Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Greater Birmingham

Over on Brum Blog Pete Ashton brings to light an article from TEN4 Magazine entitled “Why can’t Birmingham do it like Manchester?” The article raises some good points, primarily focused on music festivals and the performing arts, however it is the comment by “Jean-Luc Fournier” which catches Pete’s attention.

Rather than me reprinting the comment I encourage you to pop on over to either BrumBlog or TEN4 to check it out. The gist of it is the great idea that we should unite the “West Midlands” area under the new title of “Greater Birmingham.” As you can see in the comments to Pete’s blog entry, not everyone agrees with the idea, but personally I can’t see how it would hurt. I can understand why local areas want to remain distinct rather than being thrown under the big Birmingham umbrella, but it’s not as if the history or character of any particular place is going to be erased or rewritten. “Greater Birmingham” would make the area much more easily identifiable, which can only help to increase awareness globally. Then again, perhaps that’s something people don’t want / care about.

*Fast Forward to the London Olympics, 2012*
Scenario A
Tourist A: Hey, let’s go to the Black Country Museum!
Tourist B: Great idea! Where’s that??
Tourist A: Hmm, “Greater Birmingham”…. hmm… Birmingham’s not too far away, so yeah, let’s go!

Scenario B
Tourist A: Hey, let’s go to the Black Country Museum!
Tourist B: Great idea! Where’s that??
Tourist A: Hmm, “Dudley” in “The Black Country”…. eh?? Where the frell is that? forget it.

Live Earth 07/07/07

“Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned;
Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”

– American Indian Proverb

And there’s coverage from around the Metblog network, over in London (where one of the biggest concerts is taking place in the new Wembley stadium!) and Lahore. The guys over in LA have also pointed out that Al Gore’s son has been busted for speeding and illegal possession of drugs, but at least he was driving a hybrid, right?

Birmingham City Council recycles hot air

Birmingham City Council have announced that they intend to become an “example of international best practice in recycling“. Currently they collect paper only from the vast majority of households. Last year I called them to ask about collections of other materials such as plastics, aluminium and glass. Their response was that they were still considering their options and such collections may be rolled out in the future.

Paper collections are hit and miss at best with collections being scheduled on alternate weeks but frequently paper left out for collection is left uncollected. Also many many paper products are excluded from what can be put in the recycling bags, often for apparently spurious reasons. For example at a time when we are advised to shred all mail before disposing of it shredded paper is banned from the recycling bags on the grounds that collectors may cut them selves on the sharp edges, the council’s Environmental department apparently never having heard of gloves.

City Council Drops Open Source

An article on is reporting that the project to introduce Open Source Software to libraries in Birmingham has “failed”. The article claims that the project cost £534,710 just to get 200 PCs up and running the FREE software! How on earth can they justify spending that much? Apparently the original goal was to set up 1500 such PCs, however this “was a figure plucked from the air at the time.” Hmm… plucking figures from thin air? Now there’s a sign of good project management.

A commentator on the original article also provides further insight on the failure of the project:

1) A trial of 4 differently configured Linux desktops (Ubuntu-based) and one Sun Java Desktop machine was held at Birmingham’s central library in the summer 2005. A local research company was employed to measure the outcomes of the double-blind trial, specifcally which configuration was viewed as the best by participants. The Linux desktops took the top four spots with Sun’s Java Desktop coming in last. Unsurprisingly the report was never published. BCC are a major Sun client.

2) The Open Source community… was entirely excluded from the project after the initial trial. BCC IT’s department thought they could undertake the deployment themselves.

3) BCC selected an obsolete version of Suse Linux rather than the Ubuntu desktops that won the Library trial. They were unable to replicate the winning desktop configuration because the IT department accidentially erased it.

Stephen Booth wrote a couple of entries on this topic last year (well, regarding the trial that was held in the central library), so perhaps if he’s around here somewhere he can give us his insider’s point of view on the matter!

Two hundred and fifty quid per person to distribute free literatue

Birmingham City Council have introduced an annual fee of £250 per person for any organisations wanting to distribute free literatue (free newspapers, leaflets, brochures, cards &c) in designated areas in the city centre, pretty much anywhere within the Queensways (see linked page for full list of roads and areas). This is billed as a step to reduce littering but could have a devastating impact on charities, unions, pressure groups and other cash strapped organisations who need to spread their message to raise awareness of important issues and/or the funds to do their work.

More congestion at New Street

Plans have been announced to reduce the number of trains that stop at Birmingham International station. It is feared that this will increase congestion at New Street station as passengers who would have entered Birmingham or changed trains at International will now be forced to do so at New Street. Further, health and safety concerns over the increased traffic through the station may even force the station to close a peak times!

At time when public transport, rail in particular, is being encouraged due to fears around global warming it seems ludicrous to hamstring rail travel in the Midlands, especially given how many services pass through Birmingham.

Community retake centre

Birmingham city council had closed Sparkbrook’s ‘Cottage of Content’ community centre and designated it for auctioning off to developers, a local collective decided to take it back, refurbish it and return it to community use.

Sparkbrook, a largely Muslim (Asian and, increasingly, East African) area is amongst the many deprived areas of the city, ignored by the city councillors in preference for Mosley and their prestige projects in the city centre, and the white elephant of “Eastside” (aka the arse end of Digbeth). Like most areas with a mix of ethinic groups at different stages of immigration, tensions can run high and integration of communities is difficult. The recent political campaigns of the BNP and Liberal Democrats (who preyed on the fears of the non-White population in their “It’s a two horse race” campaign, claiming that only a vote for the Liberal Democrats could keep the BNP out) have not helped settle concerns or deal with tensions.

Perhaps reclaiming of a community centre will help?

WaterAid Campaign

This isn’t Birmingham-centred at all, I just wanted to get the word out :)

IKnit, in conjunction with WaterAid, have started a petition to raise awareness of global poverty and the lack of accessibility to clean water and sanitation. This is a petition with a difference! Instead of a signature – knit a blue square, 15cm x 15cm! They will be sewn together, and taken to Downing Street. There’s more information on the links above.

I’ll be taking part, I’d like to knit more than one, I think.

All Out! All Out!

Following the strike and rally about local government pensions the government has still not budged on it’s position of decimating the scheme. The various unions have therefore resigned themselves to further strikes.

Instead of one single national day of action a 3 day rolling action has been planned with the Birmingham (and the rest of the West Midlands) strike scheduled for the 27th of April. Further action has been mooted for the 3rd and 4th of May, this would almost certainly impact on the local elections.

Council blows big bucks, again.

Having spent the better part of £3million (and countless officer hours) on procuring a contract with Capita group which they claim will save the council £1billion over 10 years (yet are unable to give any solid indication of how it will save them the £100million a year) we hear that Birmingham City Council has blown nearly half a million on restoring a clock in Sutton Coldfield. This, and other ‘prestige’ projects are sucking cash out of the council budgets. Sutton, the most affluent area in Birmingham, has taken 23% of council capital expenditure whilst social projects in other areas that would greatly improve the lives of many citizens have been scrapped due to lack of cash.

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