel, we were burning fences and trees and anything else we could get our hands on. Visits to the local gas works with a pram to get coke were common with queues waiting for the valuable fuel. We had one fire in a downstairs sitting room. No insulation and drafts that blew in through holes in doors and window frames. One pair of woollen gloves that needed to be dried by the fire if they got wet.
The weeks of the freeze though were not to be just endured. Little brother and I had a great time. Building snow men, snow ball fights and I even earned a few pennies clearing snow for neighbours.
The snow was piled high wherever there was space to pile it.
There were few cars around but as far as I can remember they and the busses and trams were able to get around. Some disruption yes, but nothing like the scenes this week. Schools were never shut. We struggled into school. I can’t remember at any stage during my school years that I missed a day due to snow. What I can remember is being bloody cold when we got there and the 6inch heating pipes we sat on to warm us up. We were even sent out to play at play time although there was an option of staying indoors. I got chilblains which itched like crazy but we went to school. The school loos were outside. My dad went to work and mum did the shopping with me in tow to wait in the queues that were still common on the High St with rationing still being in place.
It’s time we took a long hard look at snow policy and the barmy way we go about making the decisions these days.
Congratulations to Sandwell though who seem to have done an excellent job keeping our borough moving.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

West Minster Observer.

Every week our local freebie newspaper publish a piece from one of the three local MPs who service wider Great Barr called Westminster Observer. Mostly they are well written and relevant. They are however all Labour MPs so a fair balance is not met. The articles are often away from the main political concerns for that week. Such was the case last week when my MP made his contribution. Because there were some noticeable omissions from his article I thought I would email him and point out some of the bigger issues affecting his constituents over here in Newton. The picture is his article in full. I hope you can read it. My email is as follows:-

"Dear Mr Watson,
I read with interest your article in Great Barr Observer Friday January 30th 2009.
May I congratulate you on a well written and balanced argument concerning cancer care and screening? You have quite rightly made the case for improvements to payments for suffers and to how access to early diagnosis is and will save lives. Your article however glosses over many of the issues which affect suffers. In England we fall far behind the rest of the United Kingdom in health service provision and I refer to prescription charges, car parking at hospital sites and personal care. Early detection of cancers in women is improving as is the other health screening they get. The case with men though is much less well thought through and very little is done at Well Man clinics, that is if your surgery operates one.
The most common cancer for older men is prostate cancer and a simple blood test can reveal indicators which can save lives. PSA prostate specific antigen tests cost about £15 but there is no requirement for men over fifty to have this test. Some doctors do others? ?? What plans are there by health authorities to further introduce health screening for men?
Over the last few years we have lost doctors surgeries in Newton with a devastating effect that recently 1200 patients were in effect left without adequate GP cover for a two week period. Our Primary Care Trust will not totally accept their responsibility in this appalling situation because of the way GPs are often responsible to other PCTs. I understand you had a letter of apology from the Chief Exec of Sandwell PCT concerning the surgery closure but surely this apology should have been made to the patients with detail plans as to how this would be prevented from happening again. We have had a long running battle with PCT over the plans for a Clinic in Great Barr and I have persistently asked for your political support to get this project moving. Can I now assume that you are fully behind getting this clinic being built in Newton and not at the Scott Arms?

I intend to publish this letter together with your response should I get one on my blog because I think it is in the public interest in Newton and Great Barr.

Best wishes

To date I have not received a reply.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Blinking Belkin

I thought it was about time that BBCB went wireless. We have had broadband for about 4yrs but with the way my health has been access to a computer in other parts of the house would be nice and might become necessary. We did our research, went to the experts at leading computer stores and finally decided on Belkin. I’ve still got my sixty quid from Gordon so that helps to pay for it. It’s easy the man in PC World said, no problem it’s all in the box set up is easy and you’ll be up and running in no time. Oh dear me what a load of codswallop. Things are going really well until we come to the bit about signing on to the web site for set up and security. When the site not available screen comes up and it transfers you to a google list of people who are having the same problem. I don’t want to labour the point here but this was not at all helpful. The instruction manual was little help so eventually a call to the “help line” was necessary. After an hour of attempts to get the thing set up I’m still not wireless. I emailed them asking what to do and they have sent a very detailed response that might just as well be in written in Urdu because I can’t understand it.
This is going to be fun! First reaction was to take it back to PC World and stick it up the salesman’s a*** but that would not be helpful and it’s not his fault.
I figured the problem was partly with our internet settings on the lap top and set about figuring it out. During the process the battery failed and I had to squeeze low from my chair to plug in the machine. The chair slipped: crash bang whollop: I’m prostrate on the floor with a chair, a lap top, bunch of files and some other equipment on top of me when my wife heard “oh F*** F*** F***. With my present delicate state of health falls are bad news. The fourth emergency service for me (the misses) arrives to get me back in my chair. Fortunately no harm done to me or the kit. I’m still getting stick over the language though and the lap top settings are now sorted. Delighted to be able to report we are now fully wireless. To some extent I owe Belkin an apology the initial problems weren’t down to them. Their instructions pack though leaves a lot to be desired and their help line ain’t too helpful.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Controversial Art Centre

There as been much written and much said this past week on our new arts centre here in West Brom, THE PUBLIC. It is on record that I am a great supporter of this project but at this point in time it would appear to be doomed. The Arts Council who originally funded it have given Sandwell a £3M parting gift and told them to find another use for it. Biggest issue seems to be the interactive gallery known as The Public Gallery which should have contained state of the art interactive activities and the only paying part from the general public’s point of view. The electronic exhibits have never been completed despite the rest of the building being open to for about nine months. I don’t understand why, none of it is rocket science and now because of the delays it is not even state of the art. If you listen to Sandwell’s Chief exec and the boss of THE PUBLIC this is good news and they have what they wanted to finish the project. I don’t now believe them. Sadly I think the Tory doom and gloomer’s have won to the detriment of art and culture here in Sandwell. Our local evening newspaper did a straw pole of opinion on what the public wanted the money spent on. Only 3% of those polled wanted to see it used for its original purpose as an arts centre. This was certainly not a scientific pole but I suppose in many ways it does reflect what has been happening in the local press which along with Tories have been against it from the beginning.
My real sadness though if it does close is the loss to our borough to raise its intellectual profile. With the amount of uncertainty surrounding this project it is no wonder potential users of the building are reluctant to commit. The building is part of a much larger development project for the area which is running late. The facility itself is probably 10yrs to early because when the new shops and other facilities are surrounding it the new town square will be a vibrant place. The recession is also affecting its potential and I believe development.
Despite the bad news, the redundancies and the rest I still believe this project must be allowed to succeed. The management of the building though need to take a long hard look at how they are operating because my experiences of trying to deal with them have not been good. We hear talk that management of the project is being passed to Sandwell Leisure Trust. This in my opinion would be the worst possible scenario. They can’t run our swimming pools and leisure centres well so how they will get on with this. If this is true then the project is surely doomed.
I don’t mind being within the 3% minority. Lets hear it for art and culture but give management of it to someone with drive and creative flair.