Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

City Branch 1st Annual Christmas Cocktails and Canapés

Monday's social event of the season went brilliantly. Guest of honour, Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, was on good form. The cocktails were great and so were the canapés! The event was well attended, everyone had a brilliant time and we made a significant amount for Party funds.

Many thanks to the main organisers Louise and Nick, and to our hosts, Bar One Ten.

Hope to see you all next year..!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Birmingham Conservative Manifesto 2007

We're currently drawing up the manifesto for Birmingham's local elections on 3rd May 2007. What would you like to see in it? Leave a comment, or do my online survey!

Friday, December 01, 2006

My new leaflet

The new leaflet for the City Centre and Jewellery Quarter is going out now. In this leaflet, I concentrate on:

1. Postal voting. It can be far easier and more convenient to vote by post. Download the form!

2. City Centre park. The first new City Centre park for over a century is being planned, and the designers have been shortlisted.

3. Safety in the Jewellery Quarter. A network of cameras is going up, and the police are moving to a community policing approach.

4. Achievements since 2004, when the Conservative-led administration took over. Plans to double recycling, £127 million for affordable housing...

5. A short survey on issues affecting you. You can also do it online!

'But Pete, aren't you blogging tactical information, which could be useful to your opponents?' I don't care - bring it on! In fact, you can download my new leaflet here:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What happened at the Ladywood Ward Committee

Last night's Ladywood Ward Committee meeting took place at Barford Primary School. Thanks to the school for hosting it - if I'd known there would be sarnies, I wouldn't have brought crisps with me! ;-) Now down to the issues...

Icknield Port Loop Development Initiative

The meeting heard from Planning and the major landowners: Isis, Concept Developments and Advantage West Midlands. First thing to say is that it was encouraging that they attended in the first place and appear genuinely interested in hearing what residents have to say.

Planning's target is to produce a family-friendly development with affordable housing. A draft masterplan for the Loop is being prepared and should be presented to the Committee in early 2007.

Isis is a joint venture company with British Waterways being the major player. Their objective is to do something more creative than just sell off land to the highest bidder. They've been talking to local interest groups (still some work to do there), and consistently found that residents want decent amenities, houses not just apartments, and that congestion along Icknield Port Road needs to be addressed.

Concept Developments is focussing on the Biddle and Webb area and envisage a mixed-user scheme including housing.

Advantage West Midlands is committed to a comprehensive scheme, but this may not take the form of a single planning application as the different players move at different speeds.

I asked whether the owners had spoken to Joe Holyoak, who recently presented a development plan for Edgbaston Reservoir (pictured). The areas are contiguous, and it's important that both schemes are consistent and sympathetic with each other. All said that they had.

One attendee made a very good speech about the owners getting excited about the development, looking at it as an opportunity to bring some European-class architecture to the area, and putting Ladywood on the map. Couldn't agree more.

All in all, a good start.

Summerfield and North Summerfield Housing

A brief but informative report told us that the current aim is to reduce the number of houses that have been converted into flats, and the amount of antisocial behaviour, including prostitution.

The investment in the area (e.g. better railings), had led to landlords putting their own money into the area, a sort of virtuous circle. Anyone who's visited the area recently will be aware of the transformation that's taken place over the last couple of years, and the Council hopes to use the project as a model to roll out across similar areas.

Barford School Playground Extension

There have been many objections over several years to this scheme; one of the main issues is that it requires altering a public right of way. A public enquiry is unlikely and final approval is in progress.

Asset Management Planning

Little to say about this one other than Ward service delivery will follow a hub-and-spoke model, with major centres delivering the bulk of services, and smaller distributed centres delivering a scaled-down equivalent.

Meeting Conduct

I was very unhappy with the way the meeting was conducted by Cllr Kath Hartley. One or two people were allowed to dominate, sometimes speaking flippantly for no apparent reason. In particular, I was shocked that an allegation of racism (albeit semi-serious) from one member of the public was allowed, with virtually no comment from the three Councillors present. The meeting is descending into a playground, and it must be stopped.

Additionally, Cllr Hartley waited for the owners of the land at Icknield Port Loop to leave, before asking members of the public to lobby more vocally for a swimming pool at the site the next time this comes up for discussion! Labour was in power in Birmingham for twenty years, and the only thing they achieved was closing Ladywood's only swimming pool at Monument Road. Now that they're out of power, they've put it on the agenda again, and they're asking the public to come in on this political maneuvering. Desperate...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Monthly drinks last night...

Last night, we had the City Branch monthly drinks event at Utopia The Bar on Church Street in the City Centre. It was great to see some new faces, especially the guys from Birmingham University Conservative Future. The evening was a mix of lively discussion, a few laughs, and a few beers.

BUCF have some great events coming up, in particular Boris Johnson is paying them a visit on Friday 1st December. I've seen Boris speak at a few events, and he's great - it's always worth making the effort to go and see him.

City Branch has a wine tasting event next week, on Thursday 23rd November at Centenary Plaza, Holliday Street. Eight different wines with expert tuition for the bargain price of £10. Contact for more info!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ladywood Ward Committee 20/11/2006

The Ladywood Ward Committee will meet as follows:
  • Monday 20th November 2006
  • 7pm
  • The Hall, Barford Primary School, Barford Road, Birmingham, B16 0EF
Items on the agenda include:
  • Icknield Port Loop Development
  • Issues concerning Summerfield and North Summerfield Area
  • Barford School Playground Extension
You can download the full agenda at

Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 27, 2006

What happened at the City Centre Neighbourhood Forum Public Meeting

The City Centre Neighbourhood Forum Public Meeting was on Monday 23rd at the Council House. It was quite well attended considering it was a cold night in late October - a quick show of hands told us that the leafleting we did was the main reason people attended.

Chief Superintendent Debbie Harrod, who is in charge of city centre policing. Main points:
  • 96.1% of city centre visitors feel safe.
  • Priorities are violent crime, business crime and retail crime.
  • The local police are currently moving to the neighbourhood policing model.
  • The police have a long-standing policy of never responding to building or car alarms - if you want them to attend, you'll need to describe a crime.
  • They have an 'architectural liaison officer' to ensure that new developments are built with security (e.g. CCTV) in mind.

I asked the Chief Superintendent whether she was confident the police know where everyone lives, which is obviously important if we need to evacuate again. She replied that she was not confident and that you should contact the police on their non-emergency number 0845 113 5000 if you wish to make sure. I do wonder whether there should be a more proactive approach from the police on this one...

Lots of interesting questions from people, although probably too many on specific incidents, which of course the Chief Superintendent found it hard to comment on.

Phil Brook, recycling officer for Birmingham City Council. Main points:

  • Each Birmingham household produces an average of 3/4 ton of domestic waste each year!
  • Birmingham's recycling performance is 'about average' when compared with other large metropolitan areas.
  • Last year's 18% target was almost hit.
  • Next year's 20% target should be hit.
  • This is against a background of waste production increasing by 2-3% per year.
  • Some of Birmingham's paper-based waste goes to a local cardboard mill - this is more tolerant of paper types than paper mills.
  • At present, only 1/4 of households receive a recycling collection.

Some interesting questions and answers again - possibly too much technical information though. Phil asked all of us to contact his office to arrange recycling collections for our buildings (currently almost no-one has one). Phil can be contacted on 303 1935. I suggested that someone in the Council should sit down with the Yellow Pages and phone all the management companies - there can't be that many!

Bob Blackaby spoke last (and briefly) on a new survey for city centre residents. I remember doing one about five years ago when I moved in from Selly Oak. He will be surveying about 12,000 properties and was looking for suggestions for survey questions. I made the point that the main three issues people talk to me about are (a) noise (b) planning (c) car parking and these should be reflected in the survey.

That's all for now...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A little bit introspective but... has some really good pictures of the worst (chiefly US) political websites.

When I started blogging, I promised myself that I wouldn't be like many other political bloggers out there, and try to appeal to non-bloggers. So I'll make this my yearly introspective entry then...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Clare Short finally does the inevitable...

According to Guido Fawkes, Clare Short has resigned the Labour whip. More details when I get them...

Update 24/10/2006: I've left the dust to settle before posting again. The BBC News website has a good article detailing what's happened. As you might expect, she's given the New Labour government both barrels, talking about an '...arrogant, error-prone government...' and '...the prime minister engaged in a series of half-truths and deceits to get us to war in Iraq.'

Strong stuff, but she did stand on a Labour platform barely eighteen months ago when she was reelected. When interviewed on Radio 4's PM programme a few days ago, she refused to be drawn on whether she should be standing down as an MP to give the electorate an opportunity to decide if they're happy with this fundamental (and it is fundamental) shift in her status. It seemed obvious to me that she thought that instigating a by-election would be the right thing to do, which is why she stuck to the 'we'll have to agree to disagree' line.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Harborne - a hotbed of political activity

Harborne is a suburb in South Birmingham, in Edgbaston Constituency. I was there this morning at the Farmers' Market to promote the Conservative's Action Day on the NHS, along with Deirdre Alden, Parliamentary Spokeswoman for Edgbaston. We were there last month too, but it looks like Labour's trying to rip us off, because they also turned up today. They sloped off before the market finished, but what can you do..?

See you there next month..!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Siôn of the Red

Birmingham Labour MP Siôn Simon's pointless video 'parodying' David Cameron has been removed from YouTube. I'm a fan of political satire, but Siôn forgot the golden rule: it has to be funny in the first place...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

City Centre Neighbourhood Forum

The Birmingham City Centre Neighbourhood Forum is holding a public meeting this month. The Forum exists to represent the interests of City Centre residents and is supported by the Council. This meeting will hear from:

  • Chief Superintendent Debbie Harrod, discussing the new licensing laws
  • Bob Blackaby, talking about how City Centre living has changed over the last 5-10 years
  • Phil Brook, a Council recycling officer, explaining recycling options for City Centre residents

  • Location: Council House, Victoria Square
  • Date: Monday 23rd October 2006
  • Time: 7pm

The meetings are always well attended and informative. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

At conference... part 2

Just a couple of conference highlights:

Fringe meeting by 'big swinger' Grant Shapps MP about how to win elections. Personally, I think it's the kind of thing that every delegate should attend. Great advice.

Tory Reform Group fringe meeting on foreign policy, attended by (among others) Sir Christopher Meyer. I've blogged about this already, but what a great speaker.

Meeting up with some old and new friends, for example my old university chum Jo Shinn, now political reporter for the BBC Asian Network. She's done brilliantly since those days at York. You go girl!

David Cameron's speech. A true performer, and a real sense that the Conservatives are back in business.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

At conference...

...finally. After arriving on Sunday, I was only issued with my Conference pass this morning. Didn't seem to matter that I'd delivered the form personally to our regional office in Coleshill in August - they had no record that I'd ever applied. After numerous taxi rides to get new photos taken, tracking down someone with a cheque book (credit cards are apparently too new fangled to be accepted), I then had to wait for the inevitable 'police checks' to be done. I'm sure the Treaty of Versailles was negotiated in a shorter time.

We need a full investigation into this fiasco, and not by some party mandarin - someone independent and credible.

On the plus side, I went to some great fringe events. It was a particular pleasure to listen to Sir Christopher Meyer, a former high-ranking British diplomat. Incredibly engaging and informative. Well done to the Tory Reform Group for organising it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why there is no hope under New Labour

I rarely blog about national political issues as there are others who do it far better than me, but today there's something I want to talk about.

Earlier this week, I was listening to the normally innocuous Radio 4 programme, Word of Mouth. It addresses issues of language, word usage and so on. Eighteen minutes into the programme, they started talking about something that almost made me crash my car. Visit the Word of Mouth website and click 'Listen to the latest edition.' I promise it's worth it.

The presenter Michael Rosen had two guests: former management consultant David Craig, author of
Plundering the Public Sector, and Tony Thorne, author of Shoot The Puppy.

They quote Blair in a speech on the public sector, '...whether it's the transformation in primary schools... all of them have actually been through change and reform, and that's why it has to be continued and extended.'

David Craig speaks from his experiences as a management consultant, '...we wanted to sell bigger projects, lots of consultants, and big IT systems. And we came up with this idea of organisational transformation. We published a book called Transforming the Organisation... When our book came out, the Economist reviewer said that any client stupid enough to buy this concept of transformation would find that he was employing an army of consultants for a century... But the thing really took off under New Labour, who adopted the tranformation concept hook, line and sinker... Guys, we didn't mean it seriously, nobody actually needs to buy transformation, it was only a trick, only a way of selling lots and lots of consulting with lots of IT systems behind it.'

Here's another Blair quote: 'But recently we have moved increasingly from a centrally driven approach - necessary to address the worst of the problems we inherited - to try to make change self-sustaining by the use of incentives, user choice and contestability of service.'

Of course, this sentence is meaningless jargon. According to Craig, it really means '...we're going to privatise anything that moves...' Blair can't use the word 'privatisation' because everyone knows what it means. Similarly, 'constestability' equals competition; it's been deliberately smuggled in amongst a load of other buzzwords to get the message across without anyone noticing.

Craig explains that Government policy is formed and implemented by the Downing Street Strategy Unit, run by a McKinsey & Company consultant, and the Downing Street Delivery Unit, run by an Accenture consultant. Craig continues, 'Under New Labour, most of our policies are made and implemented by management consultants, which is why we see politicians speaking like management consultants.'

Gordon Brown doesn't miss out, '...the means by which we can personalise services for the patient, pupil or citizen and enable professionals, like you here today, to pioneer innovative approaches to delivering these services and drive up standards all round.'

Craig again, 'Many people assume that this person Gordon Brown is the dour, down-to-earth Scotsman... not at all like Tony Blair... but actually what we're seeing here is the worst case of being struck by jargon than Tony Blair ever had... it's completely out of control.'

(David Cameron got a bit of a ticking-off for using the phrase 'to leverage', but it's hardly in the same league.)

Massive hat tip to Michael Rosen, David Craig, Tony Thorne and all the BBC Word of Mouth team for helping to expose a serious political issue at least as well as their colleagues at BBC News.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Goodbye Clare

If the reports are true, Ladywood's MP Clare Short will be standing down at the next election. But who wants a lame duck? Maybe she should do what her leader should be doing: going now. You can read my further thoughts on this (and the thoughts of others) by following the link...

Update 14/09/2006: Despite being known in the blogosphere since the start of the week, this information has finally made the national media. One of the more bizzarre reports I heard today is that Clare Short will be campaigning for a deliberate hung Parliament. Surely this can't be true... can it..?

Ladywood Ward Committee

The next Ladywood Ward Committee will take place on Monday 18th September, 7pm at Training Room 4, St Thomas Children's Centre, Bell Barn Road, Lee Bank, Birmingham (

As always, matters of great importance are discussed, including:

1. New Street Station. I'll like to see some meat on the bones of this one, rather than just hearing all the time about what a great shopping experience it will be.
2. City Centre Parking. Something I've kept a very keen eye on..!
3. Swimming Pool for Ladywood ward. I'll be interested to see the Labour councillors explaining why they closed down Ladywood's only public swimmming pool about 15 years ago, and they're only revisiting the issue now that we're in control...

See you there!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Get connected

West Midlands Police have implemented the Voice Connect Relay system, which is a way of keeping you in touch with ongoing events and issues in Birmingham city centre, for example security alerts. I susbscribed to the service a few weeks ago and it works - today, I received information via phone and email regarding the evacuation of New Street Station. (It turned out to be a false alarm.)

The service is free to all residents of Birmingham city centre. If you'd like to subscribe, you can download the form from

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My new leaflet

If you live in the City Centre or Jewellery Quarter, you should be receiving my new leaflet around about now. Localised leaflets for other parts of Ladywood ward will be hitting the streets soon too...

I look forward to seeing you at City Branch's next City Centre drinks event: Thursday 21st September at 7pm, Utopia The Bar, Church St (

Monday, August 14, 2006

Older people in Ladywood getting a better deal

As the country's population gets older, appropriate care for older people is becoming more and more of an issue. Should the NHS be taking the lead, or should local authorities be doing more to prevent this so-called bed blocking? What about care at home?

Research has shown that older people prefer to live independently as much as possible, for as long as possible. Not rocket science really, is it..?

On Friday, our Conservative-led Council announced that it was spending £44 million on new Special Care Centres for older people. These centres will be located in communities, and offer a range of services, including:

1. Long-term care for dementia patients
2. Short-term care for those in the process of returning from hospital to their own homes
3. Day services such as physiotherapy, stroke clinics and well-being classes

The first of these centres will be The Beeches, a 64-bed centre in Ladywood ward. Good news.

Monday, August 07, 2006


Blogs are ten-a-penny these days (unless you're David Miliband), but I thought I'd take a moment to mention the blog of a very good friend of mine, Praguetory (

PT's got a very interesting slant on a number of issues, and his articles always seem to attract comments from all over the place. Always good to see the perspective of someone living outside the UK too.

P.S. Not been very active these last couple of weeks because I've been on holiday, but if you live in the City Centre or Jewellery Quarter, you should be receiving my new leaflet anytime now...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ladywood District Committee

Ladywood District covers Aston, Ladywood, Nechells and Soho wards, and its Committee (consisting of all twelve Councillors) is meeting at 6pm on Thursday 20th July at Commitee Room 1, Birmingham Council House. I'd be going but sadly I'm on holiday, but all are welcome!

Monday, July 03, 2006

It's all about the balloons

Spent a very tiring but enjoyable day yesterday at the Harborne Carnival. Some of us from City Branch were running a stall, promoting the Party, City Branch and your local Conservative elected representatives and candidates. We must have given away about a thousand balloons and leaflets. Cllr Deirdre Alden (Parliamentary Spokesman for Edgbaston), Cllr Mike Whitby (Leader of the Council), Cllr Fergus Robinson, Cllr John Alden, and Malcolm Harbour MEP all attended the Carnival and helped out at the stall. Sadly, little was to be seen of any of the other parties...

Got a bit of a tan out of it too!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ladywood Ward Committee

The next meeting of the Ladywood Ward Committee will take place at 7pm on Monday 3rd July at Ladywood Community and Health Centre, St Vincent Street West (

Amongst the topics for discussion is the Ladywood Neighbourhood Renewal Fund - this is serious money so it's in all our interests to make sure it's well spent.

There's a slight chance I won't be able to make it, but hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

England v Sweden @ Electric Cinema

Last night's Conservative City Branch event at the Electric Cinema ( went well - for City Branch, anyway. Good turnout, great seating, superb service. Shame about the result - still, we've qualified top of our group and let's see how we do in the next round.

Again, we had some new faces come along so the momentum's still growing..!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What a B'Stard!

Last night, City Branch went to see The Blair B'Stard Project New Statesman Tour with Rik Mayall at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham city centre. Very funny! Rik Mayall made the show - can't imagine anyone else playing B'Stard though.

The stage production has B'Stard defecting to New Labour, but otherwise his character is as amoral, devious, dishonest and cruel as ever. Some Bottomesque slapstick added to the humour.

It was good to see some new faces too. See you all at the monthly drinks event on Thursday 15th at Utopia The Bar, Church Street, Birmingham city centre ( at 7pm after the match...

Friday, June 09, 2006

What happened at the Ladywood Ward Committee

The Ladywood Ward Committee meeting took place last night. All in all, the meeting was a little better natured than the last one and Cllr Kath Hartley did a better job at trying to control some of the very small minority who try to dominate it every time. There were several important issues discussed:

Edgbaston Reservoir Development Plan

The first half hour was an opportunity to view the drawings and details of the possible future of Edgbaston Reservoir. I thought that there was too much information to take in and remember, so I've got hold of electronic copies from Joe Holyoak, the designer. You can view them here:

Interestingly, the plan specifically excluded the Tower Ballroom site, even though the proposed high-density residential development there is unlikely to see the light of day (if I get my way!). Mr Holyoak expressed his dissatisfaction at not being able to include this area in his design; this was echoed by many at the meeting. The Tower Ballroom site is a highly significant tranche of land, and its redevelopment can't be considered in isolation from the rest of the reservoir.

During the following discussion, there were a range of views expressed, from the plan being, 'A total waste of time,' to its being, 'Very sympathetic'. I asked specific questions on a number of subjects, including how the proposed funicular railway would be funded in the future, and how the activities of skateboarders would be controlled. On reflection, I wonder whether we shouldn't be building in an area for skateboarders: it would ensure that they didn't 'poach' the rest of the facilities, and aren't young people always saying that they don't have enough to do?

Overall, I think that the plan is a good attempt to improve the user facilities at the Reservoir (which is, after all, a man-made feature) whilst protecting and extending the amount of wildlife. However, the plan can't and shouldn't be considered in isolation from (a) the Tower Ballroom site (b) funding for the increased cost of managing the facilities (c) policing the facilities.

Redevelopment of Icknield Port Loop

Two outline planning applications were presented: one for land off Wiggin Street, the other for land off Freeth Street. I think it's fair to say that the officer from Planning and Regeneration got a bit of a kicking last night! To be fair, he did say that he had requested further information from the applicants and was still waiting for it. The main points of concern were:

1. The outline plans lacked sufficient detail for the meeting to make any real comments on the specific applications.
2. The Icknield Port Loop area must be considered as a whole, and applications for individual bits of it should be discouraged.
3. There is a significant need for family accommodation in the area, and the creation of self-contained apartment blocks is not appropriate for the area.

I broadly agree with the points above. We do need to be realistic about what we can achieve though, and in the end I would contend that some residential development is better than letting the area go derelict. The process is ongoing, and I think that residents made their feelings known.

Local transportation issues

I'll be brief on these.

The Jewellery Quarter Parking Zone is about to happen; I wanted to ask some questions about who's entitled to permits, how much they will cost etc., but the time wasn't available.

Ladywood Middleway is going to get a Red Route and have its subways filled in. The timescales have slipped a bit, but let's hope it gets done soon.

Coach Parking. It appears that something may finally get done about the chaos that can be caused in roads surrounding the ICC (e.g. Cambridge Street) by parked coaches. The police sound like they're going to get tougher with the coach drivers (some of whom are quite happy to get three tickets rather than move!) and the Council may be providing a proper city centre coach park soon. But really, this should have been sorted out long ago.

Summerfield Park

The renovation of Summerfield Park is basically complete; almost £1 million was spent in improving this facility. Good news.

Spring Hill Passage green/games area

At the other end of the process, there was a presentation by Groundwork regarding vast improvements to this area. They're going to ban the skips and put in some facilities for basketball, football and netball. The sooner the better...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ladywood Ward Committee

The next meeting of the Ladywood Ward Committee will take place at 6.30pm tomorrow (8th June) at Ladywood Community and Health Centre, St Vincent Street West (

Among the topics under discussion will be the contentious issue of the Edgbaston Reservoir redevelopment.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gambling affliction

And so we have the shortlist for the super-casino. Let's have a more detailed look at the winners:

The Dome (Greenwich): Labour borough council, Labour MP
Wembley (Brent): Lib Dems largest party in borough council, 2 Labour MPs, 1 Lib Dem MP
Blackpool: Labour council, 2 Labour MPs
Manchester: Labour council, 4 Labour MPs, 1 Lib Dem MP
Glasgow: Labour council, 10 Labour MSPs, 6 Labour MPs (plus the Speaker)
Newcastle: Lib Dem council, 4 Labour MPs
Sheffield: Labour Council, 5 Labour MPs, 1 Lib Dem MP

And then we have the Solihull bid at the NEC (backed by Birmingham City Council). Central location, at a major conference venue, with excellent road, rail and air connections:
Solihull: Conservative council, 1 Conservative MP, 1 Lib Dem MP

I don't think I need to say anything else, do I...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bit of a sore head

Last night's City Branch drinks event at Utopia the Bar in Birmingham City Centre was a massive success. By my reckoning, we had about thirty people come along throughout the evening. It was great to see so many new faces too - we had some people from Conservative Future for the first time, as well as some new local members.

The challenge for me and the City Branch Committee now is to keep building the momentum, grow the membership and have some fun!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Poster Boy - Part 2

Well, it's all over for another year. I've just taken the last of the posters down from Ladywood's lampposts - had some great help from my Dad and Cllr Jane James (Quinton) and her husband Terry today. Very slick operation they have!

If you see any of my posters anywhere, let me know or I'll get fined!

Friday, May 05, 2006


Thank-you to everyone who voted for me in yesterday's elections. It was always going to be tricky to win the seat at the first attempt, but I'm very happy with 632 votes and a comfortable second place. The Lib Dems came in third on 439 votes. It's been a while since a Conservative candidate came second in Ladywood, and it just goes to show that if you have the right policies and put in enough effort, the result starts to go your way.

Here's to next year!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Poster Boy

Phew! Just got in after a night of intense postering in Ladywood ward. Well worth it though - we got most of the western part done, but we're not gonna stop there!

I've tried to do something different with my posters - instead of a dodgy mugshot or just my name, I've put my website address (this website in fact!). I can't remember of a candidate doing this before, but there has to be a first time for everything..!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Paper Boy

So anyway, there's a full-page article about me in today's Times (Page 24). The article by Ben Hoyle is a good representation about how tricky it can be for me to reach some of Ladywood's electorate. Rest assured, I'm trying my best - this blog is just one way of trying to bridge the divide.

The 'gated communities' reference slightly conjures up images of electrified fences and guys with shotguns (!), but other than that, I think it's a great article.

Ladywood Conservatives are on the up! We can win next Thursday!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Thursday's Leafleting

A big thank-you to everyone who came on City Branch's leafleting event last Thursday. We got a large part of Ladywood ward covered, and the reaction has been great! I've been getting phone calls, emails and letters from ward residents, and I'm working hard to respond to all of them. Sorry if you're still waiting to hear from me but I've had so much interest!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pool resources

A second Labour leaflet's gone out in Ladywood. Unbelievably, the Ladywood Labour councillors are making a big issue about how much pressure they're putting on the Conservative-led Council to get a swimming pool in the ward.

They seem to have conveniently forgotten that we had a Labour-run council between 1984 and 2004 and we still have a Labour-run ward. The only thing they've achieved was closing Ladywood's only pool on Monument Road!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Labour's running scared

I've just been having a look at the April 2006 edition of the so-called Labour News that's being distributed in Ladywood.

The general theme is that our Conservative-led Council is taking all the money from Ladywood and giving it to Sutton Coldfield. This is classic, unreconstructed, Labour class-war rhetoric and the electorate won't fall for it! Only three days ago, the Council announced a £44 million building project for Special Care Centres for the elderly. The first centre will be built in - guess where? - Ladywood!

Labour can keep banging their class-war drum if they want, but our Conservative-led Council is getting things done. If they don't want to be a part of it, they should get out of the way...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Marginal benefits

Quinton is an area in the west of Birmingham, and outside my own ward of Ladywood, it's been a focus of my campaigning efforts. The ward is a marginal, which means that a small change in the number of votes cast for each party could cause a different result.

Cllr Jane James is the Conservative candidate, and she's seeking re-election in Quinton. And she's got every right to think she'll get the support she needs on May 4th (polling day). She's been doing a remarkable job for the area - appointing more litter patrols, getting more bins and taking measures to reduce speeding.

I've canvassed a few times there already, and the feeling on the doorstep is very positive! Here's to 4th May!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I've just come from a evening looking for bats in Ladywood! No, really. Ladywood Green Watch had organised a evening of bat finding with Ray Dutton from the Birmingham and Black Country Bat Group (

We started by using a little black box that picks up a bat's sonar. No luck there I'm afraid - it was a bit cold which meant no insects, which meant no bats.

Against all odds, we found a Pipistrelle roosting high up in some wood panelling on the side of Ladywood Arts & Leisure Centre. I wanted to take a photo of it and put it on here, but apparently it's illegal to photograph bats without a licence (!).

Not my normal night on the campaign trail, but a worthwhile one nonetheless!

Tune in again - same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bring it on!

The nominations are out! Of the five candidates nominated, I'm the only one who lives in the ward. Here's to victory on 4th May!

Monday, April 03, 2006

A few good men...

...and women!

Since announcing my candidacy, I've been so impressed by some of the people I've met, working hard, for no reward, just to improve their area. For example, I was speaking today to someone who's been trying to improve the Rotton Park area. He was full of ideas and information; for example, he was telling me about the Harborne Line, which is a now-defunct railway line that may be reopened as a cycle path. The more people I meet, the more I learn about what's happening throughout the ward and the more I'm convinced that we can make real and beneficial changes for all the people of Ladywood.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

What happened at the Ladywood Ward Committee

I attended the Ladywood Ward Committee meeting on 22nd March 2006 at St Paul's Church, St Paul's Square. All wards have Ward Committees that meet periodically to discuss ongoing matters of interest to ward residents, and anyone can attend.

It was good to see a change of venue for this meeting, which reflects how the ward is developing, and I would like to extend my thanks to the authorities of St Paul's Church for allowing the meeting to take place there.

One of the most important topics being debated was the proposed Tower Ballroom redevelopment at Edgbaston Reservoir. Cllr Rice reported that Cllr John Alden (Cabinet member for Leisure, Sport and Culture) will not sell the land to the developers and it's been earmarked for leisure, not residential use. Hopefully this will put an end to this issue!

There was a report concerning planning gain, which is money paid by property developers to the Council in recognition of the impact that a development can cause. For example, planning permission for a supermarket may be accompanied by planning gain to improve the roads surrounding the site. We were told that a lot of planning gain money has been 'stalled' - I don't know how we can get developers to cough up when they're supposed to, but there's a lot of money at stake here and we need to do something about it.

There was a very interesting presentation about the future of New Street Station (which sits within the ward). I must confess that I still have some reservations about the proposals as they stand. I thought that New Street was a bottleneck due to train capacity, but I was told that the problem's passenger capacity. Hmm, OK!

We were shown some flashy animations of the new station; as usual, it was a bright sunny day and people were just hanging about on the concourse having a laugh. Sadly, little was mentioned about whether the number of platforms will be increased and whether any additional daylight will reach them. In addition, the official website ( contains little or no information of use to the public at the time of writing.

There was also a brief discussion about whether New Street would be renamed. Seems a bit pointless to me, but I'm sure it would keep someone in a job!

You won't get any argument from me that New Street needs to be knocked down and rebuilt, but if we're going to spend £500m (including £300m of public money) and cause huge inconvenience over the five years of construction, I do think that we need more emphasis on trains and passengers and less on shopping and branding.

Moving on, there was a very useful presentation about redevelopment of some sites fronting Great Charles Street. Cllr Bore wanted to include the coupling of two sections of Queensway alongside this redevelopment, but I spoke in opposition to this. Every time there is an accident in Queensway, it can back up as far as the M6, and increasing the length of the tunnel will only increase the risk. After several others also spoke in opposition to Cllr Bore's proposal, the Chair (Cllr Hartley) backed away from having a vote on the matter.

The proposed Chamberlain Gardens Residential Parking Zone should provide some respite for residents, although one or two people voiced concerns about whether it will be adequately policed. We'll have to see how it pans out and increase enforcement if required.

The speaker on Jewellery Quarter matters was obviously passionate and committed, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak. Improvements to CCTV and street lighting are going to happen, and there is also a proposal for a public square by the 'Big Peg'. Long overdue is the proposal for a health centre and pharmacy in the area. Great stuff!

However, it was a real shame that his report was cut short due to lack of time. In addition, the topics of Coach Parking, City Centre issues and On-Street Parking around the Middleway weren't discussed at all. In my opinion, a couple of people were allowed to dominate the meeting with lengthy questions and comments, and I think we need more discipline from the Chair to ensure that these meetings are all that they can be.

Maybe it'll be down to me to chair the next meeting..? ;-)

Friday, March 31, 2006

Who let the dogs out?

Just a quick one about last week's City Branch trip to Perry Barr Greyhound Stadium. I think I can safely say that everyone who came had a great night, and it was superb to see some new faces. Thanks to all who came, and to Louise and Sarah for organising it.

City Branch is going from strength to strength!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Ladywood Ward Committee

The next Ladywood Ward Committee meeting will take place on Wednesday 22 March 2006 at 7pm at St Paul’s Church, St Paul’s Square. You can find the agenda here: Matters that really do affect the ward are discussed at this meeting; for example, there'll be reports on car parking and the proposed redevelopment of New Street Station.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

House nouse

I've just spent the last couple of hours with Cllr James Hutchings from Edgbaston ward. He's been very involved with the work of Optima, which is a charity that's taken on the management, development and redevelopment of a large amount of former Council housing. Most of this is within Ladywood ward; for example, it includes the large high-rise blocks of Cleveland Tower and Clydesdale Tower at Holloway Head.

The important thing to note about Optima is that it was driven from the bottom up, that is, the idea came from the residents themselves. Helped by a large grant from the then-Conservative Government, Optima set about transforming the living space of thousands of people.

I must say, I was amazed when James took me in detail through the inception and fruition of the project, and showed my the very obvious, tangible and beneficial results on the ground. Old developments have been taken down and replaced with better quality housing. Most new developments have reintroduced streets in one form or another, which is something I consider essential for the coherence of a community. Other existing developments have been completely renovated. The story doesn't stop here though - there's lots of work still to be done. James's enthusiasm was infectious and I'm looking forward to being a part of this in the future.

We need more Optimas!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Rubbing shoulders with the big cheeses

I went to the Edgbaston Constituency Conservative Party's dinner last night. I met Justine Greening MP, who's represented Putney since the General Election in 2005.

Justine gave a very interesting and entertaining speech about what it's been like to be a new MP. From not being allowed to wear your coat in the Division Lobby (apparently to prevent you disguising your servant and sending them through if you couldn't be bothered voting), to how to wind up Gordon Brown, to more serious issues like ID cards, to the Lib Dem and (possible) Labour leadership contests, it was a rare and valuable insight into what goes on in the corridors of power.

Hopefully Edgbaston's own Deirdre Alden will be giving a similar speech in about 2009 after she's been elected..!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

You are what you eat!

I've just come from the opening of Mibod, which is a new shop in Martineau Place specialising in healthy foods, in particular for diabetics. Healthy eating and diabetes go hand-in-hand, and both subjects are very topical.

I was very impressed with the entrepreneurial spririt of the company, their commitment to improving the health and well-being of our community, and the fact that they're donating so much money to the West Midlands County Air Ambulance.

We definitely need more healthy eating places in the City Centre, and I wish the company all the best for the future!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

What do you think about the Tower Ballroom redevelopment?

I know that the Tower Ballroom redevelopment is a divisive issue in Ladywood ward. Rather than shy away from it, I want to engage with all of you to find out all of the arguments for and against, and the strength of feeling on all sides.

Please feel free to add a comment to my blog about this - thanks!

Monday, February 06, 2006

It's a group thing

Just come from my first Birmingham City Council Conservative Group meeting since I was selected. I knew quite a few people already, but it was nice to be able to put a few more faces to names.

It was great to see everyone so motivated to carry on improving the City - long may it continue and hopefully I can play a more active part from May!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sticking my nose in

Today, I've been mainly sticking my nose in round Ladywood ward. Again. I had a mooch round Ladywood Middleway, Icknield Port Road and took what might be my final look at the Tower Ballroom before it gets pulled down! Here are a few things I found.

There's a road just off the Middleway that's littered with used condoms, as a result of the prostitution in the area. I really don't think that the residents of the ward should have to put up with this and we need to find a solution that's right for everyone.

Round the back of Tesco at Five Ways is not a pretty sight. There's all sorts of litter and cack - must be a haven for rats at night. Again, been neglected too long and needs to be put right.

Finally, I (just about) noticed some of the 'Quiet Please' signs in some residential parts of the city centre. They really are a joke - they're too small and there aren't enough of them. If it's worth having them, they need to be bigger and more numerous. Might not be a bad idea to reinforce them with a few adverts too - 'When you see a sign like this, button it!' Maybe the slogan needs a bit of work...

Look out for photos relating to all these issues in my forthcoming campaign leaflets!

Less talk, more action!

Okay, okay, it might be a bit of a cliché, but I happen to believe it. And on that subject, I've been reading through a couple of documents: the 2001-2002 Ladywood Ward Development Plan ( and the Ladywood District Interim Community Plan (

Both documents contain a shed load of aims and objectives and we all deserve to know whether they've been actioned. So I've contacted the relevant Council Officers with an (almost) equally long list of questions. I'll let you know what they come back with!

Since the Conservative-led administration took office, we've not messed about: in 18 months, we've achieved one-star ratings in both housing and social services. Might not sound that impressive, but the old Labour lot took 20-odd years and got none in either!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Funny Form

If you've not registered to vote yet (tut tut!), you can download the voter registration form here:

Only thing is, the top of the first page says 'See notes overleaf before completing this form', but the second page is blank. I've contacted the Elections Office about this, so watch this space..!

Update (01/02/2006): As a result of my inquiry, the Elections Office will be republishing the form on their website to include both pages. You can use the existing version if you want, as only the first page is required for registration. Sorted!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Who cares about Ladywood?

I've spent a 'challenging' hour or two this afternoon, trying to compile a definitive list of organisations that are relevant to Ladywood ward. You'd have thought that all this information might be in a big list on the Ladywood sections of, but no. So who cares about Ladywood? These people - I'm sure this list will grow too:

Ladywood ward site:

Ladywood district site:

Ladywood District Community Safety Group:

Ladywood District Strategic Partnership:

Birmingham Strategic Partnership (Ladywood):

Ladywood Community Network:

Ladywood Youth Empowerment Network:

Please note that 'Ladywood' in a local goverment sense can mean one of two things: Ladywood the ward (where I'm standing) and Ladywood the district (consisting of Aston, Ladywood, Nechells and Soho wards) - some relate to the former, others to the latter...

Friday, January 27, 2006

The City Branch is born! Well, almost...

A bunch of us got together last night and arranged a date for the formal launch and committee election of the City Branch of the Conservative Party in Birmingham (I'm not going to call it the 'Birmingham City Branch' because I'm a Villa fan!). It's scheduled for Thursday 19th February at 7pm, round my place (email me at for more details).

Up until now, the City Branch has consisted of semi-regular drinky do's in various city centre bars - now that we have a regular attendance, it's time to put it onto a formal footing and schedule some proper social, community and fundraising events.

The City Branch is intended to have a city-wide view with a city centre focus. We mainly consist of young professionals who live and/or work in the city centre, but of course we're interested in hearing from anyone who wants to get more involved in the Conservative Party and meet like-minded people.

I'm really encouraged by the positive start and I have high hopes that we can be a positive and vibrant force, both in the Party and in the community!

Where's the Ward Committee..?

So there I was, eager to attend the next Ladywood Ward Committee meeting. A Ward Committee is where anyone in the ward can turn up and voice anything they want to the people responsible for the ward. I really want to learn about what others in the ward think is good, bad, whatever.

It turns out that the next Ward Committee meeting hasn't been scheduled yet. Ah well...

One of the first things I'd do is have a 12-month rolling schedule of when the Ward Committees take place, so everyone (consituents, Councillors, Council Officers) knows well in advance when they're going to happen and can plan to be there.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Hello! Two days ago, I was selected to stand as the prospective Conservative candidate in the ward of Ladywood in Birmingham. I thought it might be a good idea to start a blog to track my thoughts, progress and so on until election day in May.

Since I got the official endorsement, I've been spending my time pouring over maps of the ward, reading ward development plans and coming up with policies and a campaign plan. I've lived in the ward for a few years now (and the city nearly all my life!), and I know that my own experiences, and the experiences of others I know in the area, will be a great help.

I'm really looking forward to the challenge. Watch this space!