Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Clinic update round 3

Following my earlier detailed post on this subject I was concerned at the lack of support we were receiving from our MP and I went along to his surgery to discuss this and several other local issues I felt needed urgent attention. The following weekend he published the above article in Great Barr Observer and I have to say he is very supportive.
Around the same date I had a response from the Chair of the PCT which with their permission I publish below.

Sandwell Primary Care Trust
Kingston House
438 High Street
West Bromwich
B70 9LD

Tel 0845 155 0500
Fax 0121 612 1500

Dear Bob

I refer to your recent e-mail regarding the planned health care facility in the Great Barr/Newton area and have looked into the current situation prior to making this response.

I can confirm that twelve sites in the local area have been given full consideration but were found to be unavailable, undeliverable or unsuitable. However, I would also like to reassure you that the PCT has continued to search for possible sites in the area and that this development remains a priority for the PCT. I personally have involved myself in recent work to identify further suitable sites and can confirm that the PCT is putting additional resources into this process so that it can be concluded as quickly as possible.

The PCT still plans to deliver a new health care facility in the area by the end of 2011, the timescale has slipped against our original plans but this reflects the difficulty we have experienced in procuring land.

I would also like to confirm that when suitable land options have been identified there will be a formal engagement process involving local people, locally elected representatives and local GPs to identify a preferred site.

Please be assured that the PCT remains committed to delivering this development for the benefit of local people in the Great Barr/Newton area.

Yours sincerely

Richard Nugent

I have also been to the surgeries of Cllrs. Underhill and Hosell and written to them on the issue. Their responses to the letter are published below.

From Cllr. Joyce Underhill
"Hi Bob,
Local representatives and local G.P.s have identified a site - Tanhouse. The letter doesn't move the issue on really.
From Cllr. Underhill
Hi Bob,

Still awaiting a response from Council officers not only on the visit to Tanhouse which I am assuming has taken place but the result of Dr. Chitre's visit. Mr. Singh - the chemist - knows Dr. Chitre has met officers. I don't know why there is this wall of secrecy.
Letter sounds ok.


From Cllr. David Hosell
"Hi Bob, I would like to say a personal well done to you. It proves that if a community has someone who champions a cause that is just and is intended to benefit all who live there can be taken forward. It is surprising how quickly people jump on side when they realise that what is being asked for is a necessity and not a pipe dream. It is essential that Hamstead/Great Barr get their Clinic as soon as possible. I feel that with the support of people like Tom Watson MP and all of our local Councillors, your and our target will be achieved for the benefit of our community. Keep the pressure on.
Yours CLLR David Hosell."

From Cllr. Hosell

"Hi Bob, I think YOUR letter states the feelings of all concerned. It should allay a few fears in the local community concerning the possible loss of the Tanhouse centre for community use and activities, I have been asked to bear in mind that the centre is one of the most used of its type in Sandwell, and I have been spending considerable time in explaining the reasoning of duel use for this facility. Bearing this in mind I feel that we should ensure information on any progress is passed on to local users as a matter of urgency. However my feelings are that a Health/Centre comes first. To ensure the needs of all the residents of Hamstead and Great Barr are delivered.
Yours CLLR David Hosell."

From Tom Watson MP

"Seems fine to me Bob"

My reply to the PCT reads as follows:-
Richard Nugent
Sandwell Primary Care Trust
Kinston House
High St.
West Bromwich

Health care facility in Great Barr
Dear Richard.
Thank you for your letter of the 13th March 2009 re the above.
Whilst I am pleased that at last senior members of the PCT are taking an interest in this project there are many aspects of your letter that give cause for concern.
It is very clear to me that recent correspondence between myself and our local political leadership at all levels shows clearly that we want to see Tanhouse Community Centre has the preferred site. I don’t think anyone accepts the reasons for the delay and certainly a finish time for this almost three years late is by any standards poor.
The Tanhouse Centre is available as an interim measure and there is sufficient land on the site which I believe to be Council owned to do the new build. The site is on three major bus routes, has suitable car parking facilities and is available now. We would be setting a model of care for other centres to follow with both health and community activities within the same site. Why the delay? Using Tanhouse you could have an interim clinic up and running easily by the end of 2009 and although this would still be late I believe it would be acceptable and certainly better for all concerned than your new target date which as far as I can see is not cast in stone. I understand that Rob Bacon has visited the site with a Council officer but I am not privy to their deliberations. The PCT have a facility at St. Bernard’s Church Centre which I understand is only partly used. I do not understand how we can seemingly be doing some duplication here. Clarification on the future of this site will in my opinion be necessary.
I look forward to the formal engagement process starting very soon.
My best regards
Bob Tidmarsh

Clearly there is still much to do. I am reminded of the unscientific amateurish survey the trust carried out after the closure of Dr. Abyhankars surgery. It was designed in such a way to give them the answer they wanted. Even with a one sided survey they had to do it twice because they originally only approached households and not patients. They do not seem to have learned from that experience. I suppose I must appear to be a bit of an arrogant thorn in their side so I do not expect to be part of any formal engagement process. They will be looking for tame participants. I don’t mind this one bit just as long as we get our clinic and it is not three years late.
Watch this space there is a long way to go. We need a top level meeting with PCT and our political leadership to set some time lines for the project. Whilst I have the energy I intend to continue this campaign until our clinic is up and running. This is round 3 of what is likely to be a 15 round contest unless one of us gets knocked out.

What can the ordinary citizen do when so clearly a monolithical organisation like a PCT are failing the area they are supposed to support? I feel it’s a bit like a David and Goliath conflict so bring on my sling and stones.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Red Route

The above letter appeared in our local free paper last weekend. I know the person who has been writing and his opposition to the red route and in particular to the traffic lights proposed for junction of Hamstead Road and Newton Road. Newton Rd is the main road which skirts our ward and Hamstead Road junction a very dangerous place at any time.
Mostly his letters have been transparent and harmless but this week he crossed the line. I have written to the Observer complaining about his letter and setting out what I know are the real reason behind his rants.
letter follows:-

To the editor Great Barr Observer
Re Lights will make traffic worse. Observer Your letters Friday March 27th
For the past few weeks you have been publishing letters from J Massey against the red route but mostly against the introduction of traffic lights at the junction of Newton Road and Hamstead Road. Mostly these letters have been transparent and harmless. This week though I believe Mr. Massey crossed a line in his ramblings against the lights and I must take exception to his comments.
He refers to the use of temporary lights at this junction causing long delays. I believe he is referring to the gas main work which was a very complex three way control system which worked very well and did in fact improve traffic flow.
He goes on to claim that emergency services will be affected by the introduction of lights and that the lives of residents of the Hamstead triangle will be put at risk. He full well knows the views of the emergency services on this which is, it is not an issue. In fact with better traffic control at the lights emergency vehicles will be able to get through quicker and does he not stop and move over like the rest of us when we see a blue flashing light or hear a siren? This is just blatant scare mongering.
He then raises the spectre of faulty lorries trying to stop on a downhill bend and in some way suggests that any accident accrued from this would be the fault of Tony Fowler, Cllrs Ward, Hosell, myself and other members of Great Barr & Newton Neighbourhood watch association who organised a petition to get traffic lights at this junction. The petition contained 750 signatures. I had the privilege of presenting this petition to West Bromwich Town Committee. Mr Massy was as I remember it the only dissenting voice. Once again blatant scare mongering. The fault here would be with the driver and operating company and I resent his inference that any of us have acted or would act in such a way as to put the public at risk. He then goes on to say he will in effect gloat if such an accident happened. Shame on you. What is being proposed for the red route will be a major step forward in road safety to our area which is long overdue. He talks about keeping the traffic moving. What he really means is not having stationary traffic near his home. Traffic needs to move safely from and into Hamstead Road and also into and from Forge Lane the proposals will reduce delays at these junctions and make both junctions safer than they have ever been.
A couple of weeks ago he complained of Sandwell’s fixation with using traffic lights on stilts. This practise which is now quite common in other parts of the country gives drivers earlier warning of traffic lights ahead and is in effect another major safety measure which Mr Massey feels does not matter.
The final piece of pettiness I feel is his reference to wasting money on red paint. The only thing here should be his red face when the traffic lights are installed and we have a safer junction.
bob the black country brummie

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Wow that went well & such.

When I retired I thought that someone had speeded the clocks up a bit. The weeks just seemed to fly by. I suppose I was enjoying new experiences and free of the burden of work responsibilities. The last couple of weeks though have been the fastest ever with the Americans over here, I can’t believe it’s over. A very sad granddad is writing this blog today. We did the tourist bit of the west mids and beyond. Grandkids loved it. Grandson had his photo taken with a waxwork of the Queen at Warwick Castle, which totally satisfied his interest. The Earl of Warwick needs to get your hair washed your Maj.
Anyway, you guessed it folks Bob the Black Country Brummie is back. I can’t say with a vengeance because my mood is not one of enthusiasm for much at the moment. I’m working on it. Plenty to go at with our clinic and recently the irresponsible dog owners are back leaving little piles outside on the grassed area. Red route consultation is causing some comment in the press with one particularly vocal character (a local nimby) complaining bitterly about it. I think I’ll either do a piece on the blog or write to local freeby newspaper to put the real facts and dispute his rather selective memory of what happened. I know the person writing anti route rhetoric. So Mr. Massy I’m on the case!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Royal visit

No no not that over privileged over paid lot from Buck House (oops there goes my MBE) but real royalty. Our American family of eldest Daughter, Son in Law and Grandkids are visiting for a couple of weeks so BBCB will in effect be off the air. When asked what 8yrs old grandson wanted to see after the chocolate factory (he gets his priorities right, just like his granddad) he said the Queen. So your mag, if you are reading this blog, leave him an invite I’ll explain the protocol. This is the first time the whole family has been together in one town for many many years. So as much as I know you will all miss the whit and wisdom of the blog, I’m afraid for a couple of weeks it will be very scarce. Have a nice day. Please keep the comments coming, I’ll try to monitor that bit and publish them.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Clinic update

I now have a detailed response from PCT re our clinic over here in Newton. Our MP also came on board this weekend with a guns blazing article on health care in our area and I have also had further contacts with our Cllr. Champions. I will put together a detailed response under clinic update which will include all the input and a response letter from me. So watch this space the PCT proposals are unacceptable, so we still have much work to do.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Urinal bottle.

The one thing about this blog it is never boring, is it?
The wife is getting a bit embarrassed by my little problem with my water works. So am I, I suppose, but can’t help it. As you all know the problem is exacerbated by larger stores who no longer have toilet facilities and the almost total lack of public facilities in Sandwell. Must tackle my councillors on that next time I see them.
So what to do? Well, she bought me a present of a Urinal bottle via the internet with instructions I keep it in my car. The neck of this bottle is big enough to accommodate an elephant with an erection so I should have no problems if it should ever be needed. I’m not so sure about the liquid security of the lid though.
The depths some people will go to write a story. There must be a lot of puns associated with this topic. Like, getting peed off, bottling it up, take a bottle home (that was great old ad). The Bagdad blogger made his name reporting on conditions in a war torn country and here’s me reporting on urinal availability in a bankrupt country. Until the next time I need to spend an unplanned penny. Have nice day.
I blame the drugs.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Very pretty garden

The wife and I have always enjoyed our garden. We have over the years tended it with loads of TLC and although I say so myself it is a very pretty place and none more so than this time of year when the spring flowers are showing and many of the shrubs are starting to flower or in bud. The sun came out at the week end and subsequently I couldn’t resist getting out into the garden. Trouble is I can’t do what I used to do. I suppose I worry that it will deteriorate and I can’t cut the grass and all those other little jobs that make it such a special place for us. Last week end I decided the grass was due for its first cut. Trouble was that my legs weren’t working as well as they should. Plan a) cut in small amounts with plenty of rests. Plan b) leave the front for the following day. What we have decided is, to do a little, do it often, so that it never gets out of control. I’m delighted to be able to report that we did it and trimmed the lawn edges, did a little weeding and tidied up some of the winter wear and tear. In the evening I was completely knackered but the garden is a delight to see. I’m not giving up on my garden until it’s impossible for me and I’m not getting any help with it either. Later in the year though I might just feel that help is needed. Biggest problem was the bit the council are supposed to cut which we have adopted and looked after over the years that bit might be the first casualty. My neighbours are good and have offered to help with this patch.
I’m reminded of the old Master Card ads:-
Planning and preparation: time consuming
Cutting the grass: slow and painful
The results: Priceless

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Traffic wardens I luv em

Yesterday I had to drive to our local shopping area at Scott Arms. I was having a poor day so used the old blue badge to park but parking would have been legal without the badge, whilst I waited for my wife. Ahead of me was a car parked totally illegally on double red lines about ten feet from notice on the lamp post about no parking. Along comes traffic warden on his moped, he’s like a hawk after its breakfast, park’s up and proceeds to book the offending vehicle. Digital camera clicking away he’s got all the evidence. Duly booked he’s just about to leave when the owner appears with shopping bag. The protest was somewhat verbal with a lot of arms being waved. TW pointing to red lines then notice. Guilty motorist pointing at him with bag waving. Now I could not hear what was being said but the TW was being lambasted. I give this guy top marks because he never lost it. The lady threw her bag into the car slammed the door and drove off without removing the ticket from the windscreen. My sympathies are with the TW I hope she gets the book chucked at her. Park illegally? We all do it sometimes, get caught well it ain’t the TWs fault he’s only doing his job. So coff up and get on with it. No need for her display of temper. Wish I’d taken the reg. number now I’d have published it on the blog.
A couple of years ago though I took a disabled friend into West Brom and parked in the area for mobility buggies. The friend gave me her badge while we organised a shopping buggy for her. What she never told me was that the badge has to be displayed the correct way. Sure enough when we came back I’ve got a ticket. Now this seems a bit mean. So I appealed and Sandwell rescinded the fine. TWs should have some flexibility when an obvious mistake is made. Today though justice was done.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Public sector pensioners compensated.

Yesterday the government announced that about 5000 public service pensioners who had not been getting their full pension entitlement would be compensated. This on the face of things sounds like good news and it is for those affected but we have once again a major problem with consistency in government policy. It’s OK to bail out a bank but not a pension fund. It’s OK to compensate public service employees who are not getting full pension entitlements but not private sector schemes. Come on the dept of work and pensions let’s have one rule for all and put right the major discrepancies with Pension Protection Fund and the Financial Assistance Scheme. PLEASE!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Nationalise another bank?

It now appears that HBOS numbers were far worse than predicted and that the accounts were not properly audited before the take over by Lloyds and the massive cash injections from the state. I think it’s called due diligence. I’ve posted before on what I see has criminal activity within this bank but I see little government interest in bringing these people before the courts and seizing their assets. At the last rights issue of shares they must have known that the company was in effect trading illegally or their accounts were in such a mess that they could not understand the situation which I think is in itself illegal. As directors, they have a responsibility for accurate reporting. This, clearly as not happened. So let’s see the whole of the old board arrested. Dawn raids would be ever so good publicity and help to send the clearest of messages. They are no better than drug barons. Similarly with Northern Rock and most definitely with RBS with Fred Goodwin first.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Blue badge parking.

A couple of months ago I was advised that I should apply for a blue badge for disabled parking. I never considered myself to fit into this category but after some persuasion from the wife I applied. A couple of weeks later my badge arrives. I’m thinking things must be worse than I think but anyway I now have the option of parking in designated disabled bays and other places unavailable to the general public. I’ve tried to use the badge responsibly. On my good days I park as normal and don’t use the badge on bad days though I’m really happy to use it. It has made a tremendous difference to my life and what I can now do. What I have become acutely aware of though is the number of people who park in disabled bays without displaying badges. I recently went to a major supermarket that has a whole line of bays that are not supervised. All the bays were full and I had to park some distance away and walk along the disabled line, I noticed three vehicles parked without badges. They were all large 4x4 or SUVs BMWs or the like. I was having a bad day so felt a little miffed at their thoughtless behaviour. I suppose owners of these vehicles have difficulty parking in the small spaces we have at supermarkets but surely they must realise the difficulty they may be causing some disabled person. I’ve since monitored parking in an adoc way but pretty much always it’s a vehicle of that ilk. I wonder how long before I take one of them to task over parking?
What is a little more difficult to get used to though is the walking stick which is now a permanent companion in my car and a very well used piece of kit. This getting old ain’t a lot of fun.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

What is going on?

With Gordon Brown in America, Prime ministers question time yesterday was with Harriet Harman, William Haig and Vince Cable. What appeared to be happening was a whiff of political gossip that whilst Gordon was out of the country senior Labour politicians were posturing for the leader’s job. If this is true and as been going on for some time now it might explain some of what is happening over here in West Brom East and why our MP has been behaving in the way he has. After his alleged plot to get rid of Blair and his very public resignation from his first junior minister’s role he very firmly attached his allegiance to the Brown mast with a new junior ministerial role in the cabinet office. I would imagine that many of the main contenders for the leadership would be uneasy inviting him to join their team and consequently he will loose a big pile of money when the inevitable happens and Gordon goes. It can’t be long, can it? Couple this with the falling away of his political support in some of the wards and I guess he is a worried man.
But then what would I know I only live here. Ummm interesting times I think. One reporter last night even suggested Brown might go for an early election. This I think might put our MP in a state of panic because although he had a massive majority last time his and his parties support has slumped faster than the pound, stock market and share values put together. It was also suggested that Brown might quit and take a job in International Banking well that’s rich, he helps to bankrupt the world but they want him to help sort it out. It must be the big bonuses and pensions he wants. The world has gone mad. I can now confirm it.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Miner’s memorial

I’m very proud of our area. A year ago now a trust set up by local people erected a memorial to miners who had been killed in a devastating fire at Hamstead colliery 100 years ago. Today they held a wreath laying ceremony at the site. I must admit to thinking that this piece of industrial art would get vandalised and become an eyesore. Not so, not once has it been defaced or vandalised a real credit to everyone. The site, although I do not like it, is a haven for peace and reflection with two benches on grassed area at the gateway to our ward. It attracts a bit of litter from time to time but the flower beds and grass have been and are well maintained. Thousands of people pass it everyday. Sadly during the year one of the trusts leading members passed away after a long battle with cancer. I sincerely hope the site continues to be respected in the way it has.
Well done Newton ward.

Body language

I watched the informal press conference between Brown and Obama on Newsnight last night. Would have watched earlier but the West Brom match called. Anyway on a question about the economic crisis our leader is laughing and smiling away delighted that he can blame the rest of the world. When he realises that perhaps that is not quite the right approach he starts to answer in his now standard fashion. Camera turns to Barrack who is looking at Brown with an expression which could only be described as disdain. He must have been thinking where did they get this idiot?. I don’t know about you but I’m pretty fed up with (Brown) seeing him prancing around the world grinning like a Cheshire cat and laughing at this crisis. I think his advisers have told him to look more cheerful. Well it ain’t cheering me up or any of the other folk who are at rick of loosing everything because of his policies.
So Tom Watson MP perhaps this is one of those issues that are more important to West Brom East than political posturing over a St. Georges day march. Lots of folk in Newton are hurting.

Monday, 2 March 2009

St. George’s Day

Let me start by stating my strong belief that we should celebrate our patron saint on his day. Since celebrations to do this have been arranged I’ve been there at some event or other and for all the years Sandwell have organised the party in the park enjoyed the event immensely.
This year the question of the parade has become a hot political topic. There are two references I wish to make.
Firstly, the Observer newspaper Friday 20th Feb when, Tom Watson MP chose to make this the subject of his regular Westminster Observer article. He refers to a Facebook group of 2000 who want a parade. I fail to see the relevance of this comment because these folk could all be the people who allegedly caused the problems last year and subsequent council withdrawal of funding for the parade. The council are still funding the event in the park and a concert. Tom goes on to criticise Cllr. Edwards who is chair of the councils watchdog committee and published a report towards the end of last year. Knowing both these people my money is on Cllr Edwards to be more in touch with what is happening on the ground here in Sandwell. Always the “listening” MP Tom has set up a online survey at www.tel-tom.com/stgeorges Not to impressed with the survey either.
Second, the Politics show BBC1 on Sunday the march was the major local topic with input from Cllrs Rowley and Edwards both of which I thought well presented with a strong argument against the march. Stone Cross St Georges’ Day Association was also represented well. Tom Watson was interviewed when again he apparently went directly against his local council. I thought his interview was quite frankly embarrassing. I could not help thinking what is really going on here?
Local MP loosing his political support in some of his wards, Newton, Great Barr, Charlemont? sees an opportunity to get some good publicity. A bit like the campaign to save our A&E which came back and bit him in the butt. I hear today that a local business man has stumped up the £10K to finance this so it will now probably go ahead unless of course Ch. Supt. Dugmore has the final say on safety grounds and opposes the application to close the roads.
I’ll make a little prediction the march will go ahead with our MP somewhere leading it. I can’t help feeling though there are a lot more pressing issues in the constituency that his time would be better spent on. But then what would I know I only live here.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Fred Goodwin & Co affair

This latest twist in the banking crisis epitomises to me the hypocrisy that has been Labour policy on pensions under the Brown as Chancellor years and now the Brown PM years.
As chancellor his policies lead to the failure of many pension funds and as a result he set up the Pension Protection Fund. The fund never covered all of the lost pensions and as a result many thousands of pensioners are left with severe hardship and getting worse year on year. We had a succession of mealy mouthed work and pension’s secretaries telling us how proud they are that they have lifted X thousands of the poorest out of poverty. This is the pensioner tax credit which is perhaps the most hated form of means testing ever devised with such a complicated application form you need a degree in English to understand and most pensioners have to have help filling it in. The extra money is not a lot because they consider savings of around £16K to be earning 10% and adjust accordingly.
The government have an army of snoopers who check on benefit fraud. Nothing wrong with that unless you consider what as just happened. Chief Exec of bank defrauds (because that is what it is) bank of billions by bringing the bank to its knees. Then in collaboration with his Chairman, not only cons the bank but the government into paying him an outrageous pension. Remember the crocodile tears at the select committee?
I’ve heard the sob stories about the government not being able to afford to pay pensioners a fair pension because I believe we are all being ripped of to the tune of £50 per week yet they double quick bailed out Fred’s bank and gave him enough dosh in one handout to fully fund the Pension Protection Fund. If I had attempted to defraud my bank I would quite rightly be arrested.
So what does dear Gordon do? He asks Fred ever so nicely to please give some of the money back, bugger off ses Fred nothing doing. Gordon insists that just a little sweetener will get him off the hook a couple of grand maybe. Nothing doing ses Fred go take a hike. Gordons getting a bit touchy but because he knows this is only the tip of the pension’s iceberg and just below the surface all the public sector and government pension scandals, he can’t take a chance.
So Gordon this is what you do! Stop dithering! Call in the serious fraud squad, arrest Fred and his chairman and the rest of the old RBS Northern Rock & HBOS boards. Confiscate their passports and assets because this lot are a serious threat to our national security. A typical charge might be “on suspicion of attempting to defraud a bank or pension fund or even her majesties treasury”. That ought to be enough to bang em up until such time that legislation can be brought in retrospectively to deal with them. Until the public see these people properly dealt with there will not be any confidence in government or banking. I bet a few days in Winson Green will make Fred and Co re-think their pension plans. But finally not a penny in pensions from the tax payer until every penny in bail out money has been recovered and then only after one of Gordon’s enquiries. That ought to keep the money safe for about 20yrs.