Monthly Archives: August 2013

Defeat the bedroom tax!

The Bedroom Tax is one of the worst policies ever – failing at a technical level as the housing benefit bill rises and doing so badly that even Conservative Party Councillors have voted to support a motion that the charge should be scrapped.

This story is about the failure at the human level of the charge – Veronica Kenning, resident of Shard End, unable to pay the tax, suffering from terminal cancer and not willing to move as she faces the final few months of her life. This is the unfair, unjust side of the bedroom tax – it is a failure of a policy at a financial, technical, human and moral level and needs to be scrapped now.
Join with us, the Birmingham Benefit Justice Campaign and Communities Against The Cuts, Birmingham Claimants Union and other groups fighting to get the charge scrapped.

communitiesagainstthecuts

Our post of 12th August reported that a Council official was coming to visit Veronica Kenning of Shard End on the 22nd August, regarding her non-payment of the Bedroom tax. Well, the visit has come and gone but nothing has changed, except she faces court action in 5 -7 weeks’ time.
 Veronica, 57, was adamant that she would not pay, and she still is. This is a moral stance for her, on behalf of the many others who find themselves in a terrible situation because of this unjust tax.
Since she was sent a letter on the 27th February 2013 telling her to pay £23.57 extra a week bedroom tax, she has found her situation severely traumatic. Not only is she disabled, but is dying of cancer. And now she has all this to worry about on top.
The statement she gave to the Council visitor made…

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Birmingham Benefit Justice Campaign Meeting – 5th September

bbj bedroom tax logoThere will be an open planning meeting on Thursday 5th Sept at 6pm in the cafe at the ICC to plan the next few months activity around the bedroom tax and benefit changes. Please come along if you can.

Suggested agenda:
Building for Sept 29th
Lobby of the council on Oct 8th
Local groups and meetings
AOB

Bridget Parsons
Birmingham Benefit Justice Campaign

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Library users will sit on new Strategic Library Board

library privatisation godzillaThe Cabinet member responsible for the new Library of Birmingham has conceded that the new Strategic Management Board is unrepresentative of the people of Birmingham and needs to be more inclusive. The Board has recently been set up by the Council to lead the development of the new Library into the future.

Cllr Ian Ward conceded that it should include seats for library users and will urgently consider ways to appoint them to the Board. This concession was an apparent victory for the Friends of the Library of Birmingham who had been challenging the composition of the Board.

The idea of user representation was originally dismissed by Sir Albert Bore at July’s cabinet meeting, claiming that it was unnecessary as one of the Councillors sitting on the Board of eleven had a library ticket!

The move came at a meeting held last week between Cllr Ian Ward and campaigners from the Friends of the Library of Birmingham. The meeting with Cllr Ward took place in response to a request from the Library campaign to ‘call in’ the Cabinet decision to set up the strategic management board.

The Library Campaign has sought to challenge the composition of the new Management Board due to the presence and weight of business representation upon it. Five of eleven seats are reserved to ‘five Library of Birmingham Development Trustees with connections to Birmingham businesses’.

The Development Trust was set up as a charitable body to draw in funding for the Library which would not be directly available to the Council. Trustees have been appointed to the Development Trust with a businsess background and include a member of the Birmingham Post ‘Rich list’ and the CEO of Aston Villa.

The Friends group wrote to Sir Albert Bore before the Cabinet decision objecting that ‘the selection of trustees with such a narrow range of business interests and ethnic backgrounds cannot take forward an inclusive vision of the Library of Birmingham as a cultural resource for all of the citizens of Birmingham.”

The Library campaign requested a scrutiny call-in to investigate the recruitment of the ‘Great and the Good’ to the Development Board to consider possible discriminatory bias. The call-in was refused.

During last weeks meeting Cllr Ward claimed that the Trustees sitting on Library of Birmingham Development Trust had been appointed under the previous Council administration and he could not explain how they had been selected.

But that business people had been deliberately appointed to provide ‘traction in drawing in the money for Library’. Cllr Ward conceded that it was open to question as to how successful the ‘great and the good’ had been in attracting new funding.

The campaigners expressed their concern that the Board might in future propose a future procurement to outsource the Library.

Cllr Ward accepted that the Board could recommend a privatisation but that the decision lay with the Council. He advised such a decision would be ‘hugely controversial’ due in part to the possibility that a private contractor could successfully bid for contract through an open procurement process.

The Friends of the LoB concluded by saying they wanted an unequivocal answer from Sir Albert Bore to the question ‘Can you give a commitment that the Library of Birmingham will remain publicly run and publicly owned for the forseeable future?’ The question which was originally asked at the July Council meeting by a member of the public and followed up in writing, has not yet been answered by Sir Albert.

A spokeperson from the campaign commented “The fundamental facts havent changed, the Mangement Board remains packed with private business people. We will continue to campaign for a ‘citizen-led’ Library with professional leadership from qualified librarians.”

Stand up for Public Libraries in Birmingham

As the Library of Birmingham gears up for its ‘Grand opening’ on 3rd September the Library campaign is preparing for an Autumn of activity
Join us for the following activities:

31st August – Street stall from 11am to 1pm outside the ‘old’ Central Library

3rd September – Street stall in Centenary Square during the opening day

Our next meeting will take place on 29th August at 7pm at The ICC cafe area and is open to all who support our campaign aims.

Please contact and get involved with the Friends of the Library of Birmingham:
E-mail @ friendsoflibraryofbirmingham@gmail.com
‘Like’ our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheLoB
And ‘follow’ us on Twitter @FoLoB_

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Adult and Communities service review – Neither a Green Paper nor a Dialogue

dec 5th draft B council house gradientThe problem confronting Sir Albert Bore is how to cut even deeper into social care services where he knows that pound by pound he will hurt the most vulnerable in our city. An existing £46m is being cut annually from the adult social care budget and from 2016-17 Bore wants to increase this total to £75m.

The Labour leadership has embarked on a series of fundamental service reviews across all the services run by the Council and is publishing the results as a series of Green Papers. The Adult and Communities Green Paper has now been published and the Council has embarked on a series of ‘Dialogue’ meetings with service users and carers over the summer to sound out these latest cut proposals.

Anyone who has read a Government Green paper will know it is a substantial document with detailed discussion of policy options. Apparently Sir Albert doesn’t want us to be bogged down in details, the specific proposals involving £29m worth of cuts consist of just half a page of a very short seven page paper.

Members of the pubic attending the dialogue meeting struggle to understand what is being proposed by the council, and most importantly what it means for the services they use and how it might affect their lives. But what Council officers have been told by service users at these meetings is how much the existing cuts are already adversely affecting their lives.

Carers, often elderly, have repeatedly complained about the increasing difficulty of accessing short breaks for the adult children they care for. Contacting social workers and the time involved in waiting for assessments and for care services was again a familiar concern. One carer complained about finding a home carer employed by a private home care company contracted by the Council asleep on his mothers sofa.

The proposals themselves involve yet more privatisation of care services where the Council will no longer directly provide any services and move to that of a commissioning authority only. Birmingham has closed and outsourced all its residential homes for adults in recent years, it is now proposing to ‘externalise’ its remaining specialist care services and to stop providing all respite care.

The Green Paper refers to a ‘demand management’ approach where it identifies the most expensive groups of service users requiring the most expensive care, referred to in the Green Paper as ‘high cost, high end care’, with the objective of reducing the costs of care for that group.

The Green Paper and ‘Dialogue’ meetings are an attempt to prepare the public for ‘bad news’ ahead of setting the Council budget for 2014-15, which will begin in earnest in the Autumn. The Green Papers are to be discussed at Council Ward Committees in August and September and it is important that people attend and raise their concerns.

Sir Albert Bore has told us that his raison d’être is ‘protecting the most vulnerable’, what he needs to told loud and clear and by as many people as possible that the cuts to adult social care are hurting not protecting the most vulnerable in Birmingham!

The Adult and Communities Green Paper can be found here:

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/servicereviews

There is a discussion paper on making an alternative response to the Adult and Communities Green Paper see here:

http://communitiesagainstthecuts.com/2013/08/15/the-future-of-care-services-in-the-city-time-for-a-real-debate/

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Birmingham City Council Neighbourhood Strategy Meetings

dec 5th draft B council house gradientBirmingham City council has launched a consultation on neighbourhood strategy. There are meetings as listed below and it would be good if BATC supporters could attend and give their opinion. The draft document “Transforming place” can be accessed via the link in the text below. You can read our response to the strategy document here.

Neighbourhood Strategy Dialogue Launched!

We have launched a summer of dialogue to help shape a new neighbourhood strategy for Birmingham. We now want to hear off you…

One of the key commitments of Birmingham’s Social Inclusion White Paper was to:
“‘Empower people to shape their neighbourhood… by developing a neighbourhood strategy for the city, encouraging greater participation and strengthening relationships between different areas’.

Work is well on its way to do this. Nearly 100 delegates from community groups and the public sector across Birmingham met at BVSC on 23rd July to launch a summer of dialogue around building a new Neighbourhood Strategy for the city.

A green paper “Transforming Place” – has been drafted and can be downloaded – HERE
Now we want to hear from you.

There are some key questions in the green paper that we want responses on.
And you can do this by a variety of ways:

Here on our blog: http://www.fairbrum.wordpress.com

In writing to:
Jackie Mould/Ifor Jones
Giving Hope Changing Lives
PO Box 16253
B2 2WS
By email:fairbrum@birmingham.gov.uk
Via Facebook http://www.facebook.com/fairbrum
Via Twitter @fairbrum or use #fairbrum
Telephone the Challenge Unit on 0121 675 3499
Or you can attend one of our local dialogue events taking place across the city

Sat 3rd Aug 13 9.30am – 12.30pm Perry Barr Laurel Road Community Sports Centre
Tues 6th Aug 13 4.00pm – 7.30pm Erdington St Barnabas Church Centre
Thurs 8th Aug 13 10.00am – 1.00pm Sutton Mere Green Centre
Mon 12th Aug 13 1.00pm – 4.30 pm Edgbaston Quinborne Community Centre
Tues 13th Aug 13 10.00am -1.00pm Hall Green Sparkbrook Community & Health Centre
Wed 14th Aug 13 9.00am -12.30pm Selly Oak Stirchley Community Centre
Thurs 15th Aug 13 1.30pm – 5.00pm Hodge Hill Ward End Library
Fri 16th Aug 13 1.00pm – 4.30pm Yardley Stechford Cascades
Tues 20th Aug 13 11.00am – 1.00pm Northfield The Factory (Young People’s Event)
Thurs 22nd Aug 13 12.00pm – 3.30pm Ladywood Newtown Community Centre
Thurs 29th Aug 13 10am – 1.00pm Northfield Hawkesley Community Centre

Feedback from the local dialogue events will help shape how we work together to make all our neighbourhoods great places to live and work.

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Birmingham Claimant Union Meeting – 17th August

Birmingham Claiants unionThe 2nd Birmingham Claimants Union public meeting. If you are a claimant please come along. The last meeting was a success so hopefully we can build on that and keep growing.

12 noon
Saturday 17th August

TUC centre for the unemployed. 448 Stratford Rd Birmingham B11 4AE 0121 771 0871
Description

If you have any questions please email us at – brumclaimantsunion@gmail.com

or contact us on facebook. Cheers.

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