How Redditch is using Culture to drive regeneration

I’m attending a Local Government Association training event for Councillors who have the ‘Culture’ brief on their councils. One of the areas we are covering is how culture can play a driving role in the regeneration of towns, so I wanted to reflect on how Redditch is placing culture at the heart of our own plans for the town centre and our partnerships.

In late 2018 I attended a meeting with Royal Enfield to essentially pitch to them the town of Redditch as a worthwhile place to consider for partnership working in the cultural space. The idea was brought to me by an officer in the council who was inspired by the ‘Unlock Redditch’ vision and had managed to secure the face-to-face opportunity.

At the meeting I set about to outline why Redditch and Royal Enfield could work together, tapping into the town’s rich heritage and history of manufacturing the iconic cycles until the 1960s when the brand left the town. I talked about the pride and passion of the people who have made Redditch their home, and about the place Redditch has in the Midlands as a great leisure destination with top transport links.

We even pulled together a little video where we took an existing Royal Enfield advert and overlaid it with a track called ‘Want You Back’. The video isn’t official, and hasn’t been sanctioned. It was just a bit of teaser to convey the opportunity that lay before us. Here it is in the spirit of openness (and because I’m quite proud of it – I produced it myself – i.e. I did the musical overlay not the visuals):

The pitch worked. A number of meetings followed, and the big area of discussion was around how could we (as partners) deliver something that would have maximum impact for the town of Redditch both in terms of something that Royal Enfield could be proud to put their iconic name to, and something that would resonate with the people.

We pulled in Prof. Petro Nicolaides who is assisting WM Mayor Andy Street on the return of the Birmingham Superprix. Petro is a friend, and so he kindly agreed to help Redditch in his limited free time. I cannot emphasise enough the energy and the connections Petro brought to the new Royal Enfield Task Force, and how grateful I am for his help and mentorship.

Initially, we looked at the possibility of running a road race through Redditch. We had the idea that Royal Enfield bikes would race around the Redditch Cloverleaf, one of the few full cloverleaf junctions in the UK. However, it soon became apparent that closing two major A-Roads would be a financial and logistical step too far.

The end result of these initial discussions was the ‘Royal Enfield Pop-up Museum’ that ran for 6 weeks in the Kingfisher Centre, the main tourist destination in Redditch. This museum was intended to be the first outcome of the partnership, not the last. It’s the start of the journey.

Here’s what the pop-up museum looked like:

Local, regional and international media reported on the museum, with headlines like:

The legendary Royal Enfield – the oldest motorcycle brand in the world still in production – has revved its way back to its birthplace after 56 years away.

Make It West Midlands

Here’s another video, this time from Royal Enfield themselves that showcases how the former factory workers were put at the heart of the opening events, which took place over two days:

Working with the Kingfisher Centre, the museum was able to take a previously empty shop unit for 6 weeks, and was immensely successful. The shop was never empty and people came from all over the region to visit – former factory workers, enthusiasts and those just curious to see what all the fuss was about.

Naturally, whilst they were there they also enjoyed a drink and something to eat, and browsed the shops, delivering an economic boost to the area.

What’s more, the Royal Enfield Owners’ Club have been inspired by the event and feel confident to start talking about opening a permanent museum in the town. This would be a transformation – actually doubling the number of museums in Redditch (currently, we have just one).

As the Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Culture I am making it my mission to keep bringing exciting things like this to Redditch, and also to build on the Royal Enfield partnership, which I hope will be something that endures, grows and flourishes long after I’ve left office.

CCA Board Elections

If you are a Conservative Councillor you should have received an email from the CCA about elections for the CCA Board. I would be grateful for your support to become its Deputy Chairman.

I believe it is time for a new generation of Conservatives to step forward into these roles so that our party, at all levels and in all places, can start to become more representative of the diverse electorate that just gave the Conservative Party a mandate to govern the UK.

Passionate about activist training, mentoring and enabling the talent within our party to achieve great things, I believe I am well placed to help the CCA engage with more Councillors in a more constructive way, especially as we have new and more diverse Councillors coming into the party.

I seek to change the clumsy processes Councillors must embark upon to access training, support and advice. I will champion more self-service and peer-powered systems, enabling Councillors to “level up” to borrow a phrase.

If you have not received your e-ballot, please email the CCA team at cca@conservatives.com or call them on 020 7984 8144.

You have until midday on Thursday 20th February to cast your vote. Results will be announced at the CCA Annual Conference on Friday 28th February.

As you know from my previous election victories, every vote counts, so please share this message with any Conservative Councillor colleagues you feel might be receptive.

It wasn’t a dark night for Redditch; it’s a new dawn for voluntary sector funding for the many, not the few.

There’s been a lot of misconception going around – some of it accidental, but some of it deliberate. Let’s get to the facts of the matter and provide some more detail. As is often the case in this social media age, the accusations can be wrapped up in a single line, whereas the actual reality of the situation is a bit more complicated. I’ll update this post as new things come up. Here goes:


The claim: Redditch Borough Council is cutting support for charities in the town.
The reality: Rent subsidies for 9 organisations are being phased down (but not out) over three years – only some of which are registered charities. The level of support for the approximately 9 organisations (not all are registered charities) who rent from the council will stay the same at 70% for 1 year, before going down to 50% discount in year two, and then finally 20% discount where it will stay until a new policy is decided.


The Accusation: Redditch Conservatives don’t care about volunteer and community sector (VCS) groups.
The Response: The council, under Conservative control, is setting aside £525,000 over the 3 year period to support VCS groups in the town. That’s nearly 2% of the council’s entire budget at a time when it is under a ‘Section 24’ notice, which means the money will run out in less than two years unless drastic action is taken. In this situation the council would essentially fold and all but the legally required services would be cut, including funding to VCS groups in full. To be able to carve out 2% in these times is actually an achievement, especially if you look around the country and see some councils provide nothing. Previously, the level of support was around 4% of the council’s total budget.


The Accusation: Councillors increased their allowances whilst cutting support for VCS groups.
The Response: The decision to increase allowances was based upon an independent remuneration report that was rejected by the Labour-led administration for 11 years. This meant that Councillors were left severely out of pocket the more active they were – meaning the harder they worked for local residents the more out-of-pocket they would become. Allowances are not wages. They cover the cost of envelopes, stamps, paper, and petrol whilst working on behalf of residents outside of meetings, along with other incidental expenses. If a councillor holds a surgery at a cafe, as I like to do sometimes, the cost of me buying a tea/coffee for my constituent whilst we have a chat comes out of my pocket. If I have to write letters on their behalf the cost of the paper, the ink and the postage is on me. If I drive to a meeting on behalf of a constituent the cost of the petrol and the parking ticket is on me. No councillor goes into politics for the money, but how can we encourage people from poorer and working class backgrounds to get involved if the reality is they will be quite a lot poorer for doing so. This leads to only wealthy and usually retired people becoming Councillors and that’s jut not representative of the demographics of Redditch.


Claim: There aren’t any VCS groups who don’t rent from the Council
Reality: That’s just not true. There are around 9 organisations who rent from the council. According to the Charity Commission there are over 1,997 charities registered across Worcestershire and there are many groups across the town that rent from private landlords – and get no subsidy for their rent.


Remembering a tragic road traffic accident of 29th April 2009, which resulted in the death of Daniel Patterson, 21.

On the 29th of April 2009 I was sat in my room in house that I shared with friends that faced onto the London Road, Coventry (A4114). I was working late, probably on a website, when I heard an almighty smash followed by the screeching of a car braking. I initially assumed that two cars had collided as there is no central divide/barrier on this stretch of road. Then I heard the screams.

Continue reading “Remembering a tragic road traffic accident of 29th April 2009, which resulted in the death of Daniel Patterson, 21.”

Writer’s Rust

When you think about it, the end of the year is a peculiar thing, isn’t it?

On the one hand it’s all fairly easy-to-understand (but no means simple). The planet Earth is about to complete another orbit of its star – easy, right? Same thing that happens every year, and will happen for billions of years to come… That’s unless we blow it up or create an extinction event for ourselves, of course.

Continue reading “Writer’s Rust”

A post regarding Redditch Borough Council One-Stop Shops

At last night’s Redditch Borough Council Executive Committee there was a proposal put forward to close the council’s One-Stop Shops and support Allpay, allowing members of the public to use more locations to pay council bills in person, giving them more choice about how and where they pay their council’s bills.

Continue reading “A post regarding Redditch Borough Council One-Stop Shops”

Redditch Community Lottery is now Live!

Redditch Community Lottery

The Redditch Community Lottery is now live and I’m delighted to see that 13 local good causes have registered to benefit from this scheme. Tickets cost £1 per cause per week and frankly it’s not about winning for me – it’s about having a quick and easy way to support local causes with a small donation via a regular direct debit.

You can register as a good cause or as a player here:

https://www.redditchcommunitylottery.co.uk/

Background

Redditch Community Lottery was created in 2019 by Redditch Borough Council.

Set up to support community projects in the local area, Redditch Community Lottery operates on the principle of raising money within the community for the community. We empower local good causes to raise money in a fun and effective way.

In a time of shrinking budgets and increased community need, Redditch Community Lottery enables people to support the causes they care most about, helping good causes to connect with their supporters.

A ticket for Redditch Community Lottery costs £1 per week and 60p will go directly to good causes!

Business Case Document from RBC

There are 68,185 possible players in the district/borough (i.e. over 16 and resident). Technically the player population is much wider than this as there is no restriction on player location; however for simplicity this population is assumed to represent the vast majority of players.

Whilst it is difficult to assess the actual take up rates of players for the lottery, this will in part reflect the desire to play, the types and spread of the good causes involved, and the marketing and support given to promote the lottery. The table below sets out a breakdown of possible player levels and the resulting financial split that these would produce:

Table showing modelling data
Table showing financial modelling data.

Rachel Maclean returned as Redditch MP with over 16,000 majority – more than doubling her 2017 figures.

Delighted to have managed the campaign here in Redditch that has seen Rachel Maclean returned as MP with a doubled majority. Here’s the numbers from Wikipedia …

Continue reading “Rachel Maclean returned as Redditch MP with over 16,000 majority – more than doubling her 2017 figures.”

A sermon on the sanctity of Boxing Day sales

So I see there’s now a petition to force shops to shut on Boxing Day and do away with the sales. I’m not going to link to it.

Yes, you heard that right: a country with a productivity problem, sluggish growth, and a high dependency on temporary and seasonal workers (sources 1, 2 and 3) now has a contingent of morons who have seen a passing bus on Twitter or Facebook and gleefully jumped on board, ironically dressed in a Christmas jumper I presume. Probably the same people who cry at John Lewis adverts.

There’s nothing nice about reducing the hours a struggling family gets to work over the season just because middle-class middle-aged bourgeoisie types think it will be lovely.

There’s nothing nice about extending the period of time some families are effectively forced to be together. Did you know that the Monday after the Christmas holidays is the busiest for divorce lawyers?

And what about those who suffer domestic abuse and can use a trip out on Boxing Day as an excuse to get away?

There’s nothing nice about forcing a lonely person to endure two days of isolation rather than one. There’s nothing nice about not giving a depressed person opportunity and choice to go and divert themselves for a few hours.

There’s nothing nice about being so apparently generous to mostly seasonal retail workers and ignoring completely people like carers and social workers.

There’s nothing nice about trying to take away the free choices of business, of workers, of ordinary people, seemingly in the name of religious sentimentality or some rose-tinted perspective on the world.

There’s nothing nice about the complete failure of some people in our society to look at the bigger picture, and rush headlong, with knees jerking, in supporting the removal of choice in this whole process – the choice of where to work, when to work, where to shop, when to shop, the choice of how to spend your time and your money.

How about instead of closing the shops on Boxing Day we pass a law to shut down Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the day?