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!