Categories
Redditch Borough Council

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.


Categories
Personal Blog

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.

Categories
Personal Blog

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.

Categories
Redditch Borough Council

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.

Categories
Redditch Borough Council

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.
Categories
National Politics

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 …

Categories
Uncategorized

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?

Categories
National Politics

Avoiding the rocks: steering a climate emergency by newspaper headlines is a dangerous course that can undermine the overall strategy.

“How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words”

Greta Thunberg at the UN Summit in New York

Bearing in mind that we need actions more than words to fight climate change, I’m surprised to see this story on the Redditch climate emergency:

https://redditchstandard.co.uk/news/borough-council-last-in-climate-table-despite-saying-its-ahead-on-green-issues/

It says:

REDDITCH Borough Council, which is aiming to position itself as ‘ahead of the curve’ on green issues has finished towards in the bottom of a league table of climate friendly local authorities.

Drawn up by the pressure group Friends of the Earth, each council was assessed in different categories including renewable energy, public transport, lift-sharing, energy efficiency at home, waste recycling, and tree cover to find an overall winner.

We in the Conservative administration of Redditch Borough Council have never been sent any table by Friends of the Earth, but we have seen a Green Party one that actually ranks Redditch quite well:
https://westmidlands.greenparty.org.uk/council-climate-league-table/

CouncilScore (out of 11)Position
Worcester71st
Malvern Hills62nd
Cannock Chase5Joint 3rd
Redditch5Joint 3rd

Also, in the Friends of the Earth methodology there is a fault in calculating tree coverage, which they themselves admit:

Tree cover – this was calculated using GIS mapping to overlay local authority areas over the National Forest Inventory , and from that calculating woodland in each local authority area. The NFI is known to under-report tree cover in urban areas, so Friends of the Earth is carrying out further research to provide a more accurate estimate, which we will publish later this year.  

With around 4m trees in Redditch, we have a very high level of tree cover, but it’s not properly reflected in this table – so yet again Redditch is not getting the proper recognition it deserves.

The Council’s climate change panel has been tasked with setting a target date for carbon zero as part of a Climate Action Plan – which is something Friends of the Earth are calling for, so I do not accept the newspaper’s characterisation that we have “failed” to set a date when actually we are working to come up with a date that’s ambitious and realistic, and we are carrying out what Friends of the Earth has asked us to do.

I personally hope that date is well ahead of 2050, and I even hope we can beat 2030, which the work of the panel will be able to establish rather than plucking a date out of thin air to pander to media headlines. 

There is a real danger that councils will start to operate their climate emergencies based on headlines and perception, rather than doing things that are effective but perhaps not as glamorous. We cannot steal yet more childhoods by warm words and newspaper headlines. The time for action is now – and Redditch Borough Council is embarked on evidence-led action that will make a difference, not aiming for what will win a quick headline.

Finally, I don’t buy that “21 places from the bottom” counts as ‘near bottom’ – bottom 5 would be ‘near bottom’ – if anything we are actually mid-table, which is still not good enough, but let’s not make out we’re ‘near bottom’ when actually we’re not.

Categories
Church Hill Redditch Borough Council

I’m publishing the details of the 13 good causes across Redditch that I’m supporting as part of the Councillor Grant Scheme

In accordance with the Councillor Community Grant Scheme Policy, I have decided to support a number of good causes across Church Hill and wider Redditch.

As someone who believes in strong public scrutiny, I have also decided to publish the details of the organisations I support on behalf of you, the taxpayers of Redditch.

This is your money, which the council decides to invest in local community good causes on your behalf. It’s important for you to know what causes are being supported, and by which Councillors.

It is up to each Councillor to decide how much information they want to provide above and beyond the basic information published on the council’s website.

It is up to you, the voters, to hold Councillors to account for their decisions at the ballot box.

I fully support the Councillor Community Grant Scheme – it’s a great way to get much-needed funds down to the grassroots level of society where it can really make a difference. One of the projects I recently supported was able to provide a summer holiday youth club for children with autism.

If you would like to see which organisations I am supporting and how much I am planning to donate please click here to see the dedicated page on my website.

Categories
Redditch Borough Council

My Response to Redditch Standard Editor’s Comment on RBC Climate Change Panel

Response to Editor’s Comment, Page 8, 27/09/2019

In response to this week’s Editor’s Comment, I just wanted to explain a couple of things and let residents judge for themselves in possession of both sides of the debate, not just the one.

Actually, by having our Climate Change Panel in private we can have *more* public engagement and participation in its work not less. As a private panel, it has the power to set its own topics and invite key members of the public to come and present and/or give evidence. This means the opportunity for interested people to come and persuade the powers that be is *greater* than it could be in a public meeting.

A public meeting only allows the public to come and ask a question. Questions are usually time-limited and at the discretion of the chair. That’s because the public are there to observe and scrutinise the work of elected officials in a public meeting so they can hold them to account at an election time, whereas in a private meeting they can be elevated to contributors and give their evidence and submissions in what the modern world refers to as a safe space. It’s an important distinction. 

As for the target – the reason why this has been sent to the panel to determine is due to those of us in the Conservative administration having a belief that we can actually set the target to be sooner than 2030, so we want the panel to determine if this is feasible or not. We want them to come back with an answer based on evidence, not political expediency. We know other councils have opted for 2030 or 2050 in response to public pressure, but how do any of us know that actually they could not have done it by 2025 or 2032 or 2038 or sooner? 

I don’t deny that the public mood on this topic has helped us get our skates on. But the local media and local campaigners seem to forget that my colleagues and I are on the same page, we are on board with this and we share that public mood too. We are, after all, representatives of the people.

What’s more, we turn up to the meetings. It’s all well and good to make a big noise about ‘public’ versus ‘private’ but the council has held TWO public meetings on this topic now and there were no Green campaigners or environmental activists in either of these meetings. As I’ve said before, it’s all well and good amassing a crowd outside Town Hall, but you’ve also got to engage in the committee rooms where the decisions are made.

Also in the Letters Page this week…