Saturday, 31 October 2009

Ouch

I had to visit my doctor and had almost the last appointment of the evening. It has been a long time since I visited the surgery in the dark and what a depressing place it is. Poor lighting around the site only adds to the gloom. This is the only surgery on the south side of the canal that splits our ward. During my consultation it was interrupted by yobs climbing on and rattling the window protection screens. The doctor was about to start a delicate procedure on my body when the interruption started. A second or two later and the result would have been eye watering for me I jumped but the doctor who was used to this stayed calm. The yobs were peering through the slits in the blinds at me on the couch. These facilities are old fashioned and totally inappropriate for our need. The doctor deserves better and so do we. Apparently this type of interruption is quite a common occurrence during surgery hours. I felt quite intimidated by the behaviour. The perpetrators were not around when I left the surgery. Cllrs. from Great Barr with Yew Tree please note when you are considering the health facilities in our area these are the kind of conditions we have to put up with. There is no practical alternative. I think if the Tanhouse Clinic does not get the go ahead there will be a massive public outburst of anger.
In Oldbury a temporary clinic was constructed using Porta Cabins. We need these facilities now. Why is no one from the authorities asking for a recovery plan? The very best possibility is our clinic will be at least a year late. We need these facilities NOW. Councillors/PCT PLEASE NOTE. I can see some difficult times ahead. 6/11/2009 2pm meeting with PCT and Councillors when I believe we will be getting news on “some positive progress”. Could the long suffering residents of Newton at last be getting our clinic? More on this after 6/11/2009.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Word of beak

Tits are the smartest. Yes it’s true folks The Great Tit is the smartest bird visitor to our garden. Within five minutes of Mrs BBCB’s installation of our new small bird feeder, it’s top up of seed etc and the humans leaving the site a Great Tit was in and eating away. He was followed shortly after by a Robin who took a little while to examine the new restaurant before entering. The misses and I had a little wager over which bird it would be but I have to say she cheated a bit by adding grated cheese to the menu because she almost has the Robins eating out of her hand with it and as one was watching us preparing the site I was surprised. We didn’t have many visitors yesterday but I suppose it has to get around by word of beak so to speak “new restaurant open at BBCB’s great new menu ect ect”
It also struck me when I read my previous post about construction of the feeder how what is a tiny and irrelevant structure such as this can be so important to us. It’s not the feeder itself or what it does in our lives it’s the fact that I could actually do it (with a little help from my wife). My wretched illness prevents me from doing a lot of the routine physical stuff I used to do without thinking about. Twelve months ago I couldn’t change a light bulb so although it was painfully slow the wife was patient and we finally did it. For me it was progress.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A Sparrow Hawk ate my pigeon

My wife has always fed the birds in our garden and as such we have a lot of feathered visitors. Some years there is a preponderance of one species and later years others are predominant. A year or two ago Magpies were by far the largest number and what a nuisance they were. They are perhaps one of the noisiest birds with that warning rattle they have. We rarely see a Magpie these days but Wood Pigeons have taken their place. These birds are an absolute nuisance. This year they bred extremely well. We have designed and built a small bird feeder from an old hamster cage fitted to the top of an old bird table. Small birds can get in, Pigeons can’t. These however are smart birds and they are persistent until some of the seed is worked outwards.
One afternoon last week I came home to see a Sparrow Hawk eating his lunch of Pigeon on our back lawn. He saw me but ignored me. I stood still watching him strip the flesh off the bird. I called the misses who arrived a little too enthusiastically and the Hawk took off leaving very little of the Pigeon. No tears shed for helping to redress the bird balance in our garden. Birds have no gratitude for the food left; they nosh away and poop wherever it takes them. I forever have to clean the patio table and chairs.
This week end we got a new bird table and modified it for small birds only. See picture.
I hope it works. Wada ya think?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Care & Support Green Paper.

There are no ends to the lengths this blog will go to too get the facts. I have involved myself in the above debate because I feel it is something that is long overdue. Last week along with 100,000 others I received the following email from the Secretary Of State for Health. I can tell your impressed, both of you. It is however serious and about time the position was clarified. The options were giving a lot of disabled and older people cause for concern.

"Health Secretary clarifies Government position on disability benefits"
"The Secretary of State for Health has made it clear that Disability Living Allowance for the Under 65s will not be affected by Government plans to create a National Care Service.
Speaking at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Harrogate, Andy Burnham MP said: "I am encouraged by the response to our Big Care Debate and welcome the fact that other political parties are beginning to put their ideas on the table. There are big differences between what we are saying but we are beginning to create what I wanted to see - unstoppable momentum for legislation in the next Parliament.
"But, while the debate is moving quickly, I do want to stress that the door is wide open for discussion. We are still in a consultation period. No decisions have been made on funding options. We are still listening – about funding, about structures, and about how to build a forward-looking system of care.
"One avenue I do want to close down, however, is the debate and controversy over Disability Living Allowance.
"We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service.
"This is because, whilst there will be increases in the numbers of disabled people of working age who need care, the majority of the people needing care in the future will be older people.
"However, we do think there may be a case for bringing together elements of some disability benefits, such as Attendance Allowance, with social care funding, to create a new care and support system to provide for the needs of older and disabled people.
**"But the important principle is that people receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive an equivalent level of support and protection under a new and better care and support system.**
"And let's not forget, everyone - regardless of wealth or asset base – will benefit from the protection and piece of mind that the National Care Service will provide."
The Government is currently carrying out a consultation – the Big Care Debate - on the new National Care Service, a vision for which was set out in July’s Green Paper Shaping the Future of Care Together. The Big Care Debate continues until 13th November."
careandsupport@dh.gsi.gov.uk.

On the face of it, it seems that at last a realistic approach to this is being made. The re-assurances contained in the email (para 8 asterisked) are good news and something that the labour party should be trumpeting in its lead up to the next election. There is still a long way to go with this consultation but I hope the positive aspects are continued. Getting the Bill before Parliament before the next election is unlikely I think and I hope it is not one of those vicious cuts the Tories are planning. For me, although very late in Labour’s programme it sets clear water between them and the Tories. Let’s have a lot more of this and start telling the electorate.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Royal mail

I went along to our local mail collection site to collect a long overdue parcel which was a guaranteed next day delivery. I noticed some of the posters displayed in the window of the collections area. “Trying to build up a business?” this poster was suggesting the royal mail could help. Their current behaviour and recent history (industrial disputes, loosing money etc) would not give me any confidence in using them to help me build my business. A couple of real classics though. “DISABLED BELL: - please ring”. And No Smoking: - “from 1st July is it a no smoking area in this building”.
We had an email from an art company who supply the wife with a lot of her art materials which said basically they were suspending their contract with Post Office until both sides started to act like adults again. I’m tempted to write a lot more on this later because of my past experience I can see this dispute from both sides. At the present time though a strike like this is just about the daftest thing any company should be involved with. I urge them both to get back and talk whilst they still have a business to talk about.
Adam Crosier interview on the Politics Show did nothing to help the situation telling your customers and others (in the nicest possible way) to shut up is a bad idea. I think he is the real problem here.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

BNGA

I’ve mentioned before on the blog how much I enjoy Thursday evenings when I collect my English grandkids for tea. Seeing the enthusiasm from them I know they enjoy it to. It is the only time during the week I get them all to myself. It is also the only time I don’t mind being stuck in traffic. During the joke spot this week grandson said “I got a text from my mate which said BNGA, so I texted him back and said that’s BANG out of order”. I collapsed laughing. Perhaps telling jokes while driving is as bad as using a mobile phone because at that stage my driving was appalling.
Granddaughter who is now old enough to appreciate how talented she is and that with her school results straight A/A* she can do whatever she wants as a career. She has over months come out with some amazing career choices all of which show great aspirations. I of course have encouraged this. This week she calmly announced she was going to be Prime Minister and would I help her get started. You know that MP guy granddad could you ask him if I can do my work experience in his office. I explained a bit about local politics and how it worked and suggested she write to him directly. This morning I collected her letter just to check it over and I was amazed. She could indeed be a future PM the quality of her prose and the detail are most impressive. But I would say that wouldn’t I.
I never got to establish what party line her politics might follow so I guess that is a mark of a good future politician.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

I’m famous

Well, sort of. I went along to our local Neighbourhood tasking forum the other night. Minutes from the previous meeting made interesting reading. The previous meeting was held at a community centre attached to local Roman Catholic Church on the north side of the canal. It was attended by 14 residents which included four councillors plus cops & fire service. An item from the minute said “PCT to bring report to the next meeting to talk about the Health Centre for the area”. The following meeting was held at a church community centre on south side of the canal and attracted 7 residents including one councillor (the chair) cops & fire service. Someone from the last meeting must have raised the Health Centre but no one from that meeting was present. No one from PCT was present and no report was given in fact the whole situation seemed embarrassing to the chair who did not seem to understand how the minute came to be there.
So what is going on here? Did the PCT deliberately snub our area again? Two of the councillors present at the earlier meeting have spoken out against the sighting of the clinic on the south side. Why call for a report then not attend the following meeting? Is it to much of a coincidence? I was pondering all this when the better of our local freebie newspapers the Observer arrived. Our MP Tom Watson chose the Health Centre issue for his regular Westminster Observer feature. He mentioned me and the work of the campaign. He also included as he has done in past articles to the importance of all the political parties being behind this and how Newton Cllr’s were supporting this. It appears from his piece that negotiations are well underway with Sandwell Council and a scheme should be ready for presentation to PCT board in January. This would make the clinic a year behind schedule and I put the blame firmly for this on the shoulders of Cllr’s from adjoining wards. That all sounds fine except he also feels that we should continue to keep the pressure on by our action group. A big difference to the article in the Chronicle a couple of issues ago. A much more balanced and accurate assessment of the present position.
After the meeting I had the chance to talk to a couple of the campaign members. Knowing now how easy it is to cause traffic chaos at Scot Arms perhaps it would be better if we protested at or near the home of the Cllr at Scot Arms. I wonder would we be breaking any laws. Still not convinced that a new protest is essential but it looks to be moving that way. My agent/manager or principle carer has she is now know (the misses) is shaking her head and giving me that don’t you dare look. Ummmmmmmm
I’m going to write to the Chair of the PCT to see if I can establish what did happen over the minute I mentioned above.
Well done Tom keep up the good work.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Customer service

In days of old when I had a propa job with a salary, exes and perks I used to run an engineering business which was part of a large group. To keep supply and demand in the correct proportions it was necessary at times to sub contract a lot of work. This was usually done by specialist companies with highly skilled workforce. I would visit these suppliers regularly to keep up to date with what was happening within the sector and because our competitors used these same suppliers to understand what the market was like. It only took the loss of a couple of skilled workers to change the picture in some cases. The company could go from a reliable quality supplier to a lame duck in a very short period of time. I could tell almost as soon as I set foot inside the factory what was going on. They also knew me well and I almost always got a warm welcome. A valued customer who they looked after. Nowadays I see this same change in stores that I use regularly. We have a small office supplies store at the Scot Arms usually they are very helpful and go out of their way to look after their customers. The misses and I recently went into the store at the same time but for different items when we came out we both commented how unhelpful they were. I thought very little of this, dismissing it has having a bad day until another friend quite without prompting made a similar observation. I wonder what is going on here? As anyone else had a similar experience with this company. Locals will know the shop so I need not name here.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Lateral thinking

I have been critical of our MP Tom Watson on occasion but last week he really excelled himself. Our local Tories have continually sniped about our cultural centre in West Brom THE PUBLIC but without any real practical alternatives being offered. At one stage they wanted to turn it into a bowling alley. The thinking I suppose from them is whenever they moan about THE PUBLIC will always get the majority view against it. As you all know I don’t hold this view. Tom came up with a brilliant idea which he is going to put before Parliament. The plan is to permanently house the Staffordshire Hoard at THE PUBLIC for display. He also criticised the Arts Council for abandoning the project. Well done Tom this is exactly the kind of out of the box thinking we need and sets Labour apart from the Tories who have not changed and never will. Let’s have more Mr. Tom.
West Brom is the southern most town in Staffordshire and a perfect place for the treasure. I just love the idea. Sandwell needs a cultural/arts centre the idea of a bowling alley is a load of balls.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Birthday cards

One of the better things about getting old is seeing your grandchildren growing up and turning into proper little people with minds of their own and more importantly senses of humour. This is evident from some of the birthday cards I received this year from them. The best though came from the youngest granddaughter in America. Knowing my dislike of George W and all that he stands for she sent the above card. Inside it read “Err unless unequivocally means don’t”.
The youngest grandson sent a card which played “Hail to the Chief” smart lad.
It’s good to have a president that is articulate and shares many of my core values. I do hope he can eventually win the health care debate over there.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Incident on the Queslet Road.

I mentioned before on this blog problems I sometimes have with getting to toilet facilities quick enough. My condition dictates that when I’ve gorra pee I’ve gorra pee. I also mentioned I had recently had a CT scan. One of the preliminary procedures is drinking a pint of liquid to enhance the images. The literature supplied with this liquid states “you may experience loose bowel movements this should pass within a few days” This statement must have been written by the worlds most optimistic estate agent because it kept me confined in the smallest room for a good few hours. On the day of the scan a further 1ltr of another enhancing chemical is drunk and you are advised to drink plenty of fluids following the scan to clear the toxins from your system. This was fine until it became time to visit my youngest daughter and her family for a meal in Sutton Coldfield (proper name dropper me). I planned it down to the minuet which was fine until we arrived at Scot Arms the busiest road junction in the midlands when we were told by this police officer who I swear was no older than 13 that Queslet Road was closed due to an incident. The cop was not local because when I quizzed him on alternative routes he looked at me with that blank face which was saying “what planet is this guy on I’m only stopping the traffic”. Being local a plan B was quickly devised but by this time the junction was totally snarled up. Moron of the month, dope of the day, wanker of the week etc were all there doing their best to screw things up. We decided to take a diversion past our local swimming baths because by this time my waterworks were somewhat uncomfortable (same estate agent must have written that). The traffic by this time was screwed up for a couple of miles around the junction so by the time I got there a quick dash across the car park was the only way. I was followed in by some ghoul who wanted to see what I was doing. The Great Barr flasher was happy to oblige.
When we finally get to the restaurant I again have to visit the gents. Getting my aim right these days for a urinal can sometimes take a few minutes. On Saturday I’m aimed and ready to go when the guy behind started the hand drier. This was one of those high pressure things that make a lot of noise. I will admit to being somewhat startled by this (same estate agent)and subsequently sprayed the wall a nice shade of yellow.
The incident turned out to be a false alarm bomb scare. Scared me I can tell you.
Better not show this to the editor in chief. She was not a happy bunny on Saturday evening.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Bulletin on the railings

The medical team looking after his majesty have expressed concern over his present blood reading. More detailed tests and examinations need to be made. His majesty has asked that you all remain positive. Further communiqu├ęs will be made later but in the meantime he will have to cut down on a lot of his public duties and charity work.

In real life;
What a difference a day makes. I wrote my previous post a couple of days before my routine visit to the Consultant. Since then I have been prodded and poked, zapped, scanned and had enough blood taken to feed Count Dracula for a week. All to try to establish where things have gone wrong. My agent/manager (the misses) insists I need to cut back on a lot of my voluntary/charity work. I had already cut back quite a bit. I got rid of some of the more ungrateful groups that I belonged to like Neighbourhood Watch. NHW co-ordinators have a completely thankless task. So it was good riddance there. Some of my other activities though are really worth while and I am valued by the groups concerned. It will hurt to have to stop (even for a short time). The action group role in respect to our clinic and the antics of some of our councillors is a likely casualty but I’m reluctant to stop at this stage. I’ll try and negotiate this with the boss but I’m not confident on that and if it comes to a trade off with my kid’s charity it’s a “no brainer”. Shame though because if it made them stop and think before making outrageous claims it would have been worth it. I intend to keep on blogging because I can do this whatever happens. So keep the comments coming?
In fact with the exception of hospital stays I’ll have more time to do it. The best case scenario I suppose is some unpleasant treatment which I have had before. The worst case I suppose is something I don’t really want to think about with some scenarios in between that are unpleasant and painful.
As soon as is possible I’ll be back operational with all my interests.
PS there will be queues at the bulletin board in Little Lane.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Gutter politics?

You can’t believe everything you read in the press.
Last week one of our local freebie newspapers carried a story on its front page with the headline HEALTH CENTRE NEARER. It contained a comment from a Cllr. in Great Barr with Yew Tree ward and a quote from a deputy director at the Primary Care Trust (PCT) but no reference to Cllrs. in our ward or to the action group. Very strange this particularly has Cllrs from Great Barr with Yew Tree have spoken out against the clinic being situated at the Tanhouse Centre in our ward. It was claimed they now had an agreement over the clinic. Nice work Cllr. but no one else seems to be aware of this agreement. The man from the PCT’s quote was standard non committal blah blah blah stuff we have come to expect. The PCT are holding a meeting with Cllrs on 6th November to outline their plans. Despite being asked by our MP to invite people from the action group they have not done so. We need to ask the question, why not?
Some members of the action group have asked me to organise another “protest”. This one would have an element of surprise, be more focused, larger, louder, and disruptive and to invite the press. To achieve this we would need to hire a mini bus. I’m not convinced by the need to do this yet because there are indications that things are moving in the right direction and I may not be around to participate. When I read the remarks in this article and the way it was presented in the newspaper I fear for what might happen to health services in our area. If this scheme fails, funding and time to organise an alternative would not be a viable proposition so we would loose out for about ten years on facilities. All because Cllrs. from other wards delayed the process. This is a now or never situation but they don’t seem to have grasped that. We have a situation here where local residents are fighting for much needed facilities in their area and from what I believe Cllrs from an adjoining ward are using this fight to tout for cheap votes.
For many months these same Cllrs sat on their hands and did nothing excepting month in and month out the excuses the PCT were telling us. It wasn’t until local residents became angry with the lack of action and started to galvanise local (Newton) political support and protest that something was finally done. For this newspaper to print an article which by its very nature suggests that the Cllr. mentioned has actually achieved what is so far only a moderate success is credit by association. It is gutter politics. I have spoken to the editor of the newspaper concerned and to the reporter about my concerns with the article. I have also asked Sandwell Council for advice on referring this to the Standards and Ethics Committee. I was asked a few days earlier by a rival newspaper to give them an update on the clinic situation. Except to mention the meeting date I declined because at this stage there is nothing really to report and I’m not a politician with other agendas.
I do hope the Cllr concerned will have the decency to apologise.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Traffic chaos.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog traffic conditions at our busiest road junction the Scot Arms. I don’t often go there but on occasion it is unavoidable. It doesn’t seem to matter at what time of day parking is impossible and our Liberal Councillors for Great Barr with Yew tree want to add to this chaos by having a clinic built near this junction. Totally bonkers in my view. Today the misses and I had to go to the bank. Usually the folks are very polite and although crossovers are sometimes blocked and double parking is very common motorists accommodate each other. Today there was horn tooting angry encounters and poor behaviour and that was just me. No; I jest, I’m talking generally here I was my usual self effacing self. The best bit of bad behaviour though was the lady (this is not knocking lady drivers, honest) parked in front of me on the duel carriage way she moved off did a U turn and drove about fifty yards the wrong way along the duel carriageway until she came to a cross over place that enabled her to move to the correct carriageway. My open mouth must have been big enough to park a bus. I just couldn’t believe my eyes or that she was lucky enough to get away with it.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

MPs expenses

This lot are just back from their hols and what do we get? The whinging goes on about their expenses. They don’t seem to understand the public anger over what went on so they start to dig it all up again. Ann Widdecombe was on the lunch time news complaining about what she feels is an injustice and claiming that some MPs are just about getting by and some may not be. Now if they can’t get by on 65 grand with exes should they be there in the first place? The other complaint was that the auditor had in effect changed the rules. If you have an expenses account and theirs is a very generous one although the local accountant may approve the expenses claim when the accounts are audited if the auditor feels the expenses are not justified then the recipient would have to reimburse the employer. This is in effect what has happened here.
I would say this to all Labour MPs pack it in, smile, pay back any monies if you are asked to and let’s move on. Labour have enough to do if they are to even get close at the next election without this constant whinging. The public have had enough. Cameron once again takes the moral high ground and Clegg seems to me to be about to shoot himself in the foot. You are in effect undermining our democratic process.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Senior moment.

I was having dinner on Sunday with some close friends including my friend Gerry who sometimes comments on this blog and occasionally gives me a tough time. She thinks David Cameron is such a nice man. I must address this issue of my tastes in friends. I digress because when she reads this I’m going to be in deep dodo. Getting back to my tale! I was given a birthday card from her addressed to herself. I haven’t opened it yet because it was sent a little early and no I’m not revealing the date or my age except to admitting I’m past it. The misses has a birthday a few days before me and has to have a special delivery because she literally gets a ton of cards. I get the regular six or seven which I’m extremely grateful for. The misses leaves her cards on display to make mine look better. How thoughtful is that?
Sorry Gerry please read the poem and have a nice day. I hope you are still speaking to me.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Council meeting part IV

I now have permission to publish the response from Democratic Services at Sandwell Council. My thanks to them for permission to publish and for their timely response to this problem:-

"Dear BBCB" (I edited this bit the rest is as it came)

Thank you for your recent e-mail to the Leader regarding you attendance at the Council Meeting on 29th September.

The Leader has asked me to look into the issues raised and rather than provide the information to the Leader I thought I would reply directly to you in case you had any follow-up questions and also to reply by e-mail because of the current postal difficulties. I hope this is acceptable to you.

I will try to answer the points you raise in the order of your e-mail.

In relation to the speaker system I am pleased to advise you that the Council is already in the process of making improvements to its audio visual system in the Council Chamber which will include a new microphone and speaker system. Similarly, the Council was aware that it needed to improve its presentations equipment and this is also being addressed as part of the improvements. The work begins in two weeks time and should be completed before the end of the month.

The Council has known for a while that it needed to take some action but it is one of those situations where we felt we cannot win. In the current economic climate it was considered that the Council may be criticised through the media for spending money on such equipment so we held back from doing the work as long as we were able. However, we reached a point where we felt we needed to take some action and your comments have borne out that we were right to do so which is reassuring, thank you. We still do expect to get criticised as Walsall MBC recently were for doing similar works but again we are now a little more assured that there are residents like yourself who will appreciate the need to have such facilities in good working order.

In an attempt to improve accountability and because not all the Council Chamber is visible from the public gallery, the Council has also agreed to link its microphones to a camera system so that when a member is speaking, visitors sitting in the public gallery will be able to see the member clearly on two large display screens, to help identify who they are and to provide a complete message as body language and facial expressions can also add to the understanding of what is being said.

This conveniently links to your point regarding the comments made by Councillor Sadie Smith. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Council meeting on this occasion but my Democratic Services Officer representing me at the meeting tells me that the exchange of comments between Councillor Smith and Councillor Rowley were light-hearted banter based on an ongoing series of events at recent meetings and that both members appeared to be smiling as they exchanged comments. With the difficulties with the sound system and not being able to see both members fully from the gallery, I can understand how easily what was said could have been perceived as rude or offensive by anyone sitting in the gallery. Had it been anything other than political banter, I am confident that the Mayor would have intervened.

The comment made by Sadie Smith to Councillor Derek Rowley related to the decisions which are made by Cabinet Members during the weeks running up to a Council meeting and on which they take questions from other members. At the last two Council meetings, Councillor Rowley has not had any decisions placed before Council and Councillor Smith picked up on this by asking, light-heartedly, if we therefore still needed a Cabinet Member for Community Safety if he isn't taking any decisions. Councillor Smith will, of course, have been aware that Councillor Rowley has a much bigger role than just making decisions. Councillor Rowley took the comment in the spirit it was made and responded in the same way.

Exchanges like this within the Council Chamber are not uncommon and do provide a little light relief between the consideration of what can sometimes be very serious matters of business or quite dry subjects but which the Council has to address. I understand the evening was quite a difficult one in terms of the political exchanges around some of the issues but we do have times like this in the political environment in which Council's have to operate. As well as representing its citizens, members are affiliated to political parties and are expected to represent the views and policies of those parties.

I do hope that the events of the 29th have no disillusioned you too much and that you will attend future meetings of the Council. The Council does find it very disappointing that more of its residents do not take an interest in local affairs as you and your wife do but again looking at national figures for attendance at public meetings, it appears to be a reflection on today's society.

Can I thank you again for taking the time to contact the Leader as feedback from the community we serve does help us to improve our services for the future and in closing, could I take the opportunity to promote our CMIS system which allows you access to all the decisions the Council takes and the reports that members will be considering or have considered. For example, you can se what will be on the agenda for the full Council Meeting before you attend. If this is of interest to you, log on to the Council's website
www.sandwell.gov.uk and click on the link towards the bottom of the page 'committee information'. The system is quite easy to use but if you need any further guidance please do not hesitate to contact any member of my Democratic Services Team who will help you (0121 569 3184 - direct line)

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like any further clarification of any of the points in my response."

Two issues come to mind for me. 1) The over reaction to what the press might say. We live in a democracy it is the people’s views that matter not what the press say but I can understand to some extent where they are coming from here. 2) Cllr Smith’s remarks seem to me rather flippant during such an important debate. I am unhappy with the behaviour of this particular Cllr. on some local issues but more on that later in the week.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Apologies

I have always believed that if you are found to be in the wrong you should put your hand up admit your mistake and apologise. I have of course had to do this on numerous occasions during my career. Not everyone shares this view and many people will never apologise even when they are shown to be clearly in the wrong. It is simply below them to stoop to apologise. I won’t mention of course politicians who have been forced to after a mountain of evidence was piled up against them.
Recently I felt it necessary to apologise to Sandwell’s democratic services chief for comments I made on my blog. Following this I got to thinking about how I might apologise in a more elegant way in future. The following poem expresses my initial thoughts on this. My editor in chief (the misses) chose the title. I hope you like it.

To whom it may concern

I’m sorry for the things I said,
unkind thoughts came into my head.
I’m sorry if my words brought you a tear,
my apology is most sincere.
I’m sorry if I hurt you so,
please forgive me and let it go.
I’m sorry if my actions were sharp and terse,
I make my apology with this little verse.

Sick bags available on request!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Council meeting part III

I owe democratic services an apology. I am now in receipt of their reply concerning the audio system in the Council Chamber. The reply is detailed, positive and polite and does not include any of the put offs I suggested in my earlier post. I have asked for permission to publish this but in the meantime please accept my apology and keep up the good work.
My thanks also to Council Leader Bill Thomas for the way he has dealt with this.
I look forward to being able to see and hear the debates in the not to distant future.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Incapacity benefit

In my posting on Tuesday 6th October “Vicious cuts” I touched on the Tories and Labour for that matter treatment of Incapacity Benefit. This prompted a couple of comments and discussion by phone etc, So I thought I would put the record straight so to speak in respect to my concerns. I am a socialist by heart and believe in a fair and caring society. We have not been able to achieve this but Labours aims are the closest that I know.
I was extremely annoyed by both the Tory party rhetoric and the way ITV news covered this item. They both suggested that pretty well everyone who was getting this benefit was in some way a skiver. The evening news coverage interviewed a couple of women from what appeared to be a council estate and asked some leading questions to support the case that they must all be skivers. I’m sure there will be a few but to paint the picture in the one sided manner they did is an absolute disgrace.
A friend of mine was a fireman for many years. He was invalided out of the service by what at the time was thought to be arthritis but later turned out to be something much more serious. Here was a man who had worked all his life had never claimed any benefit and had made a significant contribution to his community. Every year he was called in to have a medical assessment until a couple of years before he became pensionable age when it was clear what his condition was and he was eligible for the motability scheme. At times he told me he felt like a criminal having to justify his eligibility. Under the new rules would he be expected to get a job say as a receptionist or stuffing envelopes or perhaps doing a menial part time job if he could get to work?
My point is that checks already exist. I was surprised when labour suggested more checks. The Tories just felt that when labour announced it, it was seen has having support so they just embellished it. I wonder have the costs of carrying out the new checks been factored in and do we have the necessary medics available to do them? I doubt it. What we have here is a situation where we are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water.
The “free press” showed their Tory credentials and I’m sure this is going to continue over the coming months.
Labour has three problems as far as I can see 1) the press 2) the Tories and 3) Gordon Brown. Ummmmmmmmm

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Spam bot

I had one of these the other day. A company in China offered me big discounts on electronic and fancy goods designed especially to celebrate older people’s day. Apparently they celebrate this in China and they had made this special range of goods to help us celebrate it. I wish I had kept the email now because the only way they could have got my address would be via this site but no Chinese hit was measured by flag counter. The language was poor English but cleverly designed around my post on the full of life festival. Perhaps it was their English agent? If Mr. Chinese person you read this please contact me again. I would like to know how you did it.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Tories have been reading my blog

I watched some of George Osborn’s speech the other day and was impressed by some of the issues he raised/promised. We’re all in this together smacked a bit of the old “are you thinking what I’m thinking” slogan used by Michael Howard during his campaign. What did surprise me though was that he actually talked about pensions and pensioners and not in the off hand way that Brown does. He promised better pensions for all a return to wages linking on pensions and noted the problems that the Brown raid on pensions had caused. Very commendable stuff. What he did not say was when and how much. The Brown raid on pensions caused many funds to go under and the introduction of Pension Protection Fund and Financial Protection Scheme both of which are under funded causing recipients to fall further behind year on year. The change to wages linking in the short term will not be of any benefit particularly if they impose a pay freeze the % increase will be below existing index linking but I guess in the long term it will be better and is long overdue. I like the idea of improved pensions for all. Can this be real a Tory offering to improve pensions and Labour begrudging ever penny we are paid. The worlds gone mad. I like the way this campaign is going by next May who knows what the Liberals will be offering. Come on Gordon, what’s your bid? I’m looking for words like substantial increase in pensions for all and abolition of pension’s tax credits. Paid for by increase in taxes and cuts in salaries of MPs, civil servants and bankers. You know it makes sense. Labour need to be aware that pensioner groups are aware of and campaigning against their evil plan (because that is what it is) to do away with attendance allowance and introduce a means tested scheme administered by local authorities. The folks who get this allowance are some of the sickest and weakest in our society and I never believed a Labour administration could even consider such a scheme. If they continue with it, it will just cost them the election. It’s typical of the evil Brown’s blinkered view on life like the removal of 10p tax band.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Vicious cuts

It’s interesting to see the leaders of all the political parties lining up to expand on their plans to make cuts to pay back our massive debts incurred since the start of this recession. The worst report I think was that from an Institute of Directors/Tax Payers Alliance think tank who want to freeze old age pensions (I prefer increased taxes to overpaid directors). Yesterday saw a report from International monetary fund telling Britain we need to cut back on our spending on NHS to put things right.
Let me remind them that this recession was caused by bankers who not only screwed up their own businesses they screwed up national and international economies by their greed. The IMF are no more than bankers so who are they to be dictating to us what we should do? Gordon Brown threatened to come down hard on bankers’ bonuses but he never really got at getting these irresponsible businesses to make full retribution for the misery their greed has caused. As far as I can see only two banks in UK were run well enough not to require government help Barclays & HSBC. And I have no issue with them paying their board members bonuses based on sustainable profits (suitably taxed of course). I have a lot of issues though with the others who must be penalised for their contributions to the crisis. Bring Fred Goodwin to justice ASAP
If my memory serves me well UK PLC only finally paid off its war debt in 2002 which was largely due to good financial management by the labour government. I don’t understand why Cameron and Co are so eager to pay this debt off so quickly. Interest on the loan can surely be passed on. Let’s ask a wanker banker for advice on how to do it. Gordon is right to be taking a long term view. I need to go and have a lie down I must be running a temperature, agreeing with GB.
Our living standards and care are threatened by the Cameron approach. The Tory conference yesterday saw delegates with smug” we’re the next government” faces telling the press how they are going to save money by squeezing those on Incapacity Benefit. Typical Tory rhetoric blame the poor and sick. One delegate with a privileged background probably spends more on his evening meal than someone on Incapacity benefit gets in a week. Yes there are a few who exploit the system but a bigger percentage of Tory MPs were caught out during the expenses scandal. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. The more I watch this slimy bunch parading their bash the poor propaganda the more I realise why Blair won. Wake up Gordon the election is there to be won but you will not do it carrying on as you are. The nasty party are alive and electioneering, lead by one of the privileged. The good news is UKIP are going to contest 500 seats at the next election. That ought to split the Tory vote.

Monday, 5 October 2009

My friend Barry & such

When you get to my age the natural scheme of things is that your family and friends start popping off to wherever their after life chooses. Recently a friend of mine of many years and neighbour left this mortal toil. With my own mortality challenged I perhaps feel this death more than most. He helped me to cut the grass which sets our little part of Hamstead apart from the rest and he indeed was a good neighbour. I think now I will have to contact my local councillor to get the council to start cutting it again but this saddens me because of the reasons we started to cut it in the first place.
His departure though caused me to reminisce about life when we moved to our homes over forty years ago. The houses we bought were just basically shells they contained a toilet, bath, wash basin and a kitchen sink and that was about it. Nothing like today where they come with fully fitted kitchens, bedrooms and the like. We had a choice of colours though: buttercup or off white. In reality they were the same colour. Our gardens were not landscaped, just one step removed from the building site. Like the wife and I, he and his wife came from the slums of B’ham so moving to a new house with “all mod cons” in those days we were envied by our parents. Buying your own home though was not without problems and we had to work extremely hard to turn our houses into homes fit to bring up our families.
In those days there was no maternity leave when your wife got pregnant she was forced to give up her job with no prospect of ever getting it back. Paternity leave was something invented by new labour. I had to have a couple of days holiday when my kids came along. Family allowance was 5 shillings (25p) a week for the second child only. All these things have been introduced by Labour over the last few years. No redundancy pay or statuary sick pay. If you lost your job or got sick, tough. I don’t bemoan the deal our young people get these days but I do think our government should remember where us oldies are coming from. Both parties have treated us badly over the years but listening to Cameron and Co over the week end I think we are likely to do worse under his lot than sticking with Gordon.
We knuckled down turned our shells into decent homes and raised our kids to a very high standard. I for one do not want to go back to the “Born to Rule” philosophy of the Tories. So come on Gordon let’s see some real pensioner friendly policies. We do vote and we deserve a better share of our nation’s wealth than we have been getting.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Full of Life Festival II

I understand there were 900 of these events taking place up and down the country. I need to thank Sandwell Council and our PCT for funding it again this year. THE PUBLIC is a perfect venue for this type of event.
I want to thank all those folks who came along on our stall for a chat. Special thanks to Fat Prophet a fellow blogger it was great to meet him face to face so to speak, His picture on his blog does not do him justice. A regular commenter Margaret also came to say hello although I know her well from local forums and such.
The event was a little disappointing this year with a lot less attending than last year. The three stalls I am associated with had a steady stream of punters though. It’s always difficult at these shows to judge the reaction to your offering I suppose we need to wait and see if any new members turn up.
Our film “The meeting” (script by you know who) was a big disappointment. The sound did not come over well, was interrupted by the PA system announcing other activities and some people walked out. A disappointing audience we never managed a titter from them all the way through. The film which is an irreverent look at local politics. Concerns a local party representing older people two weeks before the local elections. The characters are larger than life in a setting similar to the Vicar of Dibley parish council meetings. We had a lot of fun rehearsing and filming it and thought it very funny. Looks like we have a lot of work to do. I suppose though from an amateur group new to this we did not do so bad. Last year we did a similar thing but with a much better response.
The misses was not feeling so good in the afternoon and has since been diagnosed with Swine Flu. Oh what a palaver getting Tamiflu. It brings the poor health facilities in our area to the fore. I had to travel to Oldbury to pick up the drugs for her. I’m delighted to say she is now on the mend but I just wonder how many people she infected during Thursday’s event. She did not know she was sick or would not have attended. My grandson is refusing to visit her because “he does not like pigs” I wish I had kept all the funny things the kids have said.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Council meeting Part II

My reply from the leader of Sandwell Council re the sound system in the council chamber:-
"I agree with your comments, will pass this message on to democratic services"

It’s nice to know the leader agrees with my comments but the second part of his reply worries me.
From my recent experiences of replies from over (er sorry) highly paid civil servants is that the reply will contain twaddle, double talk and loads of council speak. It will I think basically say mind your own business how dare you challenge anything we do, bugger off, we know best but it will be ever so polite.
When I get the response I will of course let you all know. If I have got it wrong I will of course apologise to those concerned.