Library cuts conundrum considered by Council

Beechdale Library is one of those facing the axe
Beechdale Library is one of those facing the axe

Public consultation on Walsall Council’s draft budget proposals to close up to 7 libraries across the borough and cease the Mobile Library service was concluded at the beginning of January. Nearly 2,000 questionnaires were returned and 435 face to face interviews have taken place. Since then the feedback from this consultation has been analysed and evaluated.

The Council’s Cabinet are carefully considering the feedback and the impact of the current proposals on the most vulnerable sections of the population.

Councillor Mike Bird, Leader of the Council stated: “We welcome the way people have come forward to tell us their views on our proposals and we are listening to what they are telling us.

“Cabinet are minded to review the current proposals and amend it to retain a mobile library which will continue to offer a library service to those most in need and to consider how the introduction of new technologies might offer a solution in some areas”

Councillor Harris, Portfolio Holder for Community Leisure and Culture said: “There has been a tremendous amount of work done on this issue and we continue to work with the community in those areas where libraries have been proposed for closure and to minimise the impact.

“It’s the policy of this Council to sustain and maintain the library service and to find a local solution.

“We are still in the process of confirming potential partners in all of the areas affected and we are actively pursuing these negotiations so that local people will still have access to books and learning at a local level.”

Blakenall Library is based in the Blakenall Village Centre (pic BVC)
Blakenall Library is based in the Blakenall Village Centre (pic BVC)

Branch libraries at Beechdale, Blakenall Heath, New Invention, Pleck, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood could close under the cost-cutting proposals. The axing of the mobile library service and 13 jobs was proposed as part of a bid to save £328,854 this year and £159,058 next year, forced by national government budget cuts.

New technology including self-service machines and a new smart card entry system is also planned at libraries which remain open. Around £300,000 could be invested in some of the remaining nine libraries to bring in a new management system, allowing visitors to use them when they are unstaffed. Customers would be given a special card and PIN to access the libraries when they are unmanned, with CCTV keeping watch and a book detection system used to keep track of items leaving the building.

The home library service which delivers books to residents who are housebound would continue.

Walsall Silver Thread project now on Facebook

 

The project's first sewing group, Arboretum Craft Group, left to right: Colette Mumford, Yvonne Thomas, Beth Porter, Eunice Kirby, Joyce Lilwall, Lynne Tandy & Sue Collingwood.
The project’s first sewing group, Arboretum Craft Group, left to right: Colette Mumford, Yvonne Thomas, Beth Porter, Eunice Kirby, Joyce Lilwall, Lynne Tandy & Sue Collingwood.
Walsall’s new ‘Silver Thread’ project is a great new local community project organised by the Walsall Council Creative Development Team. It celebrates both local history and arts, and 25 years of work by the Team (which will itself be marked with a new book).
 
The project, which covers Walsall Metropolitan Borough, has now been launched and is being organised on many fronts – including Facebook!  A brand new social media page is now online, and can be visited via the following link: Walsall Silver Thread Facebook page
 
There will be local meetings in many places across the Borough to involve local people with the project on the history, arts and crafts front. Many local towns and villages are being represented in a series of ‘tapestry’ works which will be created.
 
Anyone interested in their local history (including in living memory) or who was involved in the past local manufacture of needles and awl blades (for which Bloxwich is historically famed), or who is a keen sewer or in a sewing group, will be particularly welcome. Arboretum Craft Group are the first sewing group to sign up to help sew the Silver Thread Tapestries.
 
Also, contacts are invited by the organisers from people who have been involved with past Creative Development Team projects like The Bloxwich Tardis on Elmore Green, or The Brownhills Miner!
More information can be found on the Facebook page and in our previous news item: PROJECT WILL SEW A SILVER THREAD OF ARTS AND HISTORY

Christmas fun begins in Bloxwich this Saturday!

Christmas

A glittering slide into Christmas for Bloxwich and district begins this Saturday 28th November with the annual ‘Sparkle into a Bloxwich Christmas’ event in the village centre.

Organised by Walsall Council in co-operation with the Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix, local businesses and more, the popular annual event is now a firm fixture on the festive calendar, and offers family fun – and shopping opportunities – for all!

This Saturday’s activities, which are focused on Bloxwich Park,  High Street and All Saints Church, Elmore Row, run from 10am-4pm.

Fun for all!

There’ll be all the following:

  • A Christmas Trail
  • Santa on his sleigh handing out a FREE gift
  • Local Bloxwich choir performances
  • Christmas drinks and cakes
  • Christmas entertainment acts
  • Christmas donkeys!
  • Christmas shop window displays
  • Children’s rides
  • Christmas stalls

And at All Saints Church

  • Stalls
  • Rides
  • And a Christmas Concert from 4pm onwards!

Anyone looking for further information can contact Sharan at Walsall Council District Centre Management on 01922 654324.

Click on the image below for a larger version to print!

Sparkle into a Bloxwich Christmas - Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge

Bloxwich Remembrance parade replaced with church service

Remembrance in Bloxwich, 2012. Will this poignant scene become a thing of the past? (pic Stuart Williams, click to enlarge)
Remembrance in Bloxwich, 2012. Will this poignant scene become a thing of the past? (pic Stuart Williams, click to enlarge)

Bloxwich is to lose its popular Remembrance Sunday parade this weekend, amid a storm of media reports highlighting government police cuts as the cause of reduced road closure support for such events this year. Officially, the cancellation of the cherished Bloxwich parade has been blamed on the closure of the village’s local branch of the Royal British Legion in 2013.

However, even though there will be no Bloxwich High Street parade, a Service of Remembrance organised to partially rescue the much-loved event at the last minute will still take place, at a new venue – All Saints Church, Bloxwich – this Sunday 8th November, beginning at 10.30am, and all are welcome. Following the service, wreaths will be laid at the nearby Bloxwich War Memorial.

A perfect storm

Austerity-driven cuts in public services nationwide and the confusion surrounding the loss of one of Bloxwich’s most important annual events, as well as reported policing issues with other such events boroughwide, have combined to create a perfect storm  of angry public opinion, both on social media and amongst local people in person, blaming the police, the council and the government, but official messages have been vague till now.

Reliable sources have told the Bloxwich Telegraph that the reason for there being no parade in Bloxwich this year – and possibly in future years – is due to the closure of the Bloxwich Branch of the Royal British Legion in 2013, which has resulted in there being no official organiser for the event in 2015.

Had there been a Legion branch in charge of the event, we are informed, Walsall Police would have been happy to work with event organisers and deploy what  police numbers they had available on the day.  However, according to Bloxwich East Councillor Julie Fitzpatrick, it would not have been possible to have a parade down Bloxwich High Street with the small numbers of police expected to be available anyway.

A past Remembrance parade in Bloxwich (pic Stuart Williams)
A past Remembrance parade in Bloxwich (pic Stuart Williams)
Council clarification

The Walsall Advertiser newspaper recently published a news item about the parade cancellation, quoting Councillors Julie and Shaun Fitzpatrick on the matter. They were approached by Walsall Police to see if they could help because of their well-known community work, and they did their level best to try and rescue the parade, sadly without success.

We subsequently published an outline of why the parade was unlikely to go ahead, based on information received from Mrs Fitzpatrick and a local representative of the Royal British Legion, Mr Bill Griffiths:

http://thebloxwichtelegraph.com/2015/10/25/bloxwich-remembrance-parade-expected-to-be-cancelled/

Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick said at the time:

“Due to cuts to the police budgets, last year in Bloxwich we had 12 police to maintain public safety during the parade, this year we have 5. Due to this the High Street cannot be used and we are looking at alternative options at this time which have yet to be confirmed.”

Police statement

Inspector Keeley Bevington of Walsall Police has since issued a statement to the Bloxwich Telegraph via Kevin Pitt of the force’s Walsall Partnerships Team:

“Please contact Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick who is fully aware of the issues in Bloxwich and who has worked hard on this. In short there is no Royal British Legion Branch in Bloxwich and no organiser for the parade. The Council and Police legally need the details of an organiser with liability cover to allow the event to go ahead but due to the RBL not supporting activity in this area then there is no-one that can take on this responsibility which leaves issues around health and safety and organiser liability.

“All other areas where the events are taking place have an RBL organiser supporting the event with the appropriate liability cover. The church and individuals do not feel that the public liability would be covered by their own insurances so cannot volunteer as organisers. The only event taking place is at the church service and then after in the church grounds.

“I know this is disappointing but without RBL support this cannot be progressed. Please be assured a lot of work has been undertaken by police, council and councillors to try and find an RBL member with liability to support this but they do not have a branch in this area. There are around 9 other events taking place where RBL branches exist with an organiser across Walsall. I can confirm it is not the police or council stopping the parade but that the RBL have not asked for an event and are not supporting one in this area as there is no branch.”

New arrangements for Sunday

All Saints Church have thankfully stepped in to provide the venue for the now curtailed event, as it was necessary for there to be public liability cover, and this already applies to events within the church and grounds.

Groups traditionally involved in the Bloxwich event attended a meeting to discuss the new arrangements at the church on Monday evening, to discuss how the service should go and how they could take part.

The marching band and groups will now march within the church grounds then go into the church at 10.30am. The service of Remembrance will take place in the church and Rev Roger Williams, Rector of Bloxwich, is organising loudspeakers so that anyone outside the church can hear it. The aim is to get as many people in the church as possible.

After the national anthem the usual representatives will leave and place their wreaths around the War Memorial.

We Will Remember Them... (pic Stuart Williams)
We Will Remember Them… (pic Stuart Williams)
Across the borough

This problem is not unique to Bloxwich, by the way.  Police numbers are apparently down across Walsall Metropolitan Borough, and a similar situation seems to have unfolded in Walsall Wood, as was well described in Brownhills Bob’s popular Brownhills Blog earlier this month.

What’s more, we understand from Brownhills Bob that the Walsall Wood parade has never had an organiser, which calls into question at least some of the official reasoning behind the cancellation of the Bloxwich event.

Next year

There will likely be no Bloxwich Remembrance parade next year also, if as seems probable there continues to be no official organiser for the Bloxwich Remembrance Sunday.  Sources have also implied that there will probably be even fewer police available by then, and this is supported by national news stories about police cuts this past week.

Please share

Because of the confusion, the Bloxwich Telegraph has done its best to help clarify the matter for local people, and we would be grateful if our readers would share this post with their friends and others to help spread the word.

Needless to say, our editor Stuart Williams will be attending the service as always.

Words on the Bloxwich War Memorial (pic Stuart Williams)
Words on the Bloxwich War Memorial (pic Stuart Williams)

 

Bloxwich Remembrance parade expected to be cancelled

Bloxwich War Memorial - the village remembers... (pic Stuart Williams)
Bloxwich War Memorial – the village remembers… (pic Stuart Williams)

A reluctant decision to cut back police support for Remembrance Sunday parade road closures in the borough this year due to lack of resources has left a trail of dismay and confusion in its wake. The closure of the village’s local branch of the Royal British Legion in 2013 has combined with this to create a perfect storm which means that Bloxwich is expected to lose its long-cherished remembrance parade this year.

Because of the confusion, the Bloxwich Telegraph is doing its best to help clarify the matter for local people, and we would be grateful if our readers would share this post with their friends and others to help spread the word.

Royal British Legion

On Friday, we were contacted by Bill Griffiths, the Royal British Legion official for the local poppy appeal and the Bloxwich Remembrance Parade, which had originally been scheduled for Sunday 8th November 2015.  Mr Griffiths has asked us to advise people from Bloxwich and the surrounding area that, sadly, there will now be no parade in Bloxwich on that date.  Instead, Bill says, paraders will be asked to meet at All Saints Church instead, before the usual service of remembrance takes place at the war memorial on High Street.

Council clarification

Subsequent to being contacted by Mr Griffiths, we noted that the Walsall Advertiser newspaper had published a news item about the parade cancellation this week, quoting Bloxwich East Councillors Julie and Shaun Fitzpatrick on the matter. We immediately contacted Mrs Fitzpatrick for clarification, and it now appears that she and her husband were approached by Walsall Police to see if they could help because of their well-known community work.

There are two difficulties standing firmly in the way of a parade this year. Firstly, because Bloxwich no longer has a branch of the Royal British Legion, despite Mr Griffiths best efforts there is currently no effective local organisation to take the lead on Remembrance activities.  Last year’s parade went ahead because, so we are told, Sergeant Jim Nixon of Walsall Police arranged it with another person. However, this year the police will not approve that kind of arrangement because of reduced police numbers.

How it works

It is usual for branches of the Royal British Legion to take the lead on parades and work with the police regarding the route. The local event organiser (in past years the Bloxwich branch of the RBL) then advises Walsall Council’s Traffic Management section, and if they are assured that the route has enough police marshalling it to maintain public safety, then Traffic Management will issue the necessary road closures.

On Parade in Bloxwich (pic Stuart Williams)
On Parade in Bloxwich (pic Stuart Williams)
Cuts leave no alternative

This year, because the numbers of police generally have been reduced due to government cuts, Traffic Management have not been satisfied that there are enough police available to safely close off Bloxwich High Street.  Clllrs Shaun and Julie Fitzpatrick have done their best to try and make alternative arrangements by asking whether Walsall Housing Group could provide funding for other traffic management, but their Local Neighbourhood Fund scheme cannot, unfortunately, be used to pay wages.

Liability

Another significant problem is public liability, as the event organiser needs to be an organisation rather than an individual.  At the moment, however, no formal event organiser has been established and so even if there were enough police available the usual parade could not go ahead.

Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick has advised the Bloxwich Telegraph that she has contacted the local Group Secretary of the Royal British Legion, and the County Secretary has been in touch, but no assistance has yet been forthcoming.

What next?

On Friday, the Rector of All Saints Church, Revd. Roger Williams, returned from holiday and Walsall Council has recommended something through him, but as of Friday this still had to be discussed.  This is presumably the arrangement communicated to us by Mr Griffiths.

Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick said:

“Due to cuts to the police budgets, last year in Bloxwich we had 12 police to maintain public safety during the parade, this year we have 5. Due to this the High Street cannot be used and we are looking at alternative options at this time which have yet to be confirmed.”

Service to go ahead
Words on the Bloxwich War Memorial (pic Stuart Williams)
Words on the Bloxwich War Memorial (pic Stuart Williams)

So, as it stands, it looks almost certain that there will be no Remembrance Sunday parade in Bloxwich this year, due to the lack of both an organisation to take responsibility and liability for it, combined with the inability of police to provide sufficient martialling to meet safety requirements. Despite the fact that local police voluntarily do the work, thanks to government cuts in police numbers there are quite simply not enough of them available.

It does seem, however, that the service of Remembrance will still go ahead at the Bloxwich War Memorial as usual, probably with the participants gathering at All Saints Church beforehand, though specific arrangements have yet to be confirmed. We expect to be there to cover it as usual.

Across the borough

This difficulty is not unique to Bloxwich, by the way.  Police numbers are apparently down across Walsall Metropolitan Borough, and a similar situation seems to have unfolded in Walsall Wood, as was well described in Brownhills Bob’s popular Brownhills Blog earlier this month.

Whatever arrangements are finally confirmed, the Bloxwich Telegraph will do its best to let our readers know as soon as we do.

Remembrance in Bloxwich, 2012 (pic Stuart Williams, click to enlarge)
Remembrance in Bloxwich, 2012 (pic Stuart Williams, click to enlarge)

 

Aldridge transport museum to host Remembrance concert

Remembrance poster image

An historic transport museum in Aldridge, Walsall, is all set to present a wartime-themed fundraising concert next month.

The Aston Manor Road Transport Museum in Shenstone Drive, WS9 8TP,  is holding Remembrance on Sunday 8th November 2015, between 2.30pm to 5.00pm.

Tickets, which  cost £8.00 adult and £5.00 child are available online using Eventbrite via the Aston Manor Road Transport Museum Facebook page or from the museum shop, which is open Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, 10.30am to 4:00pm, telephone 01922 454761.

A free vintage bus service is expected to be available to and from Walsall – contact the Museum for details. Continue reading Aldridge transport museum to host Remembrance concert

Spooky time at Goscote Greenacres this Halloween!

Goscote Greenacres

Visitors to Goscote Greenacres Community Garden are in for a treat on Sunday 1st November when the centre celebrates Halloween.

This free fancy dress family ghoulish inspired event takes place between 1 – 4pm and will feature a range of fun activities to suit all ages.

Fun activities

Included amongst the activities will be pumpkin carving, apple bobbing and a chance to get some terror filled creative time to design a shockingly horrible mask.

For those with an interest in the eerie there will be the chance to listen to some truly scary tales and to witness the end result of a fancy dress.

Entertainment on the day will include a terrifying bouncy castle, a frightful putting green, a ghastly disco and a blood curdling BBQ. For further information call 07432625923.

All about Goscote Greenacres

Goscote Greenacres is an initiative which is a partnership between Walsall Council’s Adult Social Care, Walsall Adult and Community College, North Walsall Area Partnership and others.

Location: Goscote Greenacres, Goscote Lane , Walsall, WS3 1SJ.

See their website and Facebook for more details:

http://cms.walsall.gov.uk/goscote

https://www.facebook.com/GoscoteGreenacresCommunityGarden

Walsall to join West Midlands Combined Authority

Walsall Council House (pic: Stuart Williams)
Walsall Council House (pic: Stuart Williams)

Walsall Council has voted in favour of joining the West Midlands Combined Authority.

At a special council meeting on Monday 19th October, 43 councillors supported the Cabinet’s recommendations for Walsall to become a full constituent member of the Combined Authority. Six voted against, with 4 abstentions.

In doing so, Walsall joins Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Solihull and Wolverhampton local authorities as constituent members, and various local district councils and the three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) as non constituent members in forming the WMCA. Sandwell were expected to vote on whether to join as constituent members on Tuesday 20th October.

Combined Authorities are legal bodies with powers of decision making granted by Parliament and are a new way for local authorities to work closer together on key strategic functions that cross geographical council boundaries.

Members also approved the Governance Review and Scheme which sets out the options for collaborative working and how the Combined Authority will operate and received an overview of the engagement outcomes which took place in August and early September. Walsall’s stakeholders and partners had been contacted to help them better understand the role of the WMCA.

Following Monday’s YES vote, Councillor Mike Bird, said: “Members have seriously considered the proposal in great detail and have approved for Walsall to be part of the West Midlands Combined Authority.

“This was too big an opportunity for us to miss, to be part of the biggest combined authority in the country. It’s a sensible way for us to organise ourselves.

“There are no geographical boundaries for transport and business and we already work with our neighbouring colleagues anyway but this formalises these arrangements.

“We have a good working relationship with our councils in the Black Country and this will continue that strength.”

When officially formed, the WMCA will continue its discussions with Government over devolving powers – including an investment programme, and local transport and housing powers – to the region.

To find out more about the WMCA visit www.westmidlandscombinedauthority.org.uk

Leamore & Area Community Group seeks members

Leamore Shopping Centre in November 2010, before the rail was damaged.

A community organisation which aims to support Leamore folk and campaign on local concerns is on the lookout for new members, and is inviting people to come and put forward their ideas and raise problems experienced in their own streets.

The Leamore & Area Community Group, which was formed in January of this year, meets every 2nd Tuesday of every month at Colebatch’s Club in Bloxwich Road, Leamore.

Come along

The next group meeting is Tuesday 10th November 2015 at 7pm and all are welcome to attend, whether they want to know more information about the group or have a concern or problem they want to discuss.

Support your local community

A group spokesmen told the Bloxwich Telegraph that they are hoping for representatives to come forward for every street on their patch. They are also looking for more people to attend in general, so that the Leamore community can be better represented.

The group say they are striving for a better community to live in, and are currently in the process of campaigning for better speed limit signage on Somerfield Road between Leamore and Bloxwich, as there is a big problem with motorists using excessive speed in what should be a 30 mph area.  They are also concerned about car cruising on roads in the Leamore area.

Under 10’s team seeking football players

Young footballers

Young footballers are being sought for the 2015-2016 season by a local under 10’s team.

Rostance Edwards F.C. are looking for keen youngsters – who must be in year 5 at school from September 2015 – to join their existing Bloxwich team.

Trials are taking place on Saturday mornings between 11am-12 noon at King George V Playing Fields, Bloxwich (entrance just off Baytree Road).

For more information contact Andy on 07825 640326 or 07881 553885 or you can email smilerb@blueyonder.co.uk

The team is FA Level 1 qualified and CRB checked.

Covering Bloxwich, Little Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath, Leamore and Birchills