Public sector workers strike in Walsall

The majority of public sector workers are striking across the UK today in protest at damaging changes to retirement ages and pensions which are being imposed by the Coalition government.

In Walsall, members of trades unions Unison, GMB, Unite and teachers’ unions are exercising their democratic right to take part in this industrial action as part of the first national strike for thirty years.

Unions and their members are unhappy with how they are being forced to bear the brunt of government cuts, and say that poor economic policies being implemented, combined with the greed and incompetence of the banking sector, are the main cause of current problems, and this is not being properly addressed.

In Walsall Metropolitan Borough many council services are being affected to varying levels today. If in doubt, telephone to check before travelling. The main council switchboard is on 01922 650000.

See our earlier news item for a council statement and further details online.

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National public sector strike affects Council services

Walsall Council House

Walsall residents are being advised that some council services, including school closures could be affected by industrial action today, Wednesday, 30 November 2011.

As trade unions across the country stage a day of industrial action, some council services will be closed or run at a much reduced level.

Walsall Council’s First Stop Shop in the Civic Centre, Darwall Street will be closed during the national dispute and callers to the council’s general enquiries (01922 650000) may experience some delay. Residents seeking information about Revenues can call 0845 111 2851 and the Benefits service on 0845 111 2855.

Residents may see disruptions to their bin collection service. Revised arrangements for bin collections on that day will be communicated via the council website as soon as they are known. People who do not want to wait until the next collection can use Walsall Council’s Household Waste Recycling Centre in Fryers Road, Leamore. The recycling centre at Merchants Way, Aldridge does not operate on Wednesdays.

Parents are advised to contact their school directly or visit http://www.walsallcs.com/news/school-closures-2.html to check for school closures.

The council has already confirmed Walsall and Willenhall Markets will be shut during the day of strike action. Walsall Gala Baths will be closed but all other leisure centres will remain open as usual.

Updates will be made to Walsall Council’s website at www.walsall.gov.uk to highlight disruption caused by industrial action.

Councillor Chris Towe, cabinet member for finance and personnel at Walsall Council, said: “Our customers and service users are our key priority during this time. However, despite having robust contingency plans in place, it is likely that the service delivered to residents of the borough may experience some disruption.

“Should you experience a problem with your bin collection on Wednesday please visit the council’s website or call us on 01922 650000 to check revised arrangements.

“Walsall Council apologises for any inconvenience this may cause our residents, however it is difficult to provide a comprehensive and fully accurate prediction of the impact this may have on our services,” he added.

“Residents can still access council information and a range of services via our website www.walsall.gov.uk.”

BLOXWICH TELEGRAPH SUPPLEMENTAL:

Walsall Local History Centre will be closed on 30 November.  You are advised to check whether other museums and libraries will be open.

Campaign against cuts to Bloxwich police station hours

Labour Councillors Julie Fitzpatrick (left), Shaun Fitzpatrick, Ann Young and Ian Robertson at ASDA Bloxwich
Labour Councillors Julie Fitzpatrick (left), Shaun Fitzpatrick, Ann Young and Ian Robertson at ASDA Bloxwich

Local Labour Party Councillors in Bloxwich and Blakenall Heath have been campaigning against recently announced proposals to slash the opening hours of Bloxwich Police Station from January 2012.

With 12 stations across the West Midlands announced as candidates for possible changes to front office opening, Bloxwich is the only police station in Walsall Metropolitan Borough slated for a cut in hours, from 24 hours per day, seven days a week, to just 10am-6pm, and unhappy Bloxwich residents are already up in arms over the proposals.

The alterations to opening times come when the West Midlands force is being subjected to severe Coalition government cuts, meaning it has to save £126 million over a four year period, and management feels the need to review and rationalise its services as part of a modernisation programme.

Labour Councillors opposing the move on behalf of the people of Bloxwich and district have so far collected more than 2,000 signatures, with many more expected, in a petition calling for a re-think on the highly controversial move.

There has been a police station in Bloxwich since 1861.  The current Bloxwich Police Station in Elmore Green Road is the most modern in the borough, and was formally opened by Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, on 26 September 2002 , replacing the previous station housed in the historic Bloxwich Public Buildings (built 1882) which were demolished to make way for the new station.

Police claim that under the new arrangements, 99% of households will never be more than four miles from a 24/7 opening police station across the region – cold comfort for residents, especially on local housing estates, who fear what the hours of darkness, when crimes like burglary and anti-social behaviour in particular are most likely, may bring if the Bloxwich station’s front office shuts its doors against them between 6pm – 10am every night.

They also question whether these cuts may just be the tip of the iceberg, especially at a time when plans are being laid for the expensive rebuilding of Walsall borough’s main police station in Green Lane.

Research shows, say West Midlands Police, that the main method of contact for members of the public is over the ‘phone. On average the force handles over 5,000 phone calls each day from the public and over 2,000 emails per month are received by the force’s “Contact us” email account alone.  They also say that, in those stations where the changes are being proposed, on average two people visited the front offices outside of core hours. A large number of those were solicitors visiting the custody facility.

However this generalised data has been partly refuted in Bloxwich by the Walsall Labour Group on Walsall Council, who say that the overnight closure of Bloxwich Police Station has been proposed despite police acknowledging that on average over 30 people visit the station each night.

Police insist however that cuts to opening hours will not impact on the way the force works within its local communities. Officers will continue to work within communities, patrol neighbourhoods and work with local people and partners to identify and solve issues of concern.

A detailed report is due to go to the Police Authority for their consideration and will be presented at their next meeting on Thursday 1 December.  This will be available on the Police Authority website on Thursday 24 November: www.west-midlands-pa.gov.uk . Police Authority members will consider the proposal and the consultation process.

Residents are invited to give their views via an online questionnaire on the force’s website www.west-midlands.police.uk on how West Midlands Police will provide services in the future.  People can also email their views via contactus@west-midlands.police.uk, or write to West Midlands Police, Lloyd House, Colmore Circus, Queensway, B4 6NQ.

Birchills-Leamore by-election UPDATE

Polling Station

Candidates have now been nominated for the Walsall Council by-election for the Birchills – Leamore ward, which was called following the recent sad death of Councillor Joan Barton.

A former Mayoress of Walsall, Councillor Barton, who had represented Birchills – Leamore ward for Labour since May 1998, passed away earlier this month.

The by-election will be held on Thursday 22 December. Polling starts at 7am and ends at 10pm and the count will start soon afterwards in Walsall Town Hall.

The calling of the by-election so close to Christmas and within just six months of the 2012 Council elections did however cause some controversy in local political circles.

The candidates are as follows:

Kamran Aftab                 Conservative Party

Leandra Gebrakedan     Green Party

Liz Hazell                       UK Independence Party (UK I P)

Tina Joan Jukes             Labour Party

Chris Newey                  English Democrats – “Putting England First”

Wednesday 7 December is the last day for new applications to vote by post and Wednesday 14 December is the last day for new applications to vote by proxy.

Election details available so far, including full particulars of the above candidates, may be downloaded from the Walsall Council website.

Watch out for our Election Report in due course.