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.”
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.
This year’s Remembrance Sunday in Bloxwich was indeed one to remember, mostly for all the right reasons – but was also an event dogged by confusion and controversy.
Most importantly, the local community came together in their hundreds once again as they have done since the 1920s, to remember and honour in silence and in song those fallen in war and conflict, especially local servicemen and women and the other victims of war – and to hope for that peace which is the right of all but which is so rarely found in this world.
It has to be said, however, that the day was sadly somewhat tarnished by the controversy over the cancellation of the traditional High Street parade of veterans and local groups, including youth groups, who enthusiastically but thoughtfully gather to march each year.
Conspiracy theories and confusion
Confusion over the reasons behind the parade’s cancellation resulted in understandably angry but sometimes, it has to be said, ill-informed mutterings on local social media and on the streets of Bloxwich and district. Some of that was to be expected, as information was at first scarce and communication from organisers who were desperately trying to rescue the event and other official channels was sometimes confused. But then the publicising of the Bloxwich event has never been very good and always last minute, something which needs to be rectified in future.
No Legion, no parade
Variously blaming Walsall Council, local councilors, Walsall Police and others, these stirrings mostly missed the main reason why the parade was cancelled and re-scheduled as a short march through the grounds of All Saints Church. This was, as was widely reported in the Bloxwich Telegraph, primarily down to the demise of the Bloxwich branch of the Royal British Legion, presumably due to insufficient local support, in 2013. This meant that, due to a combination of health and safety law and official red tape, as well as perfectly reasonable safety concerns, together with the unwillingness of the Royal British Legion to extend insurance for the march without a local branch, the usual parade could not go ahead.
Overshadowing this primary problem was the issue of nationwide police cuts due to our national Conservative government’s ‘austerity’ policies, something which has received a massive amount of media coverage in recent weeks. Even had there been a branch of the Legion to insure and organise a parade, our sources informed us, it would almost certainly have been cut back due to there being half as many police available to marshal road closures as last year. This is a situation likely to get worse next year.
The Bloxwich Royal British Legion must be reformed
So, it is absolutely essential that a new branch of the Royal British Legion be formed in Bloxwich, so that local veterans may be supported locally, so that funds may contnue to be raised for the charity, and so that Bloxwich people may see the return of their traditional Remembrance Sunday parade.
Thankfully, local interest in forming such a branch is already taking shape, and anyone who is interested in helping and taking part is invited to contact the Legion’s local contact, Mr Bill Griffiths, by telephoning 07944869687 or 01922 492064.
The present police cuts and the prospect of more of the same next year may call the parade’s future into question again, even if, as is hoped, a new branch of the Legion rises phoenix-like in Bloxwich in time for Remembrance Sunday 2016. It looks like any future organisers will have to fund and organise at least part of the traffic management themselves, due to reduced numbers of police available.
Between now and then, Bloxwich people will really have to ‘step up to the plate’ and help. After all, Remembrance is for life, not just Remembrance Sunday.
Bloxwich can still be proud
But whatever happens next year, Bloxwich can at least be proud that disaster was largely averted this year by the hard work of public-spirited local councillors, All Saints Church and representatives of other churches, many local groups and police – and not least the veterans themselves – who came together with other local people to organise a shortened march through the church grounds and a massively well-supported Service of Remembrance within the church itself.
Not only that, thanks should also be offered to those many local people who, whether unable to get into the church or determined, as Bloxwich folk often are, to stand up for Bloxwich and for tradition, still gathered round the Bloxwich War Memorial to pay their respects as in days gone by.
Hopefully, everyone who turned out in church or on the streets of Bloxwich on Sunday last will actively support the future of the Royal British Legion and Remembrance in Bloxwich as well as looking to the past – otherwise it may have no future!
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.
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:
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
A borough-wide call is being made by Walsall Council, who are on the lookout for exceptional individuals whose efforts make a real difference to the lives of other people, to be nominated for the twelfth Mayor of Walsall’s Civic Awards.
Held at Walsall’s Council House on Friday 29 April 2016, the ‘Doras’ as they are affectionately known, is a chance to recognise the unsung heroes of the borough and honour their achievements through these prestigious awards.
Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Angela Underhill said: “There are a great number of Walsall people who work tirelessly to make a difference in their communities and to the lives of the people around them, with no ulterior motive other than to help make other people’s lives better.
“The Civic Awards provide us with a chance to recognise and appreciate their hard work and dedication.
“These occasions are very special and offer the chance to put the spotlight on these very worthy individuals and to let them shine as they so richly deserve.
“We really want to hear from anyone who knows someone who deserves to be recognised because they’ve gone above and beyond to help their community.”
Last year’s winners included thirteen year old Brodie Meredith who worked for ‘Livvy’s Smile’ a charity started by her family in memory of her sister who sadly died of ‘Rett Syndrome’ in 2008. The charity aims to create memorable days for children with disabilities and their families. Brodie actively raised funds for the charity and inspired others to do the same.
Stella Pettifor gave over thirty years service to Goscote, providing the community with youth clubs, toddler clubs, parenting support, food parcels, nursery services, volunteering opportunities and support with debt and benefits. Through her hard work which impacted on her own health at times Stella worked to give vulnerable families a chance changing their lives in the process.
Organisers are keen to hear about anybody that is thought deserves to be nominated and welcome nominations made for anyone who lives or works in the borough whatever their age.
The closing date for nominations is Friday 18 December 2015.
For a hard copy of the nomination form please contact Jo Whitehouse in Democratic Services on 01922 654368.
We have been informed by Walsall Council that proposals are being made to demolish and replace the now-derelict former ‘Bulls Head’ public house in Park Road, off Bloxwich High Street.
Accord to the developers, Bromford Developments:
“Proposals are to be submitted for the redevelopment of the long vacant former pub site for residential purposes. The ambition is to provide a place full of opportunity and promise and bring life back to this derelict and unsafe site.”
Once one of Bloxwich’s best-known watering holes, the 1928 Bull’s Head, the second pub of that name on the site, closed in the summer of 2007 amid reports of violent incidents, and was later targeted by vandals and arsonists in November 2010, leaving the upstairs and roof burnt out. Since then it has been boarded up and vandalised even further.
The mock-Tudor styled building, which replaced its genuine 16th-century namesake, which was famed for the legendary ‘Bloxwich Wishing Tree’ outside its doors, in 1928, has been a local landmark since living memory, but went into decline in the last years of its life, partly due to the economic downturn and partly due to a troubled reputation.
As far back as 2012, it was looking like the badly-damaged pub would be taken over and rebuilt as a Wetherspoon’s pub, but this did not go ahead, and instead J.D. Wetherspoon converted the old Grosvenor Cinema at the other end of High Street, which re-opened as ‘The Bloxwich Showman’ earlier this year.
Bromford Developments go on to say:
“We would like to advise you of a planning application that Brooke Smith Planning are preparing on behalf of Bromford Developments Ltd, for the redevelopment of a long vacant site.
“A fire in 2010 caused significant damage to the former pub, leaving it structurally unsafe and is now at a stage where it is beyond repair. Despite active marketing, there has been little interest in the site coming back to life as a pub, or alternative retail use.
“Bromford have great aspirations to bring life back to this site with proposals for 14 self-contained apartments for Adults with Learning Disabilities, to be provided through one of Bromford’s innovative housing support models. Bromford’s housing initiatives have been met with great success and have proven results of decreases in dependency.”
Bromford have said that they would welcome local people’s views on the proposals, so that they “…can pursue the best possible development of the site that will not only provide a solution to a need, but will do so in a way that is supported by the local community.”
All comments are welcomed by Bromford and must be submitted by 16th October 2015.
You can either download and fill in the consultation questionnaire, which includes more information and a picture of the proposed apartments, via this link- Bulls Head Consultation – and return it to : Bulls Head Consultation, Brooke Smith Planning, The Cloisters, 12 George Road, Birmingham, B15 1NP, or log onto the following website: www.brokesmithplanning.com/consultation
Walsall’s first town centre cinema for two decades continues to rise from the ground with the scheme just months away from completion.
The 8 screen complex will be run by The Light Cinema and is expected to be finished next spring.
Five bars and restaurants are included in the first phase of the development, which include Hungry Horse, Bella Italia, Pizza Express and Chiquitos. Property developer Kier is in advance negotiations with the fifth tenant for the final unit in phase one.
Kier is expected to complete its handover to the tenants next month, whereupon the cinema operator will kit out the building with the latest hi-tech Extreme screen, which delivers a more intense experience through super-high quality audio and visual.
Walsall’s last town centre cinema (The Cannon, originally the ABC/Savoy) closed in 1993. The 1930s art deco ‘super cinema’ was replaced by the Woolworths building at the top end of Park Street, now occupied by Poundland and Pure Gym near the New Art Gallery.
Walsall Council’s deputy leader, councillor Adrian Andrew was given a tour of the facility earlier today, and said that this latest scheme was another key piece in the jigsaw of regenerating the town.
“I’m delighted to see with my own eyes that Walsall’s new cinema is on track to open early next year,” he said.
“People are not going to be disappointed with this venue, which will nicely complement the existing leisure facilities in the Waterfront area.
“The £65m Waterfront development has been a resounding success so far, regenerating 17 acres in the town and creating hundreds of jobs in the process.
“There aren’t many towns in the UK that can boast the same degree of regeneration as Walsall.
“Kier and its contractor G F Tomlinson, together with The Light are committed to completing the project on time in early 2016.”
Phil Dove of The Light Cinema added: “This is a wonderful location for Light Cinemas and we are looking forward to working with everyone in Walsall. It’s incredible to see what’s already happened and the exciting plans for further regeneration.
“We’re confident that the Walsall public will very much appreciate this bespoke cinematic experience. The Light offers a unique social vibe and meets the individual and collective needs of the community.”
Kier has agreed terms with three additional operators for the second phase and has one unit remaining of up to 5,000sq ft, which could be split for the right operator. Interested parties should contact Nick Ferris of Jones Lang LaSalle in Leeds or Stuart Burdon-Bailey of Jones Lang LaSalle in Manchester.
As part of Walsall Council’s spending cuts, the cash-strapped local authority is currently considering changes to the borough-wide bin collection services.
Part of this consideration involves a public consultation exercise. The proposal is that all bins will be emptied on alternate weeks to save money. Local residents can now have their say on options for how this proposal will be implemented.
At the moment there are two different collection options available that will help to deliver the savings the Council needs to put towards the savings of £82 million over the next four years which the government requires it to make. They would like to know which of the two options would be preferable to your household. To help them to understand how this may affect you they want to know things such as, how many people live in your household, which bins you use and how you recycle.
The Council says that while the change to fortnightly collections has been agreed, no decision has yet been made on the options for how this will be implemented, and residents’ response will help them to select the best solution for Walsall – obviously within the framework of overall budget cuts .
The closing date for responses is 30 September 2015 and the public’s views will be considered carefully before the final decision is made in December 2015. Results of the consultation will also be made available on the Walsall Council website.