Festive Felicitations from The Bloxwich Telegraph

Bloxwich Telegraph Christmas Card 2011EDITORIAL

It is my usual practice at this time of year to ramble on at length about what has gone before, and to look to a better future.  But despite the fact that I would rather spend Christmas in a positive frame of mind, I have found that difficult this time because there are so many negative things going on in the world, in the United Kingdom and locally. 

Our financial systems and our national and international politicians in particular have failed us dismally, many would say criminally, in recent years, and the return of “Victorian values” in the parlance of the powers that be seems only to herald the return of the spirit of Scrooge’s England (“Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?”) and seemingly unchecked mass unemployment, rioting, ill-considered government cuts, urban poverty, homelessness and greed on the part of those who have. 

And class war, many would say, is a reality once more, if it ever truly went away; union-bashing by politicians who should know better and by the gutter press is the norm again. There has even been a flurry of a ‘winter of discontent’ to bring back fond memories of the 70s and 80s, and many have been made dependent on food parcels and other charitable assistance.  We the people are watched over at every street corner by systems allegedly designed to protect us, and officials have their beady eyes on our internet traffic 24/7 – but who watches the watchmen, and are they ever really held accountable?   Small wonder then that the world-wide modern symbol of revolution is now no longer the hammer and sickle, the red flag or Che Guevara, but a mask of Guy Fawkes…

With employment uncertain, government incompetence guaranteed and finances failing all around in the coming year, then, what is there that could possibly be positive to look forward to?

Well, there is still good in the world, and what it comes down to, in my experience, is this.  If we have anything at all to look forward to in this once-great nation, it is that the spirit of home, of place, of charity and of community is not dead, and that, especially in Bloxwich, but also in many other villages and towns across the borough and the nation, we are surrounded by people of goodwill who are ready to get off their sofas, turn off their tellies, go out into the cold and do good works, whether they be for charity, for community, for vulnerable neighbours or for friends and family.

Despite the fact that we have been continually told ever since the last war that “the good old days are gone” and “there’s no more community spirit”, that’s not really true if you take the time to look around you, find out what’s going on and, dare I say it, join in yourself.  Even though voluntary and community work has been in real danger of being tainted by the hypocritical spoutings of politicians espousing the so-called ‘big society’ while swinging the machete at those least able to defend themselves, the fact is that many thousands of people are out there, as they have always been, putting others before themselves, and long may it continue.

Since 2006 The Bloxwich Telegraph and its predecessor The Bloxidge Tallygraph, have tried to highlight some of the wonderful work that is going on in our own community.  Lord knows we have only managed to touch the tip of the iceberg in Bloxwich, Little Bloxwich, Leamore, Blakenall Heath and Birchills, but it never ceases to amaze me how much good is being done out there, and I know there is more to be revealed, as 2012 will surely show.

I have had the privilege of meeting and doing what little I can to help raise the profile of some fine groups such as the Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix, Bloxwich Carnival Committee, Benton’s Sons of Rest, Bloxwich Scouts, Bloxwich Business Partnership, Friends of Bloxwich Parks, St Giles Walsall Hospice and others. As well as other important community organisations such as All Saints Church, St John’s Church, St Peter’s Church, Bloxwich Community Partnership, Blakenall Community Centre, the Royal British Legion and the Stan Ball Centre, to name but a few. 

Our local libraries and their staff, who do so much for the community in their quietly enthusiastic and highly professional way, also deserve a mention, especially Bloxwich Library and Theatre, which has become a fine cultural centre for the village and for the borough once again since the refurbishment. Indeed, my friends and colleagues volunteering on Bloxwich Library Forum have also made a substantial contribution to this great revival.

Of course I cannot fail to mention some of our fine local schools such as Bloxwich CE Primary School (The National!) and Elmore Green Primary School, as well as Lower Farm, Leamore, St Peter’s and Little Bloxwich Primary Schools plus Walsall (or should it be Bloxwich?) Academy.  I hope to have more to do with these and other local schools in the new year.

All of the above have been very welcoming and, not to put too fine a point on it, inspiring to me and to the work of The Bloxwich Telegraph.

Last but certainly not least, the good-hearted and hard-working individuals of which there have been many, too numerous to list here, but including not just community-minded members of the public and Walsall Council officers (you know who you are!) but local councillors of both main parties, and several Mayors and Mayoresses of Walsall, all of whom have enthusiastically made themselves a part of life in Bloxwich and district, giving of their time and energy without stint, and they have been made very welcome by Bloxwich and district folk in return.

So while I look forward to 2012 with some trepidation, especially for the future of this country, I have to feel positive about its people and the good that they do, whether they be religious or not, and of whichever political persuasion they may be, at the local level.  You see I’ve gotten to know so many of them, and respect them for what they do, not for what others just talk about. 

If nothing else, surely that at least must bode well for the future, and the spirit of Christmas.

May I take this opportunity to wish all our readers and friends a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.  I hope you will continue to follow The Bloxwich Telegraph in 2012. After all, we live in interesting times…


Stuart Williams

Editor & Publisher

The Bloxwich Telegraph


Labour victory in Birchills-Leamore by-election

Polling Station

The results of the Walsall Council by-election for the Birchills-Leamore Ward which took place yesterday (Thursday) at Walsall Town Hall are now in.

And despite an exceptionally low turnout of less than 16% of the ward electorate, probably due to the controversial late seasonal calling of the election, the Labour Party’s candidate Tina Jukes is celebrating a predicted win with 835 votes.

The position became vacant following the death of long-serving Labour Councillor Joan Barton last month, who was the mother of the successful Labour candidate who now succeeds her.

Tina Jukes, who is a therapeutic residential support worker, said before the election that filling her mother’s shoes would be a huge challenge but that Birchills-Leamore deserved someone who knew the ward well and was as committed to local people as Cllr Barton was.

Since the next Council elections are set to take place in May 2012, Councillor Jukes’ term will be less than six months before she has to fight the seat again.

In today’s by-election, the other candidates’ results were as follows:

Conservative candidate Kamran Aftab received 512 votes; Chris Newey (English Democrats) received 130; UKIP candidate Liz Hazell received 59 and Leandra Gebrakedan (Green Party) 46 votes.

Turnout for the election stood at 15.9%.

The balance of power at Walsall Council now stands at 27 Conservative, 27 Labour, 5 Lib Dem and one Independent councillors, which should make for interesting times come 3 May 2012, the likely election date.

Our thanks to Walsall Council for making the results available so promptly and for making it possible for Twitter users to follow the election on online.

Criminals get Christmas card with a difference

WMP Christmas Card
West Midlands Police is distributing Christmas cards to repeat offenders encouraging them to stay away from crime over the festive period.

Prolific priority offenders (PPOs) are people who are known to commit large volumes of crime across the force area.  Local offender manager teams closely supervise PPOs in the community on a day to day basis and it is these teams who will be personally hand delivering the Christmas cards over the next week.

This year’s card draws a contrast between Christmas in the cells and Christmas at home surrounded by family and friends.

The back of the card asks offenders not to miss out on Christmas and urges them to ask for help to move away from crime if they need it.  The overall message is to move away from crime and get help to start a fresh.

Superintendent Manjit Thandi from Birmingham North said: “Christmas is a time when crime traditionally rises because people have often bought new high value items and are probably not thinking about crime prevention, whether it be while out shopping or in the home.

“Prolific offenders can be tempted to seize on this opportunity, so these cards are a reminder to them that we are here to support them in their efforts to move away from crime, whether that is by helping them find housing or get help with a drug addiction.

“If they do not seek to change their ways and take the help offered to them they could face Christmas in custody.”

Keep Warm, Keep Well

Keep Warm, Keep Well

Keep Warm, Keep Well is the message to Black Country residents this winter as the cold weather sets in. The Black Country Cluster of PCTs has put together a range of leaflets filled with top tips on how to avoid getting a cold, how to heat your home effectively and efficiently as well as information on grants and benefits available to residents to help with paying heating bills or insulating their home. Continue reading Keep Warm, Keep Well

Police re-appeal for info about fifth homophobic assault suspect

Fifth homophobic assault suspect
Fifth homophobic assault suspect

Police in Walsall have re-issued CCTV images of a man they want to speak to in connection with a homophobic assault which happened last month.

Three people have already been arrested following the first appeal two weeks ago in connection with the attack which happened on Saturday 26 November at around 2:30am at the Lion Bar and Club on Birchills Street.

A group of men made homophobic comments to the 20 year-old male victim before punching him several times. The victim was also kicked as he lay on the ground.

The offenders made off on Birchills Street in the direction of Reedswood; meanwhile the victim was left with swelling to his right eye.

CCTV cameras caught some of the people suspected of being involved and with help from the public officers have been able to identify four of the men.

Three of them, aged 23, 18 and 17, have been arrested and are currently on bail pending further enquiries.

Police are re-issuing images of the fifth outstanding suspect in the hope that the public can help identify him.

He is described as a white male, with short brown hair, of slim build and was wearing a distinctive union jack long sleeved jumper.

PC Richard Jackson, from Leamore neighbourhood policing team, said: “This was a nasty assault but the response to our last appeal was very pleasing and has led to the identification of four suspects.

“I would urge people to take another look at the images of the fifth suspect we have released today and get in touch with us if they recognise him.

“Hate crime will not be tolerated and victims should feel confident that the police will take these incidents extremely seriously.”

Anyone who has any information about the assault should call PC Richard Jackson from the Leamore neighbourhood team on the new non-emergency police telephone number 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Hate crimes can also be reported online www.report-it.org.uk or through third party reporting centres. In Walsall these are located at Apna Gar, Ford Street, Pleck; Pleck Youth Club, Wednesbury Road, Pleck; Kingsley Street Club, Kingsley Street, Walsall; and Walsall Deaf Centre, Lichfield Road, Walsall.

Santa sleighs Bloxwich Rotary’s Christmas collection record

Santa and his little helpers on Lower Farm tonight
Santa and his volunteer helpers on Lower Farm

Members of the Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix are jubilant this Christmas after completing a record-breaking round of Santa tours of Bloxwich and district.

Over the course of six nights, around fourteen hours, the hard-working and ever-enthusiastic charitable organisation took Father Christmas in his sleigh to around 4,500 homes around Bloxwich, seeing hundreds of children and their families, and loving every minute of it.

And despite the current difficult economic climate, the total funds raised by their charitable collections on this year’s Santa Sleigh runs have surpassed those of both 2009 and 2010, raising the magnificent sum of £1,784.78!

Steve Antill of Bloxwich Rotary said “We also delivered 101 personalised letters from Father Christmas to children, with fantastic results. We started this scheme last year, but this year we’ve had about a four fold increase in demand. From the feedback we’ve had we know how much these visits are appreciated, so thank you to everyone for letting us know.

“As we go around the Santa routes we get a mostly excellent reception. We do get asked a lot of questions, and so here are some answers to those most commonly asked.

“The donations you all make to us are given directly to our Rotary Foundation UK charity, with no expenses taken from the proceeds. All of our volunteers give up their time for nothing. The sweets we give out are paid for by contributions throughout the year from our club members and donations made by them. The letters were printed and materials donated by one of our members.”

This year the Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix Santa Claus also had more than twenty big-hearted helpers braving the icy cold over six nights, including a number who are not actually club members, but who responded to a request for help when the club realised they were short-handed for some of the routes. Amongst the additional volunteers were members of Bloxwich Carnival Committee, Bloxwich Business Partnership, Co-operative Travel and local Labour councillors.

Over the six routes, Santa and his merry band of bucket-wielding helpers collected more than 15,000 coins, including over 5,000 pennies – showing that every donation, however small, really does make a difference.

Mr. Antill went on “It really has been a fantastic response from all our helpers, and we’re very thankful to them for making it possible.

“We’d also like to say a bit thank you from us, the Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix, to you, the public of Bloxwich, for your support over the course of our six nights. We hope that you all have a fantastic Christmas in 2011 and that 2012 is a brilliant year for us all!”

We are sure that everyone in Bloxwich will be only too pleased to join The Bloxwich Telegraph in thanking our friends from Bloxwich Rotary in return, for continuing to maintain a long-standing local festive tradition by making our Christmas really special with their Santa sleigh runs.

For more information on the Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix and their work, check out their website via this link.