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.

Fab finish to Bloxwich theatre’s 2011 season

DC Fontana, spring 2011
DC Fontana, spring 2011. L-R- Tim Nightingale, Jamie Ryder, Tony Russell, Mark Mortimer, Karla Milton, Scott Riley, Nigel Horton & Steve Trigg (Photo Claire Curtis)

Saturday 17th December brings the Bookmark Bloxwich 2011 season of live music to a close with a bang.

The truly fab 1960s-influenced Mod band DC Fontana will be performing live on stage in Bloxwich for the first time, presenting a superb mix of their own exceptional original music, 60s covers and tv and film-influenced sounds.

This band is quite extraordinary, and simply not to be missed!

DC Fontana on stage in Stoke-on-Trent (Photo Phill Bettany)
DC Fontana on stage in Stoke-on-Trent (Photo Phill Bettany)

“I have been looking forward to bringing DC Fontana to the Bookmark ever since I was totally knocked out by their performance at the 2010 Walsall Town Show.  These guys are the real deal, they’ve got style and quality – and their own highly original music is easily up there with the best from the 1960s.”

“I am delighted that they will be playing here on the 17th to conclude our 2011 live music season in style. Come along and feel the vibe – you’ll be as amazed as I was!” said Stuart Williams, Bloxwich Library Forum Vice Chair.

TICKETS ARE JUST £5 from Bloxwich Library.  Call 01922 655900.

Doors 7.30pm, Show 8.15pm.

Bookmark Bloxwich, Bloxwich Library, Elmore Row, Bloxwich, Walsall. WS3 2HR.

For more on DC Fontana, check out their website and The Edditer’s review in The Bloxidge Tallygraph.

See DC Fontana’s amazing video from their highly-acclaimed album ‘Six Against Eight’:

Saturday sparkle kick-starts Christmas in Bloxwich!

Happy Santa Strollers get into the spirit of Christmas
Happy Santa Strollers get into the spirit of Christmas on the old village green!

This year’s festive season in Bloxwich began with a much-needed boost on Saturday, thanks to Bloxwich Business Partnership and partners, as they staged their second annual Sparkle Into a Bloxwich Christmas event.

It's best feet forward for St Giles Walsall Hospice in the Santa Stroll
It's best feet forward for St Giles Walsall Hospice in the Santa Stroll

And despite the dull, blustery weather, the village was properly lit up ready for Christmas in a snow-fall of fun for all ages, with a Santa Stroll on the old village green, a wandering elf and snowman, donkey rides, charity market stalls and fine performances by local youngsters singing and dancing.

Alfie the Elf's reindeer Rudolph checks out the festive flora at Hearts and Flowers
Alfie the Elf's reindeer Rudolph checks out the festive flora at Hearts and Flowers
Donkey Derby? No, Park Rd Bloxwich!
Donkey Derby? No, Park Rd Bloxwich!

The partnership, chaired by ever-enthusiastic Emma Harewood of Co-operative Travel in Bloxwich High Street and strongly supported by the powerhouse that is Nikki Rolls, Walsall Council’s irrepressible Regeneration Assistant for Bloxwich, who co-ordinated everyone, aimed to use the event to both foster a greater sense of community and bring Bloxwich talent to the fore by showcasing local schools, community groups, churches, and key partners within the day’s programme of activities.

Not snoozing - but amusing! Pyjama-clad Co-op Travel staff collect for Women's Aid
Not snoozing - but amusing! Pyjama-clad Co-op Travel staff collect for Women's Aid

This they certainly did, bringing together local people of goodwill in so many ways to create not only a very successful, if somewhat windswept, event, but a great profile-raiser for both the community and traders in and around the village of Bloxwich and district, at a time when we all need cheering up!

Bloxwich Carnival royals Jessica Jones (left), Abbie Nicholls, Phoebe Lago WIlletts and Lucy Kirk
Bloxwich Carnival royals Jessica Jones (left), Abbie Nicholls, Phoebe Lago WIlletts and Lucy Kirk

Some of the features of Sparkle Into a Bloxwich Christmas included:

  • Santa on his sleigh from Bloxwich Rotary Phoenix with his helpers handing out free gifts to children.
  • A Christmas Trail.
  • Best Dressed Shop Window Competition judged by St Giles Walsall Hospice.
  • Business Festive Offers and Christmas Activities.
  • Christmas Fayre organised by and at St John’s Methodist Church.
  • Santa Stroll in Bloxwich Park, organised by St Giles Walsall Hospice.
  • Decorations made by local schools in shop windows.
  • Christmas Charity Stalls on Bloxwich Market.
  • A Christmas Raffle.
  • And donkey rides!

Preceded by the Santa Stroll at 10am, the majority of the day’s events ran from 11am – 3pm, delivering a jam-packed Christmas programme, including choirs from St Peter’s RC Primary School, Elmore Green Primary School, Lower Farm Primary School, Walsall Academy Choir, All Saints Church Youth Choir, Masquerades Youth Theatre and St Peters Church Choir, as well as a dance performance from Russon Dance Academy.

All Saints Youth Choir, accompanied by Revd Roger Williams, were in fine festive song on the Move truck
All Saints Youth Choir, accompanied by Revd Roger Williams, were in fine festive song on the Move truck
Young performers from Russon Dance Academy launch into a routine
Young performers from Russon Dance Academy launch into a routine

Performances took place both on the stage of Walsall Council’s versatile Move Bus at High Street/Park Road and in a shelter at the ASDA store, where there was singing and face painting, and store staff were also collecting for the Hospice while Dame Hilda and Queen Prunella were outside promoting the forthcoming panto ‘The Snow Queen’ at Forest Arts Centre.

It Asda be Dame Hilda and Snow Queen Prunella!
It Asda be Dame Hilda and Snow Queen Prunella!
Rob Henden, Jeanette Ball and Maureen Allport shake a bucket for St Giles Walsall Hospice at ASDA
Rob Henden, Jeanette Ball and Maureen Allport shake a bucket for St Giles Walsall Hospice at ASDA

St John’s Methodist Church held its’ ever-popular and packed-out Christmas Fayre in Victoria Avenue, with Santa in attendance for photos to be taken with local youngsters thanks to the Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix.  And at the Park Road End of High Street, Parklands Court Nursing Home was also holding its own traditional Victorian Christmas Fayre.

Lots to see at St John's Christmas Fayre
Lots to see at St John's Christmas Fayre
Santa gets up close and seasonal with mum Rebecca Rowley and daughter Connie, aged 2 1/2, in his grotto at Saint John's Christmas Fayre!
Santa gets up close and seasonal with mum Rebecca Rowley and daughter Connie, aged 2 1/2, in his grotto at Saint John's Christmas Fayre!

For those wandering between events or shopping in the High Street, St Peter’s RC Church Choir offered a medley of carols and festive songs outside the Church doors at 11.30am, a sprinkling of festive shop windows lit up many a child’s eye (with Jeneve Bridal Wear winning the competition!) and Alfie the Elf was readily spotted riding his reindeer up and down, occasionally followed by a huge Snowman and Miss Santa herself, 2010 Bloxwich Carnival Queen Jessica Jones, ably assisting the big man in his heavy schedule for the day.

Carollers at St Peter's Roman Catholic Church lift up their hearts and sing!
Carollers at St Peter's Roman Catholic Church lift up their hearts and sing!
Competition-winning festive window by Jeneve Bridal Wear on the High Street
Competition-winning festive window by Jeneve Bridal Wear on the High Street

And in Market Place, various charities had stalls with a Christmas flavour, and Cheque Centre staff were in the festive mood, collecting for the NSPCC.

John Roberts, Paula Neal (manager) and David Merriman represented The Children's Society on Bloxwich Market
John Roberts, Paula Neal (manager) and David Merriman represented The Children's Society on Bloxwich Market
Shirley Hodgkins (left), Vicky Caddy, Cllr Kath Phillips and Maurice Phillips ran the St Giles Walsall Hospice market stall and tombola
Shirley Hodgkins (left), Vicky Caddy, Cllr Kath Phillips and Maurice Phillips ran the St Giles Walsall Hospice market stall and tombola
Raising funds for the NSPCC was Diane Turner of Cheque Centre
Raising funds for the NSPCC was Diane Turner of Cheque Centre

Christmas cakes and festive drinks were also laid on for happy families and spectators by the Move truck, courtesy of Bloxwich Phoenix Rotary, and a Hog Roast was popular at the ASDA store.

Carrie Hurst (left), Jennie Allport and Jess Woolley serve up sherry and mince pies on behalf of Rotary
Carrie Hurst (left), Jennie Allport and Jess Woolley serve up sherry and mince pies on behalf of Rotary

Finally, the seal was set on this great start to Christmas, for the kiddies at least, when Santa and his beautiful assistant Jessica Jones, aided by Bloxwich Carnival royalty Abbie Nicholls, Phoebe Lago WIlletts and Lucy Kirk, plus our local police, handed out scores of presents to clamouring youngsters outside Sweet and Fancy in Park Road.

Santa and his posse hand out the goodies!
Santa and his posse hand out the goodies!

After all the hard work and enthusiasm put in by all concerned, this second annual event was another fine success and has definitely kick-started Christmas in Bloxwich.  Why not support the other local Christmas events on our Events Page, and add even more sparkle to your own festive season?

What it's really all about - a traditional nativity scene in the Life shop window
What it's really all about - a traditional nativity scene in the Life shop window

The Bloxwich Telegraph is proud to continue to support ‘Sparkle Into a Bloxwich Christmas’ and the people of Bloxwich and district, and our editor, Stuart Williams, took a wide range of photos, some of which are shown here.

These, and many more, may be freely downloaded from Flickr as personal souvenirs and for non-commercial use by those people and organisations taking part.  Follow this link: Sparkle into a Bloxwich Christmas Photo Album.