On Friday, Labour party members met for one of our regular discussions – and this month we focused on the constituency priorities for the years ahead. Soon, the Labour council will be devolving new powers to the district, and we will have a district convention in December to hear local residents’ priorities. So Labour party members met to have a think about how we see the future.
Here’s what members had to say.
In Hodge Hill ward, we felt the priority had to be jobs and employment. We felt there was a big opportunity to bring thousands of local jobs by having the old LDV-Alstom site developed for jobs, and not as a marshalling yard of High Speed 2. If we are successful in this campaign, then the priority will become ensuring that local people have the skills to do the jobs. That means making sure that there are local employment agreements in place with new employers, and it means making sure that schools and colleges are working together to help train local people for local opportunities.
Second, we felt that security, crime and anti-social behaviour was a priority. We were deeply worried about the impact of cuts on local police numbers and we felt that cuts would make the crime situation worse. Equally, we felt that good facilities were needed for local young people to make sure that they had something to do, other than hang around on the streets.
Third, local play areas for local residents and their children is a big priority, especially on green spaces on the Brockhurst, Firs and in Ward End.
Fourth, we have a serious problem with parking and speeding on a number of roads. Road safety measures which have been installed aren’t really doing the job and we need to look to new solutions. There is a particularly acute problem around a number of local schools.
In Shard End ward, members felt that housing inequalities were a major concern, as were health inequalities. On housing, we noted that lots of residents live in blocks and lack appropriate accommodation. Many will be hit by the government’s change to housing benefit which will cut into residents’ income. Average life expectancy for both men and women was lower than the national average. That demands investment in health services for the area. Jobs, were a priority too, in particular making sure that training was available for new jobs that might be created around the airport, especially for those not in education, employment and training. We need to make sure that GCSE results continue to improve for local youngsters. New facilities were needed at Hallmoor School.
It was felt that more street wardens were important, not least to help promote better exploitation of the Cole Valley. A campaign was needed to drive up unclaimed benefits, which are available.
In Washwood Heath, education and employment were seen as the major issues. In particular, primary school were oversubscribed, and class sizes were expanding above the level of 30 students to a class. Space outside for play was limited. Teaching assistants were being taken out of schools, and this was stopping teachers providing extra help for children; together these problems were stopping the ward’s children from reaching their potential.
This challenge is precluding local young people from securing good quality jobs. The lack of local jobs accentuated the problem. We need local jobs and we need training to make sure that young people secured these jobs. But raising education standards from primary school onwards is the key to long term change.
Third, housing and parking are both issues and are linked. They’re simply aren’t enough bedrooms for local families and because families cannot afford to move house, several generations are forced to live under the same roof. This creates over-crowding and this in turn contributes to challenges keeping the local environment clean. It also makes parking and traffic difficult as families and children will often have a car of their own.
Fourth, health services are generally weak; there is a whole host of chronic disease problems in the area which are well known (such as type 2 diabetes) but there are few proactive, actively managed public health interventions to tackle them. The lack of strategic intervention is also a challenge for schools where good school nutrition and exercise are essential requirements.
In Bordesley Green, there are many of the challenges identified in Washwood Heath; there is a lack of employment and therefore a need to create local jobs for local people. There is a need to upskill local residents so that they are able to take the jobs which do exist.
School standards too remain an acute concern. Many are judged outstanding, but overall, exam results need to be better.
Third, there is big appetite to create a safe, secure and drug-free environment.
Poor housing and health are priorities that the ward shares with others; again, the poor economic status of local residents is a big contributor to this problem. Chronic diseases are widespread. And like other wards, there is a lack of well-organised strategic intervention to tackle this.