News

MP’S SLATE BUS COMPANY FOR DELETING STOPS

Following the abrupt closure of 59 bus stops in Birmingham, MPs condemned the decision in the House of Commons, and said elderly people, mothers with young children and disabled people would be particularly hit. An official Commons motion drawn up by Birmingham Hall Green MP Roger Godsiff (Lab) said: "This House deplores the decision by Transport for West Midlands to remove over 50 bus stops from 1 October 2017."
Transport for West Midlands, which oversees the region’s bus network, has closed the bus stops for a six month test to see how it affects services. It says there are some stops located just 130 yards apart, while others have fallen into disuse as businesses have closed or shopping habits changed. It says the changes will speed up journeys for passengers, as it is estimated each stop adds at least 35 seconds to a journey.
But the MPs said: "Transport for West Midlands’ own equality risk assessment identified that the closure of these bus stops would have a negative impact on many vulnerable groups including elderly people, mothers with young children and disabled people." And they said they deplore "the fact that Transport for West Midlands ignored this analysis and determined that profit was more important than people’s convenience." MPs also claimed local councillors had not been consulted properly.
Routes affected:
8a/8c – Inner-circle
50 – Alcester Road
45/47 – Pershore Road
63 – Bristol Road
Laura Shoaf, managing director of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), said: “This is a trial scheme running until March next year and which aims to improve reliability for passengers by speeding up journey times through the suspension of little-used bus stops. “TfWM policy is for people living within the West Midlands metropolitan area to be within 400m of a served bus stop, a rule which applies to 90 per cent of the network in the region. However, over the years and some stops have become as close as 130m apart. These short distances can have an adverse effect on journey times.

HOMELESSNESS CRISIS GROWS

A new government report shows that a total of 5,159 children and pregnant women were in temporary accommodation arranged by their local authority in the West Midlands at the end of September. That included 3,648 in Birmingham alone. It meant 576 children or expectant mothers in Birmingham were living in bed and breakfast accommodation found for them by the council, and 187 were in hostels.
The majority were found accommodation with a private landlord or in a property owned by the council. The statistics were published by the Department for Communities and the Local Government Association, as an independent watchdog warned that even people in good jobs are at risk of becoming homeless. People such as nurses are now struggling to afford a roof over their head, according to Michael King, the Local Government Ombudsman. The problem is caused by the increasing cost of private rents.
He said: “Our cases show many pre-conceived ideas about the people affected by homelessness simply no longer ring true. The increasing cost of private rents has meant we have seen a shift towards more people in professions such as nursing, and their families, becoming affected.” But Mr King, who deals with complaints about councils, said he was concerned that local authorities were failing to provide adequate accommodation for people who are homeless.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, the MP for Bromsgrove, wanted to wanted the Government to borrow to build new homes. Privately, he is said to have wanted £50 billion for housebuilding. But Chancellor Philip Hammond was reluctant to authorise borrowing on this scale. His preferred option was to open up green belt land for building – but this is opposed by many Conservative MPs.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Tackling homelessness is a complex issue with no single solution, but we are determined to help the most vulnerable in society. “That’s why we are providing over £1 billion up to 2020 to prevent and reduce all forms of homelessness and rough sleeping. We are also bringing in the Homelessness Reduction Act – the most ambitious legislation in decades that will mean people get the support they need earlier.
“Councils have a duty to provide safe, secure and suitable temporary accommodation.”

NINE MILLION VICTIMS OF LONELINESS

A report by the Jo Cox Commission revealed last week that nine million adults are suffering from loneliness which is as damaging to their health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and obesity. The Government has been called upon to take steps to lessen the burden of the problem. Betty Edwards plucked up the courage to attend a social club for the over 50s, a move she describes as the ‘best thing she’s ever done’ and is encouraging others like her to do the same.The great grandmother was married to husband Ken for 46 years. The 71-year-old’s sudden death in 2010 came as a huge shock to his family.
The report found that most GPs see as many as five patients a day who have difficulty with loneliness, and estimated the cost to employers of loneliness among staff at £2.5 billion a year. People who are lonely face a risk of premature death a third higher than others, it found. Just six weeks ago Betty took steps to turn her life around and began attending the Springhill Library Over 50s Club, which meets weekly on a Wednesday between 2:30pm and 4:30pm.
She added: “I took the plunge and attended the club after a neighbour brought the leaflet round to me asking for help to understand it. Since then I haven’t looked back, we play games, knit, use computers and chat. “Attending the group has made such a difference to me. Before, I was just sitting in the house doing nothing. I feel more confident and not so withdrawn. My world is much happier and I get to meet other people and chat about things. It is the best thing I’ve done.”
Springhill Library Over 50s Club is currently attended by 15 men and women aged between 50 and 80 years-old. It is one of many clubs running across the allocated some funding by Ageing Better in Birmingham, a National Lottery funded programme which aims to drive down loneliness and isolation in older age – steps the Government is now being called upon to take. So far 2,723 people have benefited from a scheme which was launched in April 2015 and delivered by an Ageing Better Partnership, led by BVSC. It is funded by a £6million, six-year grant of National Lottery funding from the Big Lottery Fund and is part of the Ageing Better national strategic programme.

HOSPICE CHRISTMAS APPEAL

John Taylor Hospice’s ‘Gift a Christmas’ appeal is running again this year and over on the JTH website you can read what this means to one grateful family — the Bloxhams — and why they consider it important to support the hospice in its fundraising efforts.
Stephanie Bloxham, who works at BVSC, was only sixteen when her father died from lung cancer in 2000. She says, ‘We want to make sure other families, just like ours, are able to receive this excellent care and emotional support at a time when they need it most. We really hope that in sharing our story people can see what an incredible difference the hospice makes in our community and choose to get behind the Gift a Christmas appeal.’
Earlier this year, Stephanie and her brothers raised over £2,500 for the hospice by hosting a fundraising party on what would have been their father’s 60th birthday.
JTH is a community interest company and a social enterprise which operates on a not-for-profit basis. All of its services are free for the people it supports and their families and all of its income is invested in providing services for local families. The ‘Gift a Christmas’ campaign aims to raise £15,000 — enough to fund all of John Taylor Hospice’s services on Christmas Day.
→ You can donate to JTH’s ‘Gift a Christmas’ appeal HERE: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/john-taylor-hospice/christmas

CYBER CRIMINALS OUT TO GET US

Fake Government Grants Fraud Alert
Individuals and businesses are being warned to watch out for cold calls and online contact from fraudsters who are offering victims the opportunity to apply for Government grants for an advance fee.
To make the grants look legitimate fraudsters have set up bogus companies and convincing looking websites that claim to be operating on behalf of the UK Government.
Fraudsters cold call businesses and individuals offering the grant and if they’re interested direct them to fill out an online application form with their personal information.
Once the fraudsters have that information they’ll contact back victims and congratulate them on being accepted onto the grant programme.
Pre-paid credit cards
Applicants are then asked to provide identification and are instructed to get a pre-paid credit card to deposit their own contribution to the fake Government grant scheme. Fraudsters will then contact victims on the phone or are emailed and asked for the details of their pre-paid credit card and copies of statements to in order for them to add the grant funds.
Of course the grant funds are never given by the fraudsters and the money that’s been loaded by the victim onto the card is stolen.
If you receive one of these calls, hang up immediately and report it to us. We’ve already taken down one website fraudsters have been using to commit this fraud and are working with Companies House to combat this issue.
How to protect yourself:
Be wary of unsolicited callers implying that you can apply for grants. You should never have to pay to receive a government grant, and they definitely won’t instruct you to obtain a pre-paid credit card. The government should have all the information they need if a genuine grant application was submitted, therefore any requests for personal or banking information either over the phone or online should be refused.
What to do if you’re a victim:
If you think your bank or personal details have been compromised or if you believe you have been defrauded contact your bank immediately.Stop all communication with the ‘agency’ but make a note of their details and report it to Action Fraud.

If you have been affected by this, or any other type of fraud, report it to Action Fraud by visiting www.actionfraud.police.ukor by calling 0300 123 2040.
The information contained within this alert is based on information from gathered by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB). The purpose of this alert is to increase awareness of this type of fraud. The alert is aimed at members of the public, local police forces, businesses and governmental agencies.

EDITORIAL

Thank you to everyone who has sent news, pics, event information to us in 2017. Please keep it coming, and even more so in 2018. Thank you to all those who have arranged great events, provided great services, and volunteered to help with all sorts of things that can’t happen without extra pairs of hands. Thank you especially to the Forum for being an ever-present reminder and cause of what a fantastic community this is.
There will be lots to look forward to in the coming and very New Year. Moseley Road’s fine buildings may at last get some of the attention they deserve. Various organisations may get contracts renewed and refreshed – and may even win new ones. Children and young people will begin to practise for their role in the Commonwealth Games. We will keep you updated
Meanwhile, NNO is taking a week off to eat turkey and read lots of daft books. Back in the New Year, and if you are feeling deprived – now’s the time to catch up on all the archive material you have missed in the past year! Have a lovely holiday – let it NOT snow!

OUR SUPERSTARS OF THE FUTURE

The Balsall Heath Forum held its 7th Dynamic Youth Awards on Wednesday 13th December at Balsall Heath Church Centre, with hundreds of guests attending. This year the awards went to 7-25 year olds who had made a contribution to sports, health or wellbeing and celebrated the bid Birmingham has put in for the Commonwealth Games.
The Dynamic Youth Awards is something the Balsall Heath Community looks forward to each year, as it acknowledges and celebrates the achievements of our young people in the presence of honourable guests. This year the guest of honour was Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Anne Underwood (below). She paid tribute to the remarkable nature and achievements of the Balsall Heath community, and praised its young people for following so ably in the footsteps of their elders.

Other distinguished guests helped to give the young people their awards, and read the citations which each received. The Forum’s Chief Executive (Abdullah Rehman) and Chair (Subah Rasab) acted as hosts throughout, and steered the way through a programme which included musical entertainment from a number of youthful violinists, the many and varied awards, and finally a splendid celebratory meal for everyone, presented by Hamid and the Forum’s sterling volunteers.
(Left to right above : Abdullah, Subah, youngest violinist, quartet of violinists. Thanks to Jake Stewart for the photos, and Ian Edwards for editing them.)
And now for the winners…..
(Left to right above:Aleeza Rehman; Aleysha Ali; Anae Roberts)
Their citations:
This amazing 12-year-old is very quiet, and it takes her a little while to make friends. When she was 7 years old she started swimming lessons and hated every second of it, she even refused to put her face in the water. 5 years on after staying persistent and determined she has now found her confidence in the swimming pool. She has almost completed her swimming classes and is now looking into joining a swimming club, she is a real example that shows ‘hard work truly pays off’. Congratulations to Aleeza Rehman.
This incredible young person was the inspiration and encouragement behind JABS B8 Football Club, her persistence and determination created a girl’s football team. She went the step further and encouraged friends and neighbours to get involved in the sport and thanks to all the efforts of this 7-year- old, there are now a regular 18 players. Congratulations to Aleysha Ali.
This 14-year-old has been described by her teachers as an influential player whose ability can change any game. She is a superb footballer and is a key part of her school football team. She loves the sport so much and is so dedicated that is she also currently playing for Birmingham City Ladies Under 16 football team. Congratulations to Anae Roberts.
(Left to right above: Ellie Pierce; Deago Nelson; Nisha Kurd.)
This 15-year-old trains through boxing outside of school, she also does kickboxing and has done this competitively too. She is a great footballer and usually plays as a goalkeeper and is also a fantastic dancer! In the words of her P.E. teacher she is ‘a brilliant all-rounder’ and a real inspiration. Congratulations to Ellie Pierce.
This brilliant young person has been playing the great sport of football since he was 5 years old, every game he plays oozes with the passion and love he has for the sport. Now aged 12 years old he is taking part in trials for Aston Villa youth squad, we can already see he is going to be part of some big things. Congratulations to Deago Nelson. Remember that name.
This 13-year-old is a committed and highly dedicated student. Not only does she attend many sport clubs after school, but she is also highly talented in many sports and has an incredible work ethic and passion for sport. Even though she is only in year 8 she is a role model to many students in the school and is an inspiration to others in what they can achieve. She also won the schools ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ for 2016/2017 which tells you how much this young person is dedicated to sport. Huge congratulations to Nisha Kurd.
(Above left to right: Emma Zindani; Hamza Nazar; Tye Nelson)
This final award is an exceptional achievement award, now she may not be a young person anymore but thanks to her many young people have not been ‘written off’ by society and are being supported towards taking a more positive path in life. She is a 32-year- old mother of three. At 17/18 she left home and found herself living in hostels. Life wasn’t ideal, but she found help in many organisations such as St Basils who helped her get a house. From this she continued to rebuild herself because she did not want to just make do, so she worked herself through her NVQs in care, but found this wasn’t what she wanted to do in life. She then decided to set up her own organisation called Miracle Housing which helps and supports 18-25- year olds. She wanted to support young people who found themselves in the situation she was in as a teenager and wanted to do whatever she could to not let society ‘write off’ these young people. She strongly believes if the organisations who supported her and had faith in her weren’t there when she needed them she could’ve taken a very different path. This inspiring young woman knows how important it is to have faith in young people, how important it is to believe in them and how important it is to support them especially when they are in difficult situations. Thanks to all her work she has supported many young people change their path and has supported them with making more positive choices for their futures. A huge thank you and congratulations to Emma Zindani.
Now this award is a bit of a story and shows incredible bravery and courage of a young man who considered the wellbeing of others and acted when he saw injustice. Whilst out for the day with his family this 17-year- old was made aware of 2 males breaking into a car that was parked near a local park. At the time he was in car driven by his sister, however he took it upon himself to investigate and went into the park to see if he could find out what was going on. He observed the 2 men who were acting suspiciously and were putting electrical items into their pockets. He then returned to the car and told his sister to driver after the men, whilst he made a 999 call to the police. He saw the suspects going into a shop, he followed and made enquires and found out the suspects were trying to sell items including a mobile phone. He alerted the shop keeper that the phone had been stolen and then left the shop continuing to follow the suspects whilst providing the police with a running commentary via his 999 call which included full descriptions and their precise location. He continued to do this for several minutes but was sensible to keep distance away from himself and the suspects to ensure he was not in danger. As a result of his bravery and all the information he provided the officers from the Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Team, they located one of the suspects and were able to make an arrest and recover the stolen mobile phone. This young man is an excellent example of a young person showing civic responsibility, and bravery. Very well done, and thank you to Hamza Nazar.
This incredible 9-year-old is a very keen sportsman, he is an amazing gymnast and we would not be surprised if he went on to be a future Olympian. Young people like him are an inspiration to others around him, he has chosen to follow a positive path despite being surrounded by the volatile society many of our youngsters are faced with today. He is doing what he loves and is inspiring others through the process. Congratulations to an incredible young lad Tye Nelson.
And not to leave out the highly achieving:
Runners Up who also received awards from the Lord Mayor.
AYAAN ZAMAN RUBY PAUL ARRON GILL and ELLA MARSHALL DEEN MANZOOR AHLAAM MOLEDINA MOHAMMED TARIQ
A great night for the community with brilliant organisation by the Forum to whom everyone’s thanks.

COUNCILLOR KENNEDY LOSES NOMINATION

Next May, in a departure from previous practice, all 101 Council seats will be up for election. (This is down from 120, after recent boundary revisions.) Not surprisingly, the selection of party candidates has been the subject of keen interest, vigorous competition and some manouvreing.
In what are now the neighbourhood’s two Wards (West Balsall Heath, and Sparkbrook and East Balsall Heath) there has been no reduction in the number of Councillors – there were three when it was all one Ward, and there still will be. One Councillor for West Balsall Heath, two for East Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook. However, in a surprise decision by the local Labour Party members, Tony Kennedy, who has been a Councillor for six years and by general consent a hard-working man who has done many good things for the neighbourhood and its residents, has lost out in the selection process. Instead, the seat will be contested for Labour by Zhor Malik, known to many residents as a former Local Leagues development officer, and more recently, a leisure centre manager. (Currently suspended from his post Zhor is taking the Council to an employment tribunal to fight what he sees as injustice.)
Commiserations to Tony Kennedy – nothing if not a persistent character, he expects to be back before too long – as he has been before, having originally been a Councillor for Sparkbrook in 1993. This time he has been in office for only six years but has been a very busy and successful representative and lately, an Assistant Leader.

BATHS FUNDING APPEAL SURPASSES TARGETS

Celebrations as Moseley Road Baths exceeds Fundraising Target
Moseley Road Baths celebrated its 110th birthday this year and received £36,495 in gifts to keep the swimming pool open!
£26,495 of this amount was via the Crowdfunder campaign which finished on Wednesday 6th December, and £10,000 was from Awards for All to train members of the local community as lifeguards.
Moseley Road Baths had been identified for closure by Birmingham City Council, but a loud and vocal community campaign – with the support of national and international heritage organisations – led to a reprieve in the summer of 2017. Since this decision, the Moseley Road Baths Community Interest Company (MRB CIC) has been developing a workable model for swimming and hopes to be about to take over operational responsibility for water activity from April 2018. The money from Awards for All and the amazing support from the Crowdfunder will play a large part in this.
There has been celebrity as well as community support throughout this campaign, which was launched by comedy character Barbara Nice. Joe Lycett, Adil Ray (Citizen Khan) and Annette Badland all contributed to and publicly supported the crowdfunder. Annette even appeared at the Baths for photographs and an appearance on Midlands Today! Benjamin Zephaniah tweeted his memories of the building and his support for our campaign.
One of the MRB CIC Directors, Kat Pearson, led the crowdfunding and said;
“We are overwhelmed by the final Crowdfunder total and at the level of support we’ve had throughout 2017. This isn’t just about the money we’ve raised, it is a demonstration of the strength of feeling throughout Birmingham and further afield that this pool is an asset which needs to be kept open. We are also incredibly fortunate to have received the Awards for All grant which will enable us to start training lifeguards and other volunteers as soon as possible.”
Details of the Crowdfunder:
345 people donated a total of £26,495- including £8,750 from Birmingham City Council’s Community Innovation Fund.Not including this match funding this is an average pledge of approximately £51.The most popular donation amount was £20 (this wasn’t a pledge amount with a reward attached so is an excellent testament to the support for keeping the baths open!)39 people claimed a print as a reward and will receive either a photograph or watercolour of the Baths donated by local photographer Viv Harrison, and artist Jane Tavener (see attached).65 people will receive our specially commissioned pin badge designed by local designer Kerry Leslie.
Birmingham City Council continues to work with the group to support their plans to operate the baths as a community run pool, and also with other heritage partners such as Historic England, National Trust and World Monuments Fund to plan for the longer term renovation of this Grade II* listed building.

WAS IT AN OLYMPIC TRAINING POOL?

Another of those historical mystery stories has come to our attention this week. Evidently there is a rumour that the British Olympic team trained at Moseley Rd. Baths for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (Those Olympics are mainly remembered for the amazing feats of Jesse Owens, the American athlete who broke five world records and equalled a sixth.) Our swimming team did not distinguish itself by winning any medals, so maybe they didn’t get enough training in at Moseley Rd. or elsewhere. Anyway, our correspondents wonder if there could be any truth in the rumour, so we have set the Balsall Heath Local History Society the challenge of looking into this. So far no joy on swimming BUT they did find this in the newspaper archives of the Birmingham Post:
‘The Friends Institute, Moseley Rd., which opened in 1897, was also the home of the Dolobran Athletic Club and was the venue for the first international athletics match between England, Ireland and Scotland in 1900. The Dolobran Athletic club started in Sparkhill in 1884, but by the end of the century it had grown to have almost 700 members. Its president was Barrow Cadbury, Richard Cadbury’s son, and he moved the club to the Friends’ Institute.
It is also thought that the gymnasium was used as a training venue by the British Olympic Teams in 1936.’ We have asked the researchers to stay with this and report again when they have tracked more down.

CITY BACKS EXCLUSION ZONE NEAR CLINIC

Anti-abortion campaigners could be banned from gathering outside a Birmingham clinic.
City councillors have backed a motion which could lead to a ‘buffer zone’ being introduced outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Edgbaston.
The motion, which was put forward by Councillors Paulette Hamilton (LEFT) and Jayne Francis at the authority’s latest full council meeting, follows in the footsteps of similar proposals by councils in Ealing, Portsmouth and Southwark.
The motion called it "street harassment" and a "form of sexism against women." Also said: " The council acknowledges those with deeply held beliefs will continue to campaign against abortion. However, it is inappropriate to further this debate by targeting women outside healthcare providers. The right to protest must be balanced with the right of pregnant women to choose and to obtain advice and treatment in confidence and free from intimidation."
40 Days for Life is a Christian-based campaign body which was founded in Texas but now has groups across the world and its mission is to "show local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighbourhoods, for their own friends and families". Its Birmingham branch has held vigils in the city for seven years and last month it finished its second of 2017 outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Edgbaston. Its next 40-day vigil will start on Valentine’s Day. In response to the city council’s motion, campaign director for Birmingham Isabel Vaughan-Spruce said: "I was saddened but not surprised those pushing this motion in the council didn’t bother to contact a single member of the 40 Days for Life team or witness a vigil before making their uninformed decision."
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services, said in a statement: "We are very pleased Birmingham City Council has taken this important decision to protect women as they exercise their legal right to healthcare.
"This is not about shutting down the debate on abortion but about ensuring the women who use these services are able to receive advice and treatment without interference and in confidence."

PUTTING THE ARK INTO MARKS & SPENCER

It could be thought of as rotten luck – or maybe, rotten ‘snagging’* as they call it in the building trade. Either way, the new Marks and Spencer Food Hall had to close on Tuesday all day because water had inundated the whole ground floor. This was the result of a burst pipe which produced a massive flood of water. (Let there be no jokes about lagging behind the rest…..) Visitors this end of the week will have been walking on exceptionally clean floors, after the store re-opened on Wednesday, following heroic mopping up operations. Fortunately, most of us were trying very hard not to go out shopping anyway.
*’Snagging’ is the procedure which follows building works – when they are said to be finished, experts go allover them checking which bits are not quite as finished as they should be.

CITY BUDGET 2018-

The Council has set out its budget consultation and calls for comments by January 15th. The plans for future savings entail cuts to expenditure which will rise to £111m in the year 2021. In making cuts, the aim has been to retain the ability to deal with major problems the City faces. Among these: 1 in 3 children is living in poverty; 25% of children are obese; infant mortality is over twice the national average; life expectancy in deprived area is up to 10 years less than elsewhere on average.
Among plans for reducing expenditure are moving away from residential care for adults and young people, and instead concentrating resources on supporting people to live in their homes. The City plans to close its caretaking and cleaning business; reduce the cost of Education Psychology and school support services such as IT, HR and Finance.
Included in proposals to raise money are: commercialisation of the parks (visitor attractions, and charging for car parking); rearranged waste services and improved income from recycling.
There’s quite a lot more, so do look and maybe then comment.
HOW TO HAVE YOUR SAY The formal budget consultation for 2018+ closes on 15 January 2018: To let us know what you think fill in our online survey at www.birminghambeheard.org.uk If you would like to request a paper copy of the survey please email:budget.views@birmingham.gov.uk Or write to: Budget Views, Room M49, the Council House, Victoria Square, Birmingham B1 1BB. You can also attend the public meeting on:  Wednesday, 10 January 2018 6.00pm to 8.00pm in the Council House Victoria Square Birmingham B1 1BB.
To book your place, visit: birmingham.gov.uk/brumbudget18

RIVER COLE SURVEY

We at BOSF are working in partnership with the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust and others to look at putting in a bid to the Heritage Lottery Trust for work along the River Cole. To do this, we need your help! If you have ever visited the River Cole in Birmingham or have an interest in that area, can you please give a bit of time to fill out the questionnaire by 22nd December. Click here for the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/MZDN6ZS Please pass this link around to others for their thoughts and feedback as well. Thank you very much!