Thursday, December 30, 2010

Refuse and Recycling Collection in Birmingham

I hope that everyone had a good Christmas and is looking forward to the New Year.

I thought it would be a good time to update everyone on the situation regarding refuse and recycling collection in Quinton ward. I have been in direct contact today with Cllr Huxtable, who's the Cabinet Member responsible, to get the latest information.

Unfortunately, we've been hit with a 'perfect storm' of industrial action by our regular workforce on the 20th December and work-to-rule since, the unusually bad weather (even for December) and the extra refuse generated due to the holiday period.

However, none of this is much consolation if your black bags and recycling boxes are still outside. To try to get around the problems, the Council has recruited a casual workforce to provide collection services in the absence of the regular workforce. This workforce is being expanded as drivers are recruited. The Council intends the casual workforce to work continuously including the weekend and to catch up on the work as soon as possible.

The Council has also arranged for extended opening hours at the City's five household recycling centres: 8am to 9pm seven days a week.

The current advice is to leave your black bags and recycling on the kerbside, even if it's not your normal collection day, and the Council will try to collect them as soon as possible.

There are also a few scheduled bulky refuse collections taking place in various parts of Quinton ward; these are all expected to go ahead as planned.

I am in regular communication with Cllr Huxtable and I will update the blog if the information or advice changes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Letter from Eric Pickles about the Localism Bill and Local Government Finance Settlement

A new relationship between central government, local government and local people starts today.

Like all Conservative Councillors in England, I've just received a letter from Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, with some information about the Localism Bill and Local Government Finance Settlement. I thought it would be useful to post the letter in full. Here is is.

Dear Colleague,

Localism Bill and Local Government Finance Settlement

Today the Coalition Government has published the Localism Bill and announced the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement for English councils. I wanted to take the opportunity to outline some key political points on these two major announcements.

Local Government Finance Settlement

Local government finance is notoriously arcane and ridden with Whitehall jargon. So my department has published a plain English guide to the settlement, to help explain the detail. It can be found at:

· This is all about how we raise and spend taxpayers’ money. Every part of the public sector needs to do its bit to help reduce Labour’s legacy of debt and the massive overdraft they left the nation. The Labour Government had been living a credit card lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense, and now it is time to pay off some of those bills.

· This is a progressive settlement – we are taking into account that some councils are very dependent on central government grants, and we are taking steps to mitigate the effect of spending reductions in those needy areas.

· The settlement will be fair between different parts of the country – north and south, rural and urban, metropolitan and shire. Unlike Labour, we will not play one part of the country off against another for narrow partisan gain.

· We are limiting the reduction in councils’ spending power. Making savings to grants is not the same as reducing council spending by the same amount – this is since councils raise money from council tax and other sources.

· Council tax bills more than doubled under Labour. So we are providing additional funding to help England’s councils to help freeze their council tax bills this year. This will provide real help to struggling families and pensioners.

· Councils can protect frontline services by sharing services and back office functions, improve procurement to get more for less, bring escalating senior pay under control, and use transparency to empower the public to see how their money could be better spent. Next month, councils should be publishing online their spending over £500, creating an army of ‘armchair auditors’ to cut out waste and deliver better value for money.

A Government press release with top-line local figures on spending can be found at:

Localism Bill

· The Localism Bill overturns decades of central government interference and gives power back to local communities. We are not just devolving power to local councils – we are also giving more power to citizens, community groups and neighbourhoods, to help local people shape and influence the places in which they live and help build the Big Society.

· We are giving more freedoms and flexibilities to councils, from reducing ring-fencing to bringing in a general power of competence in the Localism Bill. By cutting the red tape and Whitehall micromanagement which holds councils back, this will give them the ability to protect frontline services and focus their spending on local priorities.

A Government press release on the Bill can be found at:

My Ministerial colleague, Greg Clark, has also today published a pamphlet on our decentralisation agenda which is available at:

Key policy initiatives in the Bill which may be of direct interest to your ward include:

· The abolition of Labour’s Regional Strategies and top-down system of planning. This legacy of John Prescott threatened environmental sustainability, and it completely failed to deliver the homes that communities wanted by fuelling resentment at development.

· A new system of neighbourhood planning to put local communities in charge of the look and feel of their locality. Parish councils and new neighbourhood forums of local people – rather than town hall officials – will lead the way in shaping their community. Incentives, such as the New Homes Bonus and a reformed Community Infrastructure Levy, will ensure that local people directly benefit from new development.

· Protection for local taxpayers from Labour’s planned tax hikes. We are abolishing Labour’s bin taxes, cancelling Labour’s planned council tax revaluations in England and Wales, and giving local residents new powers to veto future excessive council tax rises via local referendums.

· New rights to protect community facilities and build the Big Society: A Community Right to Buy will give local groups new rights to protect vital community asset including local shops, pubs, libraries and leisure centres, giving them the opportunity to take over services which face closure. An accompanying Community Right to Challenge will open the door for local community and voluntary sector groups, as well as parish councils and council employees, to bid to take over and improve local council services.

We have a strong message that the Coalition Government is championing the interests of local taxpayers in difficult times, and is putting more power and responsibility into the hands of councils, communities and citizens.

Yours truly,

Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP

Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nativity Play Photos – A Victory for Common Sense

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has recently issued some guidance on taking photographs at school concerts or plays this Christmas.

He says, ‘Having a child perform at a school play or a festive concert is a very proud moment for parents and is understandably a memory that many want to capture on camera. It is disappointing to hear that the myth that such photos are forbidden by the Data Protection Act still prevails in some schools.

‘A common sense approach is needed – clearly, photographs simply taken for a family album are exempt from data protection laws. Armed with our guidance, parents should feel free to snap away this Christmas and stand ready to challenge any schools or councils that say “Bah, Humbug” to a bit of festive fun.’

This guidance should put an end to this persistent myth, and I’ve written to all of the local schools to make sure they know about it. Now let’s all get on and enjoy Christmas!

You can download the guidance note at