3 November 2023
Weekly Message to Constituents 186 - Pushing forward for progress
In the Constituency

Tour of treatment works in Minworth, with Cllr Ken Wood and Cllr Terry Wood

This morning I visited the Severn Trent Minworth sewage works. I made the visit following a number of complaints from constituents in Minworth about unpleasant smells.

I was accompanied by Minworth Birmingham City Councillor Ken Wood and our local Town Councillor and former Royal Town Mayor Terry Wood so that together we could see how we could help our Minworth based constituents address this problem.

The first thing I noticed that has taken place in the 5 years since I last visited was the large amount of investment which has gone into this very important plant which serves around 2 million people in our local area.

It would appear that the offending smell of a fishy nature may have been caused by part of a process which goes on during treatment.

Our councillors and I are pleased to report this is now being addressed in order to diminish the smell for the future. I hope this will indeed now be the case and those who contacted me will see an improvement.

Above: Inspecting new investment at the sewage plant in Minworth, with Cllrs Wood.


Meeting with new owners of the Gracechurch Centre 

This afternoon I had a very good meeting with the new owners of the Gracechurch Centre. Their plans are developing well, and they will start their consultation with stakeholders in a fortnight on November 17th, and thereafter a full public consultation with graphics and plans which we will all be able to consider.


My meeting with Sutton Sisters

Also this afternoon, I had a meeting with the Sutton Sisters- a multi-faith group within the Royal Town deeply concerned at the situation in the Middle East.

We spoke extensively together about the humanitarian situation, and I was able to brief them on the work I have been doing as their MP and as the minister responsible for Britain’s humanitarian efforts to bring aid and humanitarian support to those many people in need of it.


Grace Cross

I was sad to learn of the recent death of Grace Cross who was well known in Sutton Coldfield and much liked. 

In her professional life, Grace ran a manufacturing jewellers in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter for nearly 50 years. I and many others will miss her and remember her with very great affection.

Her funeral will take place at St Paul’s Church, Walsall Road A34 (near Old Walsall Road), Hamstead, Great Barr, Birmingham B42 1ES at 1.30pm on Wednesday, 8 November followed by commitment and cremation at Sandwell Valley Crematorium


Police and Governance in the West Midlands

Following the passing of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act and the amendment enabling the transfer of the powers of the Police and Crime Commissioner to Combined Authority Mayors, our West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has formally written to the Home Secretary to formally start this process.

I am not alone in believing that Andy Street would make an outstandingly good Police and Crime Commissioner and we certainly would not be seeing the appalling proposal to close the Sutton Coldfield Police station.

Please see below his letter to the Home Secretary which I am publishing in full:

West Midlands mayor Andy Street calls for crime commissioner powers - BBC News

Above: Andy Street, Cllr Simon Ward and I


Birmingham City Council

The financial troubles of Birmingham City Council continue to worry us greatly in Sutton Coldfield.

I would like to share the below from one of the Royal Town’s Birmingham City Councillors, who also sits on the Town council, Richard Parkin:

'A couple of months ago I put up a post on Facebook about my frustrating experiences as a first-time elected Councillor (May 2022) at Birmingham City Council (BCC).

I could never have imagined that things would get worse, but regrettably they have. Labour BCC has since declared itself bankrupt and the challenges being faced by Councillors and residents alike have scaled new heights.

The City Council's failings are well documented. Through its own mismanagement and weak governance BCC faces a £760m equal pay liability (which could end up being higher) and an on-going £100m-plus IT fiasco by failing to implement its Oracle system, now over two years late and several times over budget.

As a result the Council is now being run by Government-appointed commissioners with every item of expenditure being questioned and analysed by a Spend Control Board. All ‘non-essential’ spend has stopped and an emergency budget is expected shortly.

As necessary as these drastic measures are you can’t escape the feeling that this is a case of ‘shutting the stable door’ after the horse has bolted.

Whilst every penny of spend is being scrutinized daily, the equal pay liability will continue to rise by up to £14m a month 

if there are further delays between BCC and the Unions in reaching and implementing a job evaluation agreement. And on top of this the external auditors Grant Thornton have confirmed – unbelievably - that the City Council does not even know what its true financial position is because Oracle still isn’t working.

At the moment most residents are not seeing the real impact of the Council’s financial implosion, but cracks are starting to appear.

In the past few weeks some of my recent experiences as Councillor for Sutton Reddicap include:

•      Highways Department unable to write to residents as they no longer have a budget for stamps

•      Flytipping Enforcement Officers not able to carry out their duties as they don’t have funding clearance to pay for putting petrol in their cars

•      A local business not paying BCC rent for 12 months because the Council cancelled its direct debit and has never reinstated it, despite the business owner trying to convince the Council he owes them back rent

•      Schools and other organisations receiving invoices from BCC months late meaning suppliers are not being paid promptly and they could be on the receiving end of non-payment action despite not being their fault

Worthwhile projects in Reddicap, some of which have been developed with residents over the past 18 months, have ground to a halt including:

•      The long overdue and much needed resurfacing of Berryfields Road was supposed to start at the beginning of October, but didn’t and there is no date yet if/when this work will start

•      Proposals for a localised 20mph zone around Hollyfield Primary School have been paused 

•      Enhancements to Newdigate Fields in Falcon Lodge, new wooden trip rails to protect grass areas, installation of locked gates at entrances to council garage sites to prevent flytipping – all of these community projects and many more are now stuck in the system and may never see the light of day

Sutton Reddicap is not alone of course in suffering the consequences of BCC’s ineptitude. Residents and Councillors of all political persuasions across the 69 wards in the city are facing similar issues as the reality of Birmingham's financial nightmare starts to sink in.

But the concern is that the real long-lasting impact of the biggest financial disaster to ever hit a local authority in England is yet to come as we await details of expected service cuts, council tax rises, job losses and asset sales, or more likely a combination of all four.

As bad as things are today I’m afraid there is only worse news to come from Birmingham City Council in the weeks and months to come.’

-       Cllr Richard Parkin, Sutton Reddicap 

Above: Cllr Richard Parkin and I at Falcon Hub Community Hub last year

In the Commons

Last Thursday, Parliament was prorogued so the House of Commons has not been in session this week. The House will return on 7th November for the State Opening of Parliament.

However, as well as my constituency work throughout Sutton Coldfield, my ministerial work continues, above all my work as the humanitarian minister trying to get aid and support into Gaza and to relieve suffering.


Aid into Gaza

I have received much correspondence concerning the humanitarian crisis in Gaza amidst the Israel-Hamas war. 

It is my ministerial duty to see that aid reaches the most vulnerable during such times of conflict.

Following the opening of the Rafah crossing, the Royal Air Force has delivered vital equipment to Egypt in support of aid crossing to Gaza. This will be followed by several further flights to deliver 30 tonnes of vital equipment such as forklift trucks, belt conveyors and lighting towers, which have been specifically requested by UK partners in the region, including the Egyptian Red Crescent.  

You can read more about what we are doing to drive international efforts to deliver humanitarian supplies to the region here: UK airlift to Egypt delivers vital equipment to support aid crossing to Gaza - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


Proposed changes to ticket offices

This week, the Minister for Transport, Huw Merriman MP, wrote to me about the Rail Stations Ticket Office Consultation and its findings. 

Many of my constituents wrote to me highlighting their concerns about the potential for staffed stations becoming unstaffed. I can confirm that this will not now go ahead, and the minister maintains that no currently staffed station should be unstaffed because of the changes.

The Government has communicated to the industry that ticket office reform should not proceed. It is expected that the Train Operating Companies will now withdraw their proposals and for no ticket offices to close.

Further Information

Tonight is the Royal Sutton Coldfield Conservatives Association annual dinner, to be addressed by my friend and colleague Johnny Mercer MP. Pictures to come next week.

Remembrance Day

Sunday 12 November: Service of Remembrance will take place at Holy Trinity Parish Church at 9.45am, followed by a parade to the War Memorial at King Edward Square.   

At 11am the national two-minute silence will be observed at the War Memorial followed by wreath laying. 

Road closures will be in place at various key points around King Edward Square / Anchorage Rd, along High Street, Mill Street and Holland Drive between 18:00 Saturday 11 November until midday on Sunday 12 November 2023. 

Service at All Saints Church starting at 9.45am, followed by a wreath laying service at the war memorial on Belwell Lane at 11am. 

There will be a wreath laying ceremony led by St John’s Church, Walmley at the Walmley War Memorial starting at 10.45am. 

The Department for Health £1 million Defibrillator Fund Now Open

The Department for Health and Social Care has launched a fund to help fund public accessible defibrillators.  

This will provide 2,000 new public access defibrillators for communities across England.  Anyone in Sutton Coldfield can apply. 1900 applications will receive match funding of £750.

Interested? Apply using the link - www.defibgrant.co.uk


Applying for a postal vote

From 1st November, voters will be able to apply online to vote by post. Both online and paper applications will now also require ID Verification, this will be in the form of the voter’s National Insurance Number.

To apply online click here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-postal-vote

MHRC Locations

Please see below the visits scheduled for the week commencing 30th October 2023 of the BCC Mobile Household Recycling Centre.

·      Mon 06/11/2023, Darnick Road B73 6PE, 07:00 - 12:30, Sutton Vesey


Your Town Hall requires donations to protect our heritage building for future use.

We are launching an APPEAL FOR £200k in order to continue to support Your Town Hall and protect it for the future community use, value and enjoyment. 

In this present situation of rising material prices, heating bills and social costs, why should YOU consider supporting your town hall? Because it is a precious historical building, an asset to the area, and the Trust needs support to keep it functioning. 

How to Support:

We are asking you to be as generous as you can, to enable the Town Hall to meet its present commitments. We are relying on your support. Every little helps ! 

Thank you! 

From all of the team at Sutton Coldfield Community Town Hall Trust and the trustees.

Donate with PayPal Giving Fund

You can read and subscribe to the Town Hall’s newsletter here: The Town Hall Presents: Summer is Here! (mailchi.mp)

UK Parliament Week

This year UK Parliament Week (UKPW) is taking place from 6-12 November.

Sign up for your free kit and explore @UKParliament and how to get involved on the issues that matter to you. 

UKPW is a great way to find out about UK Parliament and get a better understanding of the crucial work Parliament does.

#UKPW ukparliamentweek.org  


As your MP I am here to help. If you feel I can assist with any concerns, please do not hesitate to get in contact by emailing me on andrew.mitchell.mp@parliament.uk