Ask Martin:

Martin Straker-Welds is hoping that you will vote for him in the local elections on May 5th – and he has met a lot of residents in his time as a Labour member. But he hasn’t got to everyone, so we on the campaign team have been sourcing questions from Twitter. Martin has answered the first set below – but if you have a question, or want to follow up on one of Martin’s responses below, leave a comment below!

Why Labour?

Labour and its members have always been champions for social justice – and this is particularly true at local level. As a branch, our members work tirelessly for the world around them – that’s something that I wanted to be a part of, and have been for some years now. I have no illusions about how difficult it will be, but I believe Labour is the best mechanism for defending our communities, bringing resilience from uncertainty, and working towards the sort of city we’d love to live in – every hour of every day, regardless of our income. The coalition has reduced the electorate’s choice: locally, nationally, you vote yellow, you get blue. Labour is the only party that seems to care about employment for everyone who wants it, including young people, who are currently up against it!

What will I offer as a councillor?
A fresh vision of Moseley & Kings Heath, and its role in Birmingham – and I want everyone who has ideas and drive to be involved. Indeed, I know there is no other way, this is our home, and we all deserve a chance to shape it. I will also fight tooth and nail to protect our communities from the excesses of the coalition’s cuts. I do not accept the wholesale butchery of jobs and services, it is not the only way to manage the economy responsibly. I am prepared to stand up for Moseley & Kings Heath. If you vote for me – this is what you’ll get. Vote red get red!

What are the good and bad things about Moseley & Kings Heath ward?
Great place to live. A cosmopolitan community. Super spots to eat and drink. But the roads are too narrow for the density of traffic. That is why I was opposed to the Meteor Ford development and I was totally committed to the inspiring ‘Save Moseley Village’ campaign. Also, I would like to see a twenty mph on roads where schools are located.

It’s a safe place to live – but crime and fear of crime are issues for residents, and both of those things are important to me. I have been really impressed with community policing, and I worry that the cuts will undo what the police and community have achieved.

What will I work to improve?
Residents want safe clean street that are serviced according to need. I would keep an eagle eye on the potholes, poor pavements and litter that seem to bedevil the streets (particularly in parts of Kings Heath) – because I want people to take joy in getting out and about. On that note, I would also want to make sure that all  communities have access to better and safer roads.

Long term I would what to campaign for better facilities for youth and adult services – people dear to my heart, as a recovering teacher. They have been under-resourced for too long now, and deserve better.

If you could change one thing overnight, what would it be?
Free public transport for everyone! But if I can’t have a miracle: more consumer representation of the bus company boards, to improve bus service in the city. You know as well as I – if you live in Moseley or Kings Heath, and want to use public transport, you need your 50, 11, 35, 76, 1, 2, 3 (have I missed any?) to be running on time, to have adequate capacity at peak, and to be clean and safe. It’s not much to ask.

What do you think of the BCC Cycling Strategy?
It paints a pleasant picture, but it’s thin on details – where are the dates, the costs? Where are the maps, the phases? We need more than a picture, we need a plan…and I don’t think the strategy is there yet. I would certainly like to be more concrete, more ambitious – and I don’t think local members (many of whom are keen cyclists) will let me be otherwise!

Are there any plans to bring a train service to Moseley/ Kings Heath? I know there’s a line, and I think there’s a station in Kings Heath but no trains! Reopening this line would ease traffic congestion and help protect the environment.
Adding to what Claire said in the comments, I am in complete agreement with the popular demand for the reopening of Moseley and Kings Heath stations. It could make a real difference to traffic and transport for residents and contribute to a more ecologically sustainable future for the community.

However, given the financial constraints and the massive loss of local and national jobs and services, I would caution against raising the hopes of residents that anything can be done in a hurry, given the costs. But I would work closely with the members in Tyburn ward (Castle Vale) to keep the pressure on to get those chords built.

I also want to see improvements in the bus services. If anything can be done to reduce the costs and promote greater use of public transport, I’d be really happy to support it. When I look down the narrow roads of Moseley and Kings Heath I see a stream of cars, sometimes parked down both sides of the road. People value the freedom to use their own vehicles for business and pleasure. But if anything can be done to persuade residents to leave their cars and take to the buses and trains, it should be done. Cost is a major factor. That is why I would support subsidies to make public transport less expensive to potential users.

Finally, I would be interested to know if there is any mileage in piloting school buses, along the lines developed in Manchester. Would that ease the rush hour traffic along roads and outside school gates? I think it’s worth investigating.

Can you go into a little bit more detail regarding your vision for Moseley & Kings Heath?

My vision is of a community that is constantly being regenerated, where all residents are proud to live and work, and where a range of support services are available to all people, regardless of age. In practical terms, if I were elected, I would focus on the most vulnerable in our community in the near term – cuts to social and home care services, as well as Sure Start centres and youth services will quickly be felt, and I’d need to be making the case in Council House for extra funding and support-in-kind, and ensuring that people are aware of the options available to them.

I also want to see a more sustainable future for Moseley & Kings Heath. That means promoting a lifestyle that is energy-conscious and healthy, and focusing on the positives for the individual and the environment. There is a lot of excellent work coming out of community groups in the ward (such as Kings Heath Transition Initiative and SusMo), and I want to make sure that the Council is a willing partner in their endeavours.

I want to see a thriving business and trading community with diverse shops, goods and services. This means being an active supporter of the BID for Moseley, drawing support from the successful BID in Kings Heath – and being a champion for the ward as a place to do business.

This naturally links to employment – both in terms of businesses based in the ward and employing local people, but also, in terms of prospects for local people – in education, training and employment. This doesn’t have one answer or approach, and nor can it be entirely achieved at local level – but there is a lot that can be done. As a former teacher, and as I have said many times, I am particularly concerned about young people.

It is my view that councillors should give the council a clear view of what the community needs to thrive, and ensure that all stakeholders can work in partnership to meet aspirations we all share: health and happiness; lifelong education; community arts; and a vibrant cosmopolitan community.

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