5 Reasons to Support this “New Dawn” for Leisure Services in Redditch

Abbey Stadium Running Track

As reported in the Redditch Standard, Rubicon Leisure will take over the running of Abbey Stadium, Forge Mill and the Palace Theatre from 1 December this year. The creation of this policy predates my time on the Council, but I happen to fully support it and here’s five reasons why we should all support it too:

  1. It’s not privatisation. The company, Rubicon, is owned by the Council (so ultimately owned by the people) and we set its strategic direction. Any profits are re-invested back into leisure in the town or offsetting council costs.
  2. We get better leisure services. Rubicon can borrow, it can invest, and it can put its profits back into better things for our people. They already have exciting plans for adventure golf at Forge Mill, Parkour and a 3G pitch at the Abbey, and upgrading the clubhouse at Pitcheroak Golf Club. Neat, huh?!
  3. Better jobs. There are up-sides to working for a Council, but there are downsides too. You have Councillors to deal with for starters! Joking aside, Rubicon will be able to develop its staff as part of its investment in people which can take all shapes now they are free of the council.
  4. Concessions remain. Rubicon is required to adhere to the Council’s concessions policy. People will not be left behind by these changes.
  5. Pricing remains competitive. Rubicon will be able to set its own pricing, but remember this is now a company in the marketplace – if prices go too high people will vote with their feet and use competitors instead. I am a family man who uses our leisure services and I would not support these plans if they would price people like me out of the market.

Finally, I want to make an offer to anyone who works in leisure services for the council, or any member of the public. If you are even the slightest bit concerned about anything to do with these changes you are very welcome to email me, set up a call, or even arrange a visit. My door is open. Message me on Facebook to set something up or email me on [email protected]

Leisure transfer moves forward to Full Council vote

As reported in today’s Redditch Standard, the transfer of some parts of leisure services in the town are proposed to be moved to a company that the council will set up. The plans are subject to the vote of Full Council, but with the Conservatives and Labour both supporting the plans at a previous committee meeting the process is very likely to go ahead.

The assets that are included in the proposals include the Forge Mill Needle Museum and Bordesley Abbey Visitors Centre, the Palace Theatre, Pitcheroak Golf Course and the community centres in Winyates Green, on Windmill Drive, in Oakenshaw and in Batchley. 

There are many reasons for the transfer, including savings to the council. It is also about building a leisure service that is better able to respond to the needs of its customers. 

At the previous committee meeting (Executive Committee) the Labour delegates tried to put forward an amendment to allow a competition to run for the naming of the new company. With the company planned for starting-out on 1 October ahead of a full go-live date of 1 December there just isn’t enough time to run a proper and fair competition – to do anything less than a proper job of it would be a disservice. I’m a little perplexed why the Labour group didn’t include this in the original plans when they were in control for six years?

It remains to be seen whether or not Labour will attempt to bring the same amendment at Full Council. 

Updated Advice on Bin Collections from the Council – Tue 4th Sept 2018

Church Hill Redditch: Vote for Mike Rouse

The following has just been issued as a press release from Redditch Borough Council. The bit that affects Church Hill residents is that this Friday’s green bin collection should be back to normal, and next week’s grey bin will also be back to normal by then too. I will keep you all updated if this changes through my Facebook Page.

Advice on waste collection services in Redditch issued today (Tuesday 4th September).

The service is approximately 1 day behind so in order to catch up we have put a plan in place to get collections back to normal by next week.

If your bin is usually collected on a Tuesday, please leave your bin out on Wednesday.

If your bin is usually collected on a Wednesday, please DO NOT put your bin out this week and we will return to collect double the amount on your next green bin collection date. Extra recycling should preferably be put in cardboard boxes and left at the side of the bin for collection.

Green bin collections will run as normal this week for residents whose bins are usually collected on Thursday and Friday.

Next week’s grey bin collections should run as normal.

Cllr Brandon Clayton, whose portfolio covers Environmental Services, said: 

“After an incredible series of unforeseen issues last week, from staff sickness to vehicle breakdowns, our teams have worked very hard to catch up so that now we are only a day behind where we should be.

“Unfortunately with grey bin collections hanging over from last week, we have had to prioritise collecting these over collecting all of the recycling rounds. Whilst we are sorry that this will affect our residents whose bins are normally collected on a Wednesday, we have agreed that the teams will collect any extra recycling left out on their next recycling collection day.

“We’re very sorry if you have been affected by the issues in any way but if all goes to plan we should be back on track for next week’s collections.

“We can then move forward, assess the situation and put in place long-term plans to ensure that the service is stable for the future, reducing the risk of a repeat occurrence.”

ENDS

Bin Collection Disruption in Redditch: Why and How Long?

Church Hill Redditch: Vote for Mike Rouse

As the new administration on Redditch Borough Council we have been hard at work trying to bring financial balance to the books. One area that has massively overspent in the last year is around refuse collection and in particular the use of agency staff, which was only intended to plug gaps around sickness and holiday leave. The overspend was in the region of £120,000, and as we got the financial data for the current year it became apparent this overspend was continuing.

As the new administration on Redditch Borough Council we have been hard at work trying to bring financial balance to the books. One area that has massively overspent in the last year is around refuse collection and in particular the use of agency staff, which was only intended to plug gaps around sickness and holiday leave. The overspend was in the region of £120,000, and as we got the financial data for the current year it became apparent this overspend was continuing.

So the council is trying to change how things work. Gone is the spending on agency workers. Some of the regular agency workers have now been taken on to full-time contracts with the council, giving them a bit more job security and helping the council to control costs. 

How long will disruption continue?

Unfortunately, the answer to this isn’t straightforward. The council needs to change the working practices of the staff  – and apply it across two councils owing to our service being shared with Bromsgrove. This involves proper processes and consultations with staff, unions and other partners.  The sooner everyone can agree to the changes the sooner the disruption can end. 

This could mean disruption continues for weeks yet. Although the bins will all be emptied, they might not be emptied on the intended day (which is Friday in Church Hill). Any missed collections are prioritised for the next working day – Tuesday in the case of Church Hill as the service only runs from Tuesday to Friday. Residents are advised to leave their bin out until Tuesday, making sure it is kerbside by 7AM on Tuesday ready for collection.

Get updates and alerts about issues in Church Hill

I have set up a ‘virtual Councillor’ chatbot on Facebook. This can provide you with reminders and alerts about things that affect Church Hill residents. It can also help you with a range of questions and issues. 

  • Click here to subscribe to local alerts and broadcasts about Church Hill

  • Our Town Hall wouldn’t make a good block of flats

    At our last Executive Committee meeting (Tuesday 14 August 2018) the Conservative-led administration on Redditch Borough Council put forward changes to the plans around the regeneration of Redditch town centre. There are two major changes:

    1. The idea of building a £12m new Town Hall at the back of Smallwood Hospital is over – there will be no ‘office district’ in this location as there is no longer evidence to support it.
    2. The idea of turning our Town Hall into flats is taken off the table – instead we will look to converting the Town Hall into the central ‘public services hub’ that the £12m project above was going to address. It will be significantly cheaper to host the ‘hub’ in an existing building and the Town Hall is massive and very suitable to the task.

    I voted in favour of these plans. This means there is no realistic prospect of the Town Hall being turned into flats. You only have to look at Threadneedle House next door and the array of ‘To Let’ signs on the side of the building to see the demand for housing in this location is very low right now.

    Signs on the side of Threadneedle House in Redditch

    I sincerely hope the market picks up for the properties in Threadneedle House. The apartments were done to a high standard and deserve to be loved as homes for people. The last thing they need is competition from another 100+ flats in the building right next door.

    What’s the Redditch Conservative Plan for Housing in the Town Centre?

    It’s simple: we will do our bit to unlock the housing market in Redditch by building more council houses on more sites, giving Redditch people an opportunity to live in a safe, quality and affordable place they can call home.

    We have already stated that we are going to build a lot of council homes. Exactly how many and where is going to be revealed in due course and according to the proper democratic process, but it won’t be difficult to build more than Labour did in the 6 years they ran council. That’s because the Labour-run council built zero council homes in their time. Not one. 

    So the next time you hear Labour in Redditch bang on about building homes for all the homeless people in the town, and the families and the doctors and nurses who need them – just remember, they didn’t build a single one in six years.

    When it comes to residential accommodation in our town centre we believe the best answer is build homes where people want to live, not to convert a 1980s Town Hall into a block of flats and ‘shove’ people into them, killing off our Palace Theatre in the process. This means building desirable properties in desirable locations, and it means working with partners to ensure people have the one thing socialists hate: freedom to choose. 

    Rebutting Labour’s Smear Attack

    I first became aware that Labour had carried out a personally-based smear attack against me on Saturday evening when a colleague pointed it out to me.  Here’s the post they put out:

    The problems with this post:

    • The photograph of me is one I took – and therefore own. The Redditch Labour Party has infringed my copyright by creating this unauthorised works that features my image without permission. They’ve broken the law.
    • Yes, I did say Redditch isn’t growing as fast as you think – that’s true. See my post here with charts and all sorts. It’s an indisputable fact that the population growth has plateaued.
    • The next comment is taken out of context from a conversation I was having with Lee Daykin, a Conservative supporter who (like me) feels passionately about the plight of the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. We disagree on a number of points, but we have a civilised debate. You can read the whole discussion by clicking here. Feel free to jump in too.  Labour’s Facebook army scoured the comments looking for this quote, and deliberately took it out of context.  Here’s the full context of the comments (click to enlarge it – I’ve highlighted the section Labour lifted to power their graphic):

    • At no point did I ever claim that birthing rates were the reason for the movement of services from the Alex. To suggest that I have said this is a complete lie.
    • Labour then said I wasn’t telling the truth – they are calling me a liar.  A bit rich, don’t you think? You can see the full thing for yourself.
    • They then end with the hurled insult “you need to use your nouse when listening to Rouse” – like something out of a 10 year old’s playground.

    It gets even more interesting. A local resident who is one of the nicest men I’ve ever met – and who I got to know before standing for election – speaks up for me:

    I replied with a comment that has since been deleted and got me blocked by Redditch Labour Party (click it to enlarge it).

    Do you see anything in here that deserves to get me blocked? Here is Labour’s response to my challenge over it.

    I still have not been told who the Secretary of the Redditch Labour Party branch in Redditch is, and I still have not been told how I can raise my formal complaint.

    This post, taken as a whole, is what I consider to be an attempt as part of an ongoing campaign to intimidate me out of public office.

    Never have I, or the Conservatives in Redditch, ever attempted to smear or intimidate a Councillor holding public office in the town.  We have attacked Labour on their record, but we have never made crude photoshopped graphics of them, smeared misinformation about a sensitive topic all over it and attributed things to their Councillors that they never said.

    The above post has been shared by Parliamentary candidates and Labour Councillors.

    The following is taken from Labour’s own social media policy, which you can read in full for yourself:

    “A starting point for all our actions as members of a party and a movement is to treat all people with dignity and respect.”

    It goes on:

    “Harassment, intimidation, hateful language and bullying are never acceptable … It is perfectly possible to have vehement disagreements without descending into personal abuse, shaming people or exhibiting bullying behaviour. Forcefully made points and criticisms of the political views of others are totally legitimate, personal attacks are not.”

    It finishes with:

    Trolling, or otherwise disrupting the ability of others to debate is not acceptable, nor is consistently mentioning or making contact with others when this is unwelcome.

    I shall leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide if you think Labour has behaved in accordance with its own social media policy here.

    If you wish to contact me about this post you can reach me on [email protected]

    Fact Check: Is Redditch a Growing Town?

    There is a common notion that ‘Redditch is a growing town’ and whilst more houses are going up (and certainly more affordable housing choices will soon be going up under the Conservative-run council) the data is yet to catch up and actually shows some interesting challenges to the assertion that Redditch is growing. Yes, it is growing, but not as fast as people think.

    I’m actually worried about it plateauing.

    According to ONS mid-year population estimates (2016) the estimated population of Redditch in 2016 was 84,971. This is just 228 higher than the 2015 estimate of 84,743.

    Redditch Estimated Population 201684,971
    Redditch Estimated Population 201584,743
    Redditch Population Change228

    This represents a 0.26904% increase, rounded to 0.27%.  Let’s compare this to our nearest neighbour, Bromsgrove.

    Bromsgrove Estimated Population 201696,769
    Bromsgrove Estimated Population 201595,768
    Bromsgrove Population Change1,001

    This represents a 1.04523% annual growth, rounded to 1.04% 

    There will be towns with higher growth rates and towns with lower growth rates. What’s important is how we handle growth (or shrinkage should that happen).

    I am fully expecting the growth rate to increase as more homes are built inside Redditch. Especially as the Conservative-led council that I represent will be building a lot more council homes than the Labour-led council did over their 6 years in control. More on that another time perhaps, let’s keep it clean. Besides, there’s also private development going in that will hopefully boost these numbers.

    The Plateau

    The chart above shows the population issue we are currently contending with – a plateau.

    More recent data

    The reason I am using the 2016 figures is because this is the data used in a ‘Needs and Assets Profile’ produced by Worcestershire County Council, which relies on ONS figures.   We can however, fast-forward and look at the 2017 mid-year figures, which show the Redditch population at 85,204 – an increase of just 233 from 2016 to 2017 – five more people than the 2015 to 2016 figures. The plateau continues.

    What about the birth rate?

    According to the ONS mid-year figures for 2016 the number of births in Redditch was: 1,101.

    Redditch Births in 20161,101
    Divided by 12 months91.75
    Divided by 52 weeks21.17
    Divide the weekly figure over 7 days3.02

    This seems to indicate that the local demand for births would be around 3 births per day on current figures. It would need to be a lot higher than this to justify full maternity services at the local hospital. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s true. You cannot have a full maternity service with just 3 babies being born there on average per day – this being a crude average you could expect some days to be busy but then some days where there might not be a birth at all. 

    We need to talk about migration…

    The ONS figures turn up something interesting. Perhaps we wouldn’t be seeing the local population plateau if we didn’t see so many people leave Redditch.

    Migration Inflow – Internal UK2600
    Migration Outflow – Internal UK3181
    Net Internal Migration-581
    Migration Inflow – International607
    Migration Outflow – International233
    Net International Migration+374

    The above table shows that 581 more people left Redditch for other UK places to live than came to Redditch from elsewhere in the UK.

    However, 374 more people came into Redditch from overseas than left Redditch to go to an overseas destination to live.

    The difference is -207. There are not enough people coming from overseas to cancel out the number of people departing Redditch for elsewhere in the UK. 

    Deaths

    When looking at populations you do also have to think about the death rate in an area. For Redditch in 2016, according to the ONS figures we have been dealing with, the number of deaths were 679.

    With births at 1,101 and deaths at 670 the difference is a 422 ‘surplus of life’ if I can coin an awkward term. 

    In Conclusion

    Is Redditch a growing town? Yes. But only just. 

    The question we need to be asking is whether or not we want to grow more, and if we do how we go about achieving a stronger rate. I would argue if we want Redditch to avoid becoming known as a sleepy backwater town we need to step things up quite considerably. 

    • House building – this is ongoing and I suspect will lead to an improved rate in the 2018 and 2019 figures when they are released.
    • Business growth – we are seeing more businesses in Redditch with over 3,000 in the town. This doesn’t necessarily mean population growth as people will commute, but strong business means career opportunities and makes people less likely to depart for elsewhere in the UK.
    • Make Redditch an option for people – by which I mean make Redditch a place that people will look at and want to move here. That’s things like making sure the place looks nice, it feels safe, it has plenty of things to see and do, and people can see themselves at home here. Part of that is also around housing choices – making sure people have a good choice of homes rather than the usual square boxes on offer at the moment. 

    Above all, if we want Redditch to be bigger and better, we need to think bigger and better for our town and that starts with all of us living here right now. 

    Feeding back to you about the Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) where I raised a question about the ambulance divert trial

    I recently attended a Health Overview & Scrutiny meeting on 5th July in which the committee looked at the various winter pressures issues that have been widely reported. In the context of managing capacity I asked a question about the ambulance divert trial currently in place that sees patients in the DY10 and DY11 post code areas of Kidderminster being transferred to the Alex in Redditch.

    The draft minutes of the meeting have now been published. I have copied the section about the ambulance divert below to save you having to find them in the PDF yourself: Continue reading “Feeding back to you about the Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) where I raised a question about the ambulance divert trial”

    A good news update for residents about moss and pavement surface issues in Jersey Close

    Earlier this year I got quite a bit of stick from Labour over moss on the pavements around Jersey Close. They seemed to think I was making a legal argument; I wasn’t. It was a moral argument in representation of a resident who slipped on the moss and broke his ankle. More should be done, I argued. Continue reading “A good news update for residents about moss and pavement surface issues in Jersey Close”