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. 

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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

Thank you for electing me and thoughts from the campaign

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:

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

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

Where is the promised £5m for Redditch Town Centre?

On 9 March 2017, the Chancellor of the Exchequer came up to Birmingham. It was the day after the Spring 2017 Budget. He announced, amongst many other things, a package of £17.5m that the Conservaative government is pumping into the Midlands region through the LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships).

Redditch was promised £5m of this money to support redvelopment of its town centre.

All the Labour-led council needed to do is submit a business case.  They haven’t done this yet and currently plan to do it ‘some time before the end of 2018‘.

Here’s a timer showing how long the Labour-run council has been sat on the promised £5m our town desperately needs.

Business cases are complex documents, we accept that. But the Council’s plans have already been given an ‘A Rating’, so why haven’t they submitted the paperwork yet?

The Labour-led council dithered for 10 years over our town’s swimming pool. When the Conservatives took control of the council we delivered it in 2. They dither, we deliver.

Don’t believe us? Take a look at the video below, which was put together by the Town Centre Partnership as part of Redditch’s failed bid to become a ‘Portias Pilot’ town SIX years ago.  Some of the things said in this video are excellent, especially from the Mayor at the time, Anita Clayton, who talks about a cafe culture on Church Green. The Labour-led council are only just starting to open up to this idea six years later. Some of the shops shown in this video as closed SIX YEARS AGO are now closed AGAIN (or still closed) six years later!

With your support on Thursday 3rd May we can start to #UnlockRedditch and release our town’s full potential.

Join our campaign to #UnlockRedditch

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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