Church Hill Coding Clubs Update following Google Bus Visit

The promise of coding club in Church Hill took a step closer when the Google bus rolled into town recently as part of the company’s Digital Garage initiative.  Continue reading Church Hill Coding Clubs Update following Google Bus Visit

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Letter to Editor regarding Voter Turnout

I’ve sent the following letter to the Redditch Standard, which may appear on Friday 11 May 2018. I try to post a full copy of letters here as the papers need to cut things down to squeeze letters in.

Dear Editor,

As I am the living proof that every vote matters after I won the Church Hill ward by a majority of 1, I feel it’s my duty now to remind everyone to make sure they register to vote and then actually go out and exercise their vote when the time comes.

Although I welcome the slightly increased turnout in Church Hill where 1.4% more voters cast their ballot the overall turnout at 31.1% is still way too low.

However, to all those who did vote I offer my humblest thanks, especially to the 333 additional Conservative voters who delivered a 14.7% swing from Labour in Church Hill.

Finally, I pay tribute to outgoing Councillor Nina Wood-Ford who fought with honour and dignity throughout.

Mike Rouse
Conservative Councillor for Church Hill

Thank you for electing me and thoughts from the campaign

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Sorry it’s taken me a few days to pen this article. The post-election period is tough, especially after such a hard-fought campaign. We had all been working on this since August 2017, so it’s been quite a journey.

But as Friday afternoon approached and the votes were being counted in Church Hill I was convinced that Labour appeared to be sufficiently ahead and expected them to be victorious, but that we had perhaps managed to close down the gap in vote share somewhat, but then the piles of votes got closer and closer in terms of their relative size on the table. Things were not as clear cut as I originally thought.

It was then a tense moment as we waited to be called over and be informed what the actual figures were. As we huddled around the Returning Officer and her paperwork I could see I had won by a single vote. That’s right, just one vote.

At this point a recount was quite rightly requested and everyone gathered around to scrutinise the process to ensure that no ballots were mis-counted into the wrong piles. After a while there was a commotion at the nearby table when Labour discovered a vote in their favour and pulled one vote ahead. But then, just as I thought it was all over, the counter in front of me reached the final ballot on the final pile of votes and there it was – a Conservative vote. It was like a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – I had found my ‘golden ticket’.

I was expecting a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th recount, but to be fair the 1st recount was done so carefully and professionally that it was obvious the result wasn’t going to change. We agreed to accept the results as follows:

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Church Hill Election Results 2018

 
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Mike Rouse 766 42.56% 19.60%
Labour Nina Wood-Ford 765 42.50% 9.89%
UKIP Kathy Haslam 128 7.11% -28.15%
Liberal Democrat David Gee 87 4.83%
Green Robert Wardell 54 3.00%
Majority 1
Turnout 1,802 31.1%
Conservative gain from Labour Swing 14.74%

Source: Wikipedia

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My opponent from the Labour Party, Nina Wood-Ford, who won this seat in a by-election in 2014, was gracious in accepting defeat, though it’s obviously a very bitter blow to lose by just one single solitary vote. I cannot imagine how she must be feeling. I really felt for her and very much wanted to offer some comfort, but I’m the last person she would want to hear from at this time. I know there is a lot of resentment towards me from the Labour Party, but I also hope time will be a good healer and we can start to at least talk so we can put the residents of Church Hill first. I will be waiting with olive branches and cups of tea.

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On winning this seat I need to be mindful that a majority of 1 is not a huge endorsement, even though I achieved a swing to the Conservatives of over 14%. I see it as being given the smallest of chances by the residents of Church Hill for the Conservatives to prove ourselves as a party, and me as their Borough Councillor, by doing good work and being dedicated to their cause. I said from the start I would fly the flag for Church Hill in Town Hall and I will do just that.

In being a Councillor for Church Hill I promise I will also be straight and honest with you, even if that means breaking bad news or telling you things you perhaps don’t really want to hear.  I don’t believe in making promises that I can’t deliver on, and I don’t believe in building up false hope.

What’s more I also believe in you, the residents, and your ability to help your local area and solve problems. I will always encourage you to roll up your sleeves and work alongside me to achieve an outcome. I will roll my sleeves up too and we’ll stand side-by-side to get the job done. I can only do so much on your behalf, the rest has to come from you. It’s my job to kick down any doors that are blocking your way.

My pledges

I won this seat on a number of key pledges and I must now deliver on those. Here’s an update on the topics where I have information to share. More to follow.

Doctor’s Surgery on Tanhouse Lane

I have spoken with one of the former GPs and through our town’s MP we have had communications with the land owner. There are a number of ways to tackle the issue and everyone has expressed a willingness to talk and work together for the same outcome. The situation is at a sensitive stage at the moment, so I do need to give that a chance for a couple of weeks, but I will be keeping a close eye on matters and will report back soon.

Moss

I never made a legal argument about moss – it was always a moral argument, especially when a resident broke his ankle as a result of slippery moss. I have proven that residents cannot clear it themselves and have already begun to lobby my colleagues across the Borough and County Council to come up with some solutions. Some of the moss all over Redditch has been there for years and is now causing problems as well as making parts of the town look less than impressive.

Coding Clubs

I have already got a provisional agreement for a little bit of funding to kickstart this initiative and I’m already in early talks with local community groups about delivering it. There is a lot of organisation and preparation work to do on this scheme, but I am making good progress so far.

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Casework/Issues

If you would like to raise an issue with me please use [email protected] for now as my Council email address is still being set up.

You can email me to arrange a phone call if it’s easier to discuss your issue more directly, and you can email me to book a face-to-face appointment too.

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Spotted

Social media is a funny thing. Sometimes I love it, other times not so much. I think it can bring the worst out in people sometimes and I much prefer to bring the best out of people. I’m an optimist.

On Tuesday I noticed a post featuring one of my leaflets appeared on the Spotted:Redditch page on Facebook. It’s always sad to see a leaflet become litter. Breaks my heart.

As I said on my page, perhaps I should arrange another litter pick. That’s a reference to the community litter pick that I worked with Church Hill Big Local to make happen as part of Keep Britain Tidy’s Spring Clean campaign. I initially organised the litter pick under my own auspices before ‘handing over’ to Church Hill Big Local so that they could run it on a full cross-community and cross-party basis.  Imagine my surprise then when I saw a post on the Redditch Labour Party page week later claiming that Tories had ‘hijacked’ the event.  That’s a perfect example of how the Labour Party will just outright lie and twist things for their own gain.

On a lighter note, however, I was actually spotted getting some chips from Church Hill Chippy at lunchtime, which led to a pleasant and lighthearted exchange on social media with a voter. So perhaps this social media stuff isn’t so bad after all.

My Pledge: Community Coding/Robot Clubs

(The above video is intended as an illustrative example of the kind of club we could start)

If I am elected* as your Borough Councillor in Church Hill on Thursday 3rd May I will work with the council and community groups to establish ‘community coding clubs’ in the local area. I will even be willing to run these myself as I am a software developer by trade.

The clubs will teach children from a young age, and could also be open to young adults too if we can get enough support. They will be held in the local area, so easy to get to and at a suitable time of the day.

The clubs will help Church Hill people get the skills they need to understand software development and coding better, and would hopefully lead to Church Hill people being able to access highly-paid jobs in the software industry.

For the younger ones the classes will use robots and kits like Raspberry Pi to teach coding and software development in a fun way. For the older ones we will use more business-focussed activities.

If elected I will work with the Borough and County Council, and government bodies where necessary, to access funding to support these clubs. What’s more, although I will start with Church Hill, I hope to be able to push them out across all of Redditch in time.

These clubs are important to help skill our young people for their future in work where robotics and automation will be prevalent. I want to make sure that Church Hill children are not left behind.

Please get behind this pledge by voting for me on Thursday 3rd May.

  • (I’ll do them even if I’m not elected, just to be clear)

Letter to Papers about Moss

I have sent the following letter to the Editor of the Redditch Standard regarding the ever-growing issue of mossy pavements in Church Hill. This is an issue that needs addressing, though I accept people have mixed feelings about it. Ideally, residents would go out and clear moss on the pavements outside their homes, but some will lack the tools and many will feel it is not their job and they pay taxes for such a thing. When the moss grows so thick and problematic someone ends up breaking their leg on it we know it’s time for something to be done. That’s why I took action one Saturday to help residents in Church Hill, and all Labour have done is criticise and complain whilst doing nothing about it.

Dear Editor,

When a resident in Church Hill contacted me about mossy pavements I was keen to help, especially as they had broken their leg after slipping on it.

I had mixed feelings when I saw a Redditch Borough Council officer came out to spray the moss. It’s great the Council finally started to recognise the problem but spraying it doesn’t clear it especially when it’s been there for so long and grown so thick.

I raised the topic at the April PACT meeting in Church Hill, initially to three empty chairs as none of the current Labour Councillors bothered to turn up; the chair informed us they were too busy campaigning. However, Councillor Witherspoon did arrive towards the end, so I got to repeat myself.

The response was less than satisfactory, sadly. Councillor Witherspoon thought that residents should clear it themselves using vinegar and detergent and pointed out that clearing the moss in Church Hill would mean they’d have to clear it in all of Redditch. I rather thought that was the point of paying Council Taxes.

I decided to take up Councillor Witherspoon’s suggestion, and duly arrived with a Conservative social action team to get stuck in using only the kind of tools residents would be likely to get access to. We set to work, but it would not shift, and thereby proving my point that surely residents cannot be expected to do this themselves. A little moss, sure. A lot, no chance.

But now the Labour council tries to pass the buck to the County Council saying pavements aren’t their responsibility. If this is true, why was someone from the Borough out spraying the moss then? Why do they have a contract from the County to keep pavements clean and clear? It’s precisely to avoid pavements getting so badly damaged they need resurfacing, which is what has happened here.  Even so, the County Councillor for the area for 4 years was one Joe Baker for the Labour Party who failed to act.

Yet again Labour have dithered on this issue and now resort to social media lies, distortion and nastiness. Meanwhile the Conservatives are getting on with the job of helping people and improving our areas.

Kind regards,

 

Mike Rouse

Conservative Party Candidate for Church Hill

Going forwards I will try to copy these letters to my website more, in full and before they are printed. This is so you can read the letter before parts of it get cut out by editors.

Frequently Asked Questions/Points Made

Q1: Isn’t it the County Council’s job?

The County Council only get involved when the pavements need resurfacing. Until then it’s the job of the Borough Council (the more local of the two councils) to keep an eye on the pavements to make sure they are clean, clear and safe.  The Borough Council does this by spraying the moss every know and then to kill it off, but they haven’t done enough of this in certain areas of Church Hill.

Q2: People should clear the moss themselves

In ideal world people would do this. We would have community action days where neighbours join together to clean and clear their street. We can have tea and cake too. But unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where people pay taxes and believe this affords them some level of service in return, such as having their bins emptied. Some people suggest this should also include clearing the moss, and that’s where things get difficult. I agree that when the problem is small perhaps it isn’t too much to expect residents to give the path a little sweep, but when the moss grows so thick there’s a point where we have to say it’s not reasonable to expect this. The moss problems here in Church Hill passed that point a long time ago in some areas.

Q3: You should focus on [insert issue here] instead

Sometimes I wonder if social media is encouraging us to have a very black and white view of the world. As a local councillor it would be my job, if elected, to look at many things and manage many different competing priorities. One day it might be the moss, the next day it might be the bins. Who knows. Issues are not something that have to be dealt with one after another. It’s possible to multitask and manage many competing issues together.

Q4: Tory Cuts

This usually comes in the form of “you wouldn’t need to do [this] if it wasn’t for Tory cuts to council budgets in the first place”. This is an argument deployed by the Labour left alarmingly often. It’s a weak one because it pushes away responsibility for pretty much everything and suggests we could do everything if only we had more money from the taxpayer to spend. Every council has to contend with a budget – just like every household and every business does. It’s called living within your means.  The Borough Council does send people to spray the moss, so obviously they are spending money on it already. Would one more visit at the right time of year be too much to ask?

Have you voted by post yet? Don’t forget to send back your postal vote ASAP

3 Good Reasons to Vote for Mike Rouse

  1. I will find a way to do something about the old doctor’s surgery on Tanhouse Lane. I have already had early discussions to understand the problems in more details and I am confident there is a solution to be had – but I need to become your local Councillor first.
  2. I will run coding clubs in the local community in partnership with local groups. This will allow adults and young people to learn how to become software developers and apply for good jobs in the IT industry. I will run these classes myself as an experienced software engineer who wants to share my expertise to help people.
  3. I will work hard to ensure Church Hill is clean, green and safe. That means I’ll tackle issues around trees, and I’ll work hard across the board to help move other issues forward, such as anti-social behaviour. I can’t claim to solve these problems on my own, but I can be a strong voice for the community.

I lived for 5 years in Donnington Close in Church Hill South. I got married and brought my two daughters home to Church Hill. I grew up in an estate like it. It feels like home, and I want to be a strong voice in the council chamber to make Church Hill the best it can be.

Already voted?

Tell me your details so we don’t keep knocking your door to remind you.

More Details about Voting by Post

You can vote by post, which is when you send your vote to the council in the post so that it arrives by the close of polls (10pm) on Thursday 3rd May 2018. However, I strongly advise you to return your ballots as soon as possible.

If election day (Thursday 3rd May) is looming then bear in mind the time it takes for the Royal Mail to deliver your ballot. Do they have enough time? If not you might be best dropping your postal vote into a polling station on the day. You can do this, it’s fine. Just take it along to any polling station in Church Hill.

To be able to vote you must be registered. It takes around 3 minutes to do it online.
You can also register to vote by post online too (PDF).

Deadline to get your postal vote registration sorted (5pm on Wednesday 18 April 2018)

Postal voting: a step by step guide

Look out for the white envelope with purple edges that is usually sent out two weeks before polling day. Please take great care with the contents. If you lose or destroy them you will need to contact the council immediately.

Open the outer envelope. Inside the outer envelope there will be:

  • One Return Envelope marked ‘B’
  • A single document of instructions explaining how to complete your paperwork
  • Ballot Paper Envelope marked ‘A’, which contains your ballot paper(s), with a security statement attached to it

Take great care not to mix up your documents with anyone else’s in the house.

You can detach the instructions that explain how to complete your paperwork, but do not detach the security statement.

On the security statement, using black pen write your date of birth in the boxes and sign your signature in the boxed area. Take care to use your usual signature. If your signature or date of birth varies from the records you supplied to the council previously, your vote will be rejected. This is just an anti-fraud security measure to protect against abuse of the postal voting system.

In a private place, mark your ballot paper with a clear ‘X’ in the box next to my name – mine is the one with the Conservative Party logo next to it.

When completed, fold the ballot paper and slip it into the pocket of the Ballot Paper Envelope marked ‘A’. Remove the self seal strip from the envelope flap where shown and fold over to seal. Remember, do not detach the security statement.

Place the Ballot Paper Envelope marked ‘A’ and the attached security statement into the Return Envelope marked ‘B’.

Return without delay. The postage is pre-paid. Make sure you send it back so that it arrives by close of poll, which is 10pm on election day. If it arrives later than this your vote won’t be counted!

We need to talk about the old doctor’s surgery on Tanhouse Lane

A Brief Bit of Background

The old doctor’s surgery on Tanhouse Lane served the community for a number of years, but these services have since moved into the new Church Hill Centre, quite literally over the road.

The old premises still belongs to a consortium of GPs, but the land it sits on is owned by someone else who charges a rent to the consortium. There is a covenant on this land requiring it to be used for healthcare purposes, but this can be lifted by the owners if they are willing.

Since the services moved over the road the vacated building has fallen into a poor overall state. It has become a magnet for anti-social behaviour. The owners of the property have tried their best to protect the building from damage and break-ins, but there is only so much they can do. Certainly, if elected I would begin working with them immediately to investigate what security improvements we could make.

What does the community want?

If I am elected I pledge to take forward whatever the community wants to happen in their area, to the best of my ability. I ask people to remember this is private property on private land, so we need to be careful how we approach matters, but it is still important for the community to make its voice heard, which is something I believe the owners would like to hear anyway.

But let’s be clear: this is a hugely complex issue, and it will require a lot of time, effort and energy from some very smart people to figure things out. Change will not come overnight, but if enough of us want it, change will happen.

You can be a part of the change. Have your say. I have prepared a short survey on the issue, below, which you can use to share your ideas and thoughts on this issue.

 

Survey about the old doctor’s surgery on Tanhouse Lane

By submitting a suggestion in the box above you give me permission to email you, including emails to keep you informed about news, events and political life in Church Hill and Redditch as a whole. Your email address will be processed and stored by Redditch County Conservative Association and the Conservative Party and may be used by both organisations to communicate with you. Your data will not be shared with any third parties outside of the Conservative Party. You can withdraw your consent to receiving our emails at any time. This website is promoted by Jane Potter on behalf of Mike Rouse, both at Faraday Business Centre, Windsor Road, Redditch B97 6DJ.

The Brendan Nevin Report underlines the urgent need to #UnlockRedditch

In February 2018, Redditch Borough Council published a discussion paper by Brendan Nevin regarding the Redditch economy. His job was to be an independent voice on where Redditch is right now, and what it needs to do going forwards to keep up with the rest of the region.

It’s not easy to find as it is well-buried on the Redditch council website, but fear not: we have gone through Nevin’s paper and extracted key parts that underline our argument that we need to #UnlockRedditch and unleash its full potential if we are to be an economic hub that contributes to the wider West Midlands powerhouse.

We’ve highlighted and screen-grabbed the key parts, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got images enabled.   Continue reading The Brendan Nevin Report underlines the urgent need to #UnlockRedditch

Campaign Diary: 10th Feb

SAT
Saturday Action Team

I was delighted to be joined on the campaign trail by Rachel Maclean MP who joined our Saturday Action Team along with borough councillors and Conservative supporters to deliver leaflets and knock doors around Jersey Close in Church Hill North.

We spoke to many residents in the closes around this area, including one lovely gentleman who raised the issue of the mess left by the tree-thinning exercise on Paper Mill Drive. However, what came up time and again was the issue of the moss on the pavements around there.  In some places it’s hard to see where the grass ends and the pavement begins because it’s that thick.

I was quite surprised to see the pavements so poorly cared for in this area. It’s the responsibility of Redditch Borough Council to clean these walkways. Had any of the Labour councillors for the area (of which there are 3) just walked around and knocked on some doors they would have seen the issue for themselves as we did.

I have written to Councillors and I am working closely with colleagues to get this matter resolved and get the pavements cleaned. I have asked colleagues to look closely at the areas around the school as we don’t want kids slipping near there on the way to school.

We also discussed our #UnlockRedditch campaign with local residents. Every person we spoke to about this issue agreed with us – it’s time to revitalise Redditch town centre. If elected, and if the Conservatives take control of the council away from Labour in May that’s just what we will do.

I am sorry if I didn’t get to talk with you on Saturday. Perhaps you were out, or perhaps we didn’t reach your house before we had to call it a day. We’ll be back and I will be paying close attention to the issues that are affecting your area. If you have any questions or would like to raise an issue I can be reached by email on [email protected] or on Facebook by clicking here: https://www.facebook.com/vote4rouse