Lisa Trickett

50 Night Bus Service Launched

Moseley and Kings Heath Councillors at Bus StopNational Express West Midlands has announced that from the 20 July they will be running an ‘extended service’ which will mean buses running through the night.

The last normal 50 service will be run from Druids Heath at 11.33pm and the City Centre at 12.08am. The first night service will leave Moor Street by Selfridges at 1.03am and will run at three minutes past the hour until 4.03am. There will then be buses at 4.35, 5.05, 5.35, 5.50, 6.00, 6.10 and 6.20 when a normal daytime service will resume.

Buses will be run to Maypole rather than Druids Heath and the journeys into the City Centre will be at 29 minutes past the hour. The fares will be the same as during the daytime and bus passes will be valid. The timetables should be published soon.

This is very good news both in terms of an additional service but also in providing an inexpensive means for people to get home. The Council has regularly run campaigns warning people of the dangers of using unlicensed mini cabs. If people are struggling to find a way home they will know that there are regular night buses with the normal safety features.

In other good news there are to be improvements to the 50 Service bus stop outside Selfridges. The canopy is to be extended and the seating will be improved. Selfridges have not been keen on having shelters outside the store but Labour Councillor Kath Hartley has been pressing on the Passanger Transport Authority for provision to be made and the additional provision for the 50 service is very welcome.

Claire Spencer’s Acceptance Speech from Polling Day

Following on from Claire’s post yesterday, we have added a clip of her acceptance speech to YouTube.

 

 

Celebrating Our Roots for May Day

Labour Candidate Claire Spencer

Labour Council Candidate, Claire Spencer

Moseley and Kings Heath Labour Party held what is becoming its annual May Day Party on Friday. May Day is technically 1st May although thanks to Michael Foot, UK workers (mostly) get to put their feet up on the first Monday in May. It is used to celebrate the achievements of working people around the world, a day of solidarity and so it is right and proper that we get together then. 200 years ago working people had very few rights and most of the rights secured have been hard won. Many need defending now more than ever.

The evening started off with Band for Glory, a local skiffle band, a music that has honourably radical roots. Jack Dromey MP, straight from the Birmingham Labour Group manifesto launch, spoke about the importance of the link between the Labour Party and trade unions. He said that working people had two routes to securing power, through the ballot box and by joining a trade union. Jack, when he was a trade union leader, had been involved in the campaign for a living wage in London. He pointed out that trade unions had been central to that campaign but then it was Labour councils like Birmingham that were crucial to making it a reality for thousands of people.

At the national launch of the Labour campaign for the May 22nd elections Ed Miliband announced a commitment to delivering a new framework for private rented tenants. Jack said that it was only a Labour Government in partnership with Labour Councils that will solve the housing crisis. Making private renting more secure and fair will be coupled with a new programme of building thousands of

Jack Dromey MP

Jack Dromey MP

new homes. Jack said that it was only Labour who were standing up for the people of Birmingham in tough times imposed by the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition and it is only Labour who would tackle the cost of living crisis.

The elections this month see both local and European elections. We were joined by Neena Gill, Sion Simon and Lynda Waltho who are all candidates on the 22nd. Neena said that May Day was all about solidarity. In the European elections we are faced with a range of parties who would throw away the peace and prosperity that European unity has brought us since the Second World War. Parties like UKIP want to create division and the Tories are pandering to UKIP’s agenda instead of confronting it.

Sion Simon said that what motivated him in politics was the drive to eliminate inequality. On doorsteps across the West Midlands what he was hearing was that inequality was growing due to the policies of the Coalition Government. The Labour Party’s mission to end inequality was a battle that would never end. If we let up on our efforts then the Tories and their allies dismantle what we have achieved.

We finally heard from Claire Spencer, our candidate for the Moseley and Kings Heath Council seat this month. Claire talked about the importance of forming a partnership with local communities, listening to people and respecting their place in the political process. She said that she never thought that she would be living in a society where food banks are such a feature. It was vital that we win on 22nd May and build a momentum to ensure a Labour Government in a year’s time. If the Tories win communities in Moseley and across Birmingham and beyond will face a bleak future.

At the end of the evening an auction raised £70 for Sparkhill Foodbank. If you are interested in joining the Labour Party there is more information here. If you have any questions about the local or European elections please get in touch.

DIY Streets in Kings Heath

Lisa and Claire looking at plansKings Heath High Street is said to host the busiest bus route in Europe. In addition it sees some 10,000 pedestrians – many of whom are of school age at peak times – plus 1,500 cyclists every week. All of these share a road space which was built and designed when the favoured mode of transport was a horse and cart. They share it with a large amount of vehicle traffic including HGVs (as we appear to be their favoured route). It is no surprise that road safety is a key concern in the area. We have therefore worked with residents, the Neighbourhood Forum and businesses to produce a road safety plan for that area that addresses its complexity as well as its heavy use.

The reality is that we cannot do away with traffic in Kings Heath. Having said that, road safety is a big issue on the A435 and that must be addressed. In addition to tackling road safety we should make sure there is a community feel to the centre. I believe that there is a vibrancy to many parts of Kings Heath which have seen different businesses nestling amongst more traditional shops.

Unlike some places people go to shop we do not have a ‘shopping centre’ (a ‘mall’ to borrow an American term). Therefore the streets are important and we need to make those feel safe and welcoming for everyone and try to limit the impact that the traffic has.

Over the past few months Sustrans have been working with the Council, local schools and businesses on a project looking at how we could redesign Kings Heath High Street. Sustrans are a national charity that works to improve transport particularly by promoting less car use and more healthy, clean and cheap journeys. Sustrans have approached this by using a DIY Streets concept. This encourages communities to come up with the ideas and make them feel more in control of their area. Every project will be different and shaped by the particular features and factors that exist. Having said that some of the ideas that have been introduced to shift the balance have been quite radical road markings that might be patterned and coloured, the use of plants and trees or reclaiming part of the road space from traffic.

On Saturday, the Sustrans team set up a ‘parklet’ in a parking bay on the High Street and engaged people in discussion around some of the ideas so far. It was a great event and a novel way of consulting the public that hopefully drew more people into having their say.

There is more work to do. At the time of writing you can still complete a survey to feed into the work that is being done here. You can also stay in touch with what is happening on a dedicated Facebook page or by following a dedicated twitter feed.

The project is a partnership between Sustrans and Birmingham City Council partly funded by the Big Lottery. It would be great to get as many people involved as possible.

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Claire Spencer and Cllrs Lisa Trickett and Martin Straker-Welds at the Sustrans Consultation

If We Are Going to Get Engaged, It Should Mean Something…

Have your say”…”public consultation”…”the big conversation”…”engagement”…”the listening council”… There is no end of ways in which we have talked about how local councils ‘engage’ with the citizens they serve. The vocabulary of ‘engagement’ can at times seem like a code that is shared by those who have been admitted to the public consultation and governance society – Council officers, other professionals and interested amateurs.

It is a fact that those who have worked out how public sector consultation and engagement ‘works’ get better results. If you have the time to attend every meeting, read every report and get to know the ‘system’ then you have a massive advantage over those who do not have the time or inclination to immerse themselves in the public engagement machine.

Councillor Lisa Trickett discussing council proposals with a member of the public

Challenging Our Public Engagement

Over the past few months I have been chairing a scrutiny committee that has been looking at public engagement as part of an on-going process of devolving decision making to be more local and to give residents more influence. The committee asked three key questions:

  • What is the purpose of engagement –is it consultation for consultation sake or is there a point to what we do?
  • How could we do it better – it was universally accepted by the committee and those who gave evidence that there is room for improvement?
  • How do we get results – does public involvement change anything for the better and if not how can we make that happen?

The Council like other public bodies has a lot of knowledge and knowhow. Experience is gained over many years and within the Council there are people who can be considered experts in their field. However, all the experience and knowledge does not on its own give any insight on how it feels to live in an area, to rely on a particular service or have a given set of needs. But the Mum in the playground can tell you about struggling to make ends meet, the pensioner on the bus their fears for the NHS – critically we need to have an on-going conversation. We need processes that enable us to share knowledge and develop an understanding that is respectful of people’s own experience as well as the realities of the wider evidence we may draw upon.

Councillor Lisa Trickett speaking at a meeting

The Outcome is More Important than the Process

Organising a complex organisation like the Council also creates structures and governance which the specialists – the members of the ‘public consultation and governance society’ – know and have built up over many years. Too often those structures are simply impenetrable to the vast majority of the public – the seldom heard. Bureaucracy and good governance have a role but should carry no greater weight than say the importance of building good relationships with the public or resolving differences within communities and between communities.

Our diversity is our strength and our citizens our greatest asset – it is not just a slogan – unlocking this potential is key to our future success. Public engagement should be able to adapt to an increasingly complex society. It should also ensure that the pattern of engagement, who is ‘engaged’ and who responds reflects the city’s diverse communities.

Far too often it feels like consultation is something that is ‘done to’ a local community rather than something that empowers it. How many times have we as a council undertaken a consultation where it might be said that we have ‘got out of our comfort zone’? When members of the public are interested in an issue but are not used to the way the Council works it usually means they have to get out of their comfort zone, deal with unfamiliar structures, do unfamiliar things like speak in public. That seems to me to be the wrong way round when we serve the public not the public serve us.

What Should We Do?

So what does the report suggest? Using a bit of corporate speak to begin with it talks about the Council collaborating with citizens and building relationships – the need for collective purpose and a shared understanding. What that means in practice covers different areas:

  • There should be a clear statement issued to Council departments about what a meaningful process of engagement looks like. This should reflect what a broad range of the public and communities would want to see happen and should be focused on ensuring the process of engagement makes a difference to what happens. This will mean cultural change and behaving differently in the future, not just issuing guidance but making this ‘the way things are done around here”, for politicians and council staff!
  • We have to demonstrate our commitment to engagement not just though specific initiatives or individual consultations but also through how we interact with the public when we provide basic services and we supply information:
    • The Council’s website should not just be a distributor of information but allow people to influence policy and practice. Other channels such as social media should be employed to increase public involvement.
    • Wherever we engage with the public there should be a fundamental service standard that encourages confidence in the Council as an organisation. The information that we give should be accurate and up to date, whether during a one to one conversation on the telephone or in publications to the whole City.
    • Locally experimentation of different ways of involving the public should be supported and encouraged. If old style public meetings are not working we should try out different ways of doing things. The important tests will be that new ways of working are seen as having legitimacy and validity by the public and that what we do has an impact and changes what happens.

For anyone who is interested the full report can be downloaded here. If you have any ideas or questions I am happy to hear from you.

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