Category Archives: Walsall Council

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:

https://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)

 

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

Calling Walsall’s unsung heroes!

Mayor of Walsall, Cllr Angela Underhill, and the Mace Bearers (pic Walsall Council)
Mayor of Walsall, Cllr Angela Underhill, and the Mace Bearers (pic Walsall Council)

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.

Bull’s Head Bloxwich redevelopment – Consultation

The "new" Bull's Head in summer 2007
The “new” Bull’s Head in summer 2007

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.

Bull's Head Burnt Down 6 Nov 10
Firemen damping down the badly burnt Bull’s Head, 6 November 2010 (courtesy Terry Humphries)

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.

Apartments

“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.”

The Bull's Head today
The Bull’s Head today

All comments are welcomed by Bromford and must be submitted by 16th October 2015.

Consultation

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

New Light cinema just months from opening

Inside the new The Light cinema under construction (pic courtesy Express & Star)
Inside the new The Light cinema under construction (pic courtesy Express & Star)

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.

The Cannon cinema after closure, not long before demolition, 1994 (pic Stuart Williams)
The Cannon cinema after closure, not long before demolition, 1994 (pic Stuart Williams)

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.”

CGI impression of how The Light cinema is expected to look when complete.
CGI impression of how The Light cinema is expected to look when complete.

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.

Borough bin collection changes consultation

Bins

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.

Two options for change are being put forward: Continue reading Borough bin collection changes consultation

Council search for family of former Bloxwich railman

Parklands Court, Bloxwich
Parklands Court, Bloxwich

Local residents are being asked to help with the search for relatives of a recently deceased man.

Environmental health officers at Walsall Council are keen to get in touch with any family members of Mr George Brian Leach who passed away in Parklands Court Nursing Home, Park Road, Bloxwich on 4 August.

Mr Leach, who formerly resided at 34 Austin Road, Upper Forster Street, was born in Bloxwich on 8 November 1933.

Aged 81 when he died Mr Leach it is believed that he retired from British Rail and had never been married.

Neil Harris, principal environmental health officer, said: “We would like to pass on our condolences to Mr Leach’s family and friends.

“We would be grateful to hear from any relatives of Mr Leach or anyone who might have helpful information about his family so that they can make proper arrangements for his funeral.

“We appreciate this may be difficult but we encourage anyone with information they think may be useful to get in touch.”

If anyone has any information about Mr Leach’s family they are asked to contact Julie Faulkner in environmental health on 01922 653018.

English Defence League protest in Walsall – Latest

Chief Inspector Martin Hurcombe (pic courtesy Walsall Police)
Chief Inspector Martin Hurcombe (pic courtesy Walsall Police)

Walsall Police’s Chief Inspector Martin Hurcomb has been busy working on the policing plans for next week’s English Defence League protest in the town.

And police say preparations are well in hand for the “peaceful” demonstration  on Saturday 15th August.

Trained police negotiators have been in regular contact with both the EDL and counter protesters to identify their intentions and stress the importance that members protest peacefully.

Organisers have told police they are planning a peaceful protest in Walsall (police have no powers to ban groups from exercising their democratic right to protest) but police say they will take decisive action against anyone who creates disorder or behaves aggressively.

Continue reading English Defence League protest in Walsall – Latest