12 January 2024
Weekly Message to Constituents 196 - Real progress and optimism as our Town Hall gets up to £1 million of regional taxpayer support

Before I share some great news about Sutton Coldfield, first a note about this weekly Friday message. I have heard from some recipients of this message that my Friday message occasionally lands in people’s junk inbox! (outrageous, I agree!)

If this is ever the case for you, you can add this email address to your contacts so that this weekly message lands in your main inbox, or you can mark me as a ‘safe sender’.

In the Constituency

I want to express my profound gratitude to our Regional Mayor Andy Street for recognising how important to the Royal Town our beloved Town Hall is and the need now to gear up investment as part of the Regeneration of central Sutton.

Our vision is that Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Hall revamped and regenerated as a major local centre of the Arts and so much more, appeals to all ages as a cherished community asset invested in by our generations, for future generations to come.

Our Community Trust which owns the Town Hall Venue on behalf of us all and of which I have the privilege of being the president, has secured a substantial grant of up to £1 million from the West Midlands Combined Authority under the leadership of Mayor Andy Street. 

In Spring 2024, work will begin on Phase 1 of a long-awaited major capital makeover to restore, improve and modernise our unique heritage landmark which is now being used as a major cultural venue in the town. 

Work to install a new replacement roof and restore the stone balustrades in the Edwardian part of the building will get underway. This will improve the building’s physical resilience while enhancing its appearance in the Conservation Area. 

At the same time, a new employment and training hub for new apprentices is being created as well as opening up the adjoining public open space with a new landscaped pedestrian walkway. This will make it easier for commuters, visitors and commerce from Sutton Coldfield Railway Station and nearby Town Centre to get to the Town Hall and the cultural historic centre around the High Street which consists of the Town Hall Venue, retail outlets, bars/pubs and professional services.

These exciting projects will herald the start of Sutton Coldfield’s regrowth – right in its thriving cultural heart. And, very much with the involvement of local people, communities and businesses, the Trust is developing a community-based and diverse arts, cultural and performance “hub” for the future. 

We are looking forward to welcoming even more people to join with us in making this wonderful building the centrepiece of our community. 

Want to find out how you can get involved? Then please contact Claire Bridges, Chair (Business) Royal Sutton Coldfield Community Town Hall Trust at enquiries at enquiries@suttoncoldfieldtownhall.com

There are many people we should all thank for their hard work over months and years. It is of course invidious to mention names but a particular heartfelt thanks go to Claire Bridges, Richard Mason, Russell Ludlam and councillor David Pears, as well as our brilliant regional mayor Andy Street.


Cottage Hospital update

My first meeting of the day today was with Richard Kirby Chief Executive Officer of Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, regarding the development at Sutton Cottage Hospital.

I will be reporting about this in detail in next week’s message.


Mini Me Café at the Gracechurch Centre

You may recall that I mentioned the new ‘Mini Me’ café, a role play café in the heart of the town centre, a few months ago in my weekly message, and today I paid a visit. 

Mini Me Role Play is an innovative children's role play centre that aims to create a unique and immersive fun learning experience for young children. Helen, the founder and an early year’s teacher with a decade of experience, was thrilled to bring Mini me Role Play to Sutton Coldfield.

Mini Me Role Play believe in the power of learning through play, and the centre is thoughtfully designed to offer children a dynamic and immersive environment where they can engage in imaginative play were big dreams and imagination flourish. Through pretending to be doctors, chefs, or community helpers, kids explore various roles and scenarios. The benefits of role play are manifold, fostering creativity, problem-solving skills, language development, and social interaction. Helen and Mini Me café are committed to providing a space where children can learn, grow, and express themselves in a fun and supportive setting.

Helen said she was dedicated to contributing to the improvement of our local community, and Mini Me have enjoyed much local support since opening. Mini Me Café is one of the many small businesses bringing Sutton back to its best, located in the heart of our town centre.

Here is a link to the business: https://minimeroleplay.com/about-us/


The Town Centre

Today I met with the town centre team, including the West Midlands authority and the Chief Executive of Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, on the strong and ongoing progress of our Master Plan and our town centre’s regeneration. I will report further on this in a fortnight’s time, in the message on 26th January.


Saving Our Cinema

Just before Christmas break, I shared the fantastic news that our local cinema had been saved from closing down after it was acquired by PDJ Cinemas. 

Today, I had a meeting with Tony Whitehead who has been leading Future of Cinema in Sutton Coldfield (FoCiS) and with whom I have been working closely. 

I am hoping to visit the site soon before much needed renovation begins, which is estimated to take 6 months. This means that, hopefully, our cinema will be back later this year.

Above: Tony Whitehead and I, from our meeting today


Fairfax Academy unveils life-saving defibrillator ‘at the heart of the community’

A life-saving defibrillator has been fitted outside the entrance of a school which prides itself as being at the heart of its community.

The device, which can help and support a rescue for a patient in Cardiac Arrest, was unveiled on December 22 outside Fairfax Academy, off Fairfax Road, in Sutton Coldfield just before students broke up for Christmas.

Funded by Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council in partnership with the Community Heartbeat Trust, the defibrillator is accessible to members of the public around the clock, saving vital seconds in potentially life-threatening emergencies.

Fairfax Principal Sean Castle joined Reddicap Town Councillors Richard Parkin and Tony Briggs to officially unveil the device, which can be found outside the school gate.

Mr Castle said: “We work hard at Fairfax to be an integral part of the local community, whether that’s instilling our ‘ARKS’ values of Ambition, Respect, Kindness and Safety in our students or getting involved in local events and activities like litter picks.

“As one of the best-known buildings in any community, a school is also a great location to host a device like a defibrillator, and Fairfax is delighted to be able to provide a place to fit a defibrillator that could literally help save lives.

“Our school is at the heart of our community, so it seems the perfect place for it.”

Councillors Richard Parkin said: “We are vert grateful to Fairfax for providing such a prime suite for the defibrillator.

“Working with the Community Heartbeat Trust, the Town Council leads the way in Birmingham in spreading the availability of these life-saving devices, and has now installed 25 defibrillators across Sutton Coldfield since 2017.”

Above: Fairfax Principal Sean Castle joined Reddicap Town Councillors Richard Parkin and Tony Briggs our Royal Town Mayor


Pop star Jessika returns to Arthur Terry to inspire students

An up-an-coming pop star inspired students at her old school when she took to the stage to perform – backed by a band made up of current students. 

Singer-songwriter Jessika – real name Jessica Sweetman – is making a big noise in the USA, after signing a contract with New York-based recording company BMG.

The talented singer, who grew up in Sutton Coldfield, made headlines last year after the famous recording company’s boss discovered she had been secretly sleeping in their studios – and rewarded her dedication and talent with a contract offer.

And on Wednesday, December 20th she got to tell her inspirational story to students when she returned to the Arthur Terry School, which is part of the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership.

Jessika said: “It was amazing being back at Arthur Terry - as soon as I walked in I just stood there for a minute and thought ‘wow!’

“The school has completely changed since I was here but there are parts that haven’t – and one of those parts is the backstage area. When I went back there it was like being transported back – I thought ‘yes, this is the same!’

“This school has been amazing to me – I studied drama here and was in Jesus Christ Superstar here and Les Misérables. But when I look back, I realise was always actually a very shy person at school, before then music brought me out of myself. 

Jessika performed two short sets of her own material to students at the school in Kittoe Road, including songs with a live backing band made up of current students Astrid Wilson on guitar, drummer Maria Pitsillidis, bass player Joe Boyle and Sophie Powell on keyboard.

For the full story and video, click here: https://suttonschoollife.co.uk/2024/01/11/arthur-terry-alumni-jessika-returns-to-inspire-students/


Birmingham City Council

There is fury this week in Sutton Coldfield at the announcement by Birmingham City Council seeking to raise council tax by up to 21%. Sutton Coldfield Conservative Councillors are fighting tooth and nail for Royal Town residents and strongly opposing this appalling increase.

In stark contrast to the Birmingham City Council, our brilliant regional mayor, Andy Street, has kept the precept locked at the same rate and pledges to do so for years to come. Birmingham wants to increase our council tax by 21% over the next 2 years while Andy Street HAS KEPT HIS CHARGES FLAT NOW FOR 7 YEARS WITH NO INCREASE.

And in addition, the royal Sutton Coldfield town council have kept their charge ABSOLUTELY FLAT ONCE AGAIN THIS YEAR WITH NO INCREASE WHATSOEVER. 

No wonder that this week my office in the House of Commons and in Sutton Coldfield has been inundated with emails and messages complaining about BCC financial incompetence. 

I have asked two of our councillors who serve on both the RSCTC and BCC to contribute updates this week so that my constituents know the facts about what is going on.

Please see below reports from Cllr Ewan Mackey, Deputy Leader of Conservative Group on Birmingham City Council, and Cllr Richard Parkin who represents Reddicap on both councils.


‘It was only a matter of when, not if, Birmingham City Council would look to reach into the pockets of hard working residents to pay for their disastrous handling of the city’s budget. The announcement that Leader, John Cotton, has asked to increase council tax by 21% over the next two years is not a surprise, but it is still a bitter pill to swallow.

‘Sutton Coldfield residents who log onto Birmingham City Council’s (BCC) website to pay for their annual garden waste service over the weekend will be in for a nasty shock.


Tesco Winter Food Collection

 I was so pleased to hear that Royal Town residents donated a massive total of 4,873 meals during Tesco’s 6-day Winter Food Collection between 27th November and 2nd December. These were donated to the Trussell Trust.

This is just one example of Sutton Coldfield’s charitable and open-handed nature, which makes me so proud to be the Town’s Member of Parliament.

Above: My last visit to the New Oscott Tesco food collection drive. Here with a Trussell Trust representative.


West Midlands Mayor-PCC Merger Consultation 

The Home Office has launched a consultation on the transfer of the PCC powers to the Mayor, so that they can hear the views of local residents and push for the best course of action to ensure effective Policing across the West Midlands and indeed, the Royal Town. 

If you would like to respond to the consultation and make your thoughts and concerns heard, please follow the link below where you can tell the Home Office your priorities for West Midlands Police and your perspective on the West Midlands Mayor-PCC Merger:


The closing date for the consultation is January 31st.

As your local MP, I will continue to monitor this situation very closely and will always push to make sure residents' concerns are heard and ensure effective policing throughout the Royal Town.


Action Day

On Saturday, we were out and about around Roughley distributing surveys and consulting local residents on their views. 


Above: seen here out and about, Cllr Simon Ward leader of the Sutton Coldfield town council, Cllr Ewan Mackey deputy leader of Conservative Group on Birmingham City Council, Cllr Richard parkin who like Ewan Mackey serves on both the Town council and BCC representing Reddicap, Cllr Ken Wood who works so hard in Walmley and Minworth, and his wife Barbara Wood.


NOTICE: next week on Saturday morning (20th January), Mayor Andy Street and I will be distributing questionnaires and speaking to residents out and about in Walmley and Minworth. If you’re interested in getting involved email Jack.Annett@conservatives.com

In the Commons

This week the House of Commons returned from recess.


Statement on Israel and Palestine


On Monday, I gave a statement to the House of Commons on the situation in Israel and Palestine. This was then followed by 70 questions from colleagues across the chamber.


If you would like to, you can watch the debate here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/65bfd2b4-4cf6-4b9f-888f-09a721b491e2?in=15:34:36


Westminster Hall debates


On Wednesday I spoke in the Westminster Hall debate about the UK Government policy on Afghanistan.


You can watch it here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/42a6d0f4-6310-43cf-8dc3-75ca4bf10688


I then spoke In the Westminster Hall debate on Dementia Services in Ukraine.

If you would like to, you can watch it here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/42a6d0f4-6310-43cf-8dc3-75ca4bf10688?in=16:15:33


Further information

MMR immunisation and measles awareness


Measles is circulating in the West Midlands, and the MMR vaccination provides the best protection against measles.


Please be aware of measles symptoms: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/

If you think you or your child may have measles, contact your GP practice but do not visit unless instructed, as measles can spread to others easily, and 1 in 15 children can develop serious complications, such as meningitis and blindness.

For protection against measles, contact your GP practice to get your MMR immunisations.


Learn more: https://bit.ly/46QPPn1

MHRC Locations


Please see below the visits scheduled for the week commencing 15th January of the BCC Mobile Household Recycling Centre.

·       Wed 17/01/2024, Welshmans Hill B73 6RZ , 07:00 - 12:30, Sutton Vesey