Published on November 24th, 2016 | by John OMeara0
RUBBISH WINS VOTE IN LOCAL INNOVATION FUND DISCUSSION
The Lozells and East Handsworth Ward Meeting on 22.11.16., which attracted an attendance of 40 people, focused on what the priorities should be for the Local Innovation Fund. The Fund provides a budget of £48,000 for each ward to be spent on locally identified priorities within an existing framework of priorities: children, jobs and skills, housing and health are the overarching ones, but more specific to the Fund are the themes of collaboration, supporting citizens independence and wellbeing, new approaches to investment, clean streets, and improving local centres (click on ‘LocalInnovationFund‘ if you want to go into more detail). Local councillors must have detailed discussions with their constituents in order to form proposals, but they then have to present these proposals to a central Panel for approval.
There was no mistaking the top priority for those in the room: dumping/tipping/littering – the toxic mix of individual and commercial behaviours which produce a sense of despair and outrage when that precious green or pavement area on your street or shared public space is once again submerged under leaking black bags, bits of furniture, old freezers and/or builders’ waste. Several groups in the area have worked on the clearing of ‘grot spots’, and Handsworth Helping Hands in particular have engaged in far more depth in small areas in order to identify the mix of transient tenancies, weak social ties, lack of information, rogue landlords and contractors, and disengaged social housing providers which underlies our rubbish problems. Some ideas began to emerge about how to tackle the issue: some increased Council investment in enforcement was promised, there could be wardens to develop relationships and inform about disposal options, a local planning policy (along the lines of the one developed in Balsall Heath and formally adopted by the Council) which could begin to address the excess of housing multiply-occupied (with or without HMO status) and the protection of open spaces. Running beneath this and other discussions was the tension between on the one hand the idea of this Fund as a way of the Council doing things ‘with’ not ‘to’ local people, and on the other the reality that suggested projects would have to meet the concept of ‘innovation’ held by the central Panel in order to be approved. One option definitely not on the table is CCTV because of its very high cost.
Personal experience came to the fore in discussion about road safety: a member of the public, whose life had been changed by extensive injuries from a local road accident, drew attention to the appalling recent history of deaths on Soho Road and Grove Lane, and received strong support from the meeting for use of the Innovation Fund to address the continuing risks to children and adults alike. The Councillors acknowledged that they hadn’t yet explored the pros and cons of 20mph speed limits and said they would now do this; they have also requested an engineer assessment of the risks on Soho Road. At this stage no other specific proposals have come forward, but there was agreement that road safety be a priority for the Fund.
Several people wanted to see increased support for activities with children (a voluntary football academy and a local school both spoke up about this), but as with some other suggestions the Councillors’ view was that these wouldn’t meet the requirement for innovation, and that there were alternative sources of funding. That process of applying for funding, however, was seen as a priority – to provide more training for local people/groups so that they could successfully apply for funding from grant giving organisations. And there was sufficient desire to see the needs of local children met in some way by the Fund for that to remain on the table as a priority without any detail filled in at this stage, to which was added a concern that those growing up in Handsworth with special needs or vulnerabilities should as adults be able to find the kind of supportive accommodation they need in their home area.
A plan is needed by the end of January. Councillors will come back to those on the attenders’ list with some ideas based on this discussion and a process for finalising these. If you weren’t there and have ideas about how the Fund should be spent you can contact the Local Governance Manager Lesley Bannister (Lesley.Bannister@Birmingham.gov.uk or tel. 0121 464 4194) or any of the 3 councillors on their Council e-mail addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org)