Weekly News Friday 27 Apr 2012

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kewbirmingham.co.uk Weekly News

A round-up of miscellany from the past week

Submitted by Geoff Caine

Featured this week:

• Derek Duru joins Concierge Team

• Elected Mayor Pros and Cons

• RTM Companies’ AGMs

• New Hotel on Broad Street opens 1 May

• Student Mugged in Ladywood Middleway

• Grand Hotel Gets Planning Permission

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• Derek Duru joins Concierge Team

I have little information on Kenneth yet.

He will normally be supporting Residents from Phase 2 Concierge office and is currently under training in KEW procedures.

I believe he has worked for Mainstay for some time as a Caretaker (I have no definition of this) at another Birmingham site and is very well thought of, so a relief Concierge told me today!?

I will publish more information when I have it.

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• Elected Mayor Pros and Cons

What should we consider in deciding how to vote on 3 May?

Joseph Chamberlain Mayor of Birmingham 1873-6

Joseph Chamberlain Mayor of Birmingham 1873-6

Previous article on this Weekly News Friday 20 Apr 2012

There are two main questions:

  1. What additional powers and funding would a Directly Elected Mayor (DEM) have?
  2. How do we sack one who is no good?

1 Powers and Funding

Additional Powers Categorised

The Directly Elected Mayor (DEM) would have “Co-decision” and “Exclusive” powers.

Co-decision powers are shared with the Council and relate to budget setting and policy. Proposals made by the DEM can be overruled by a two thirds majority of Councillors.

Exclusive powers are not too well defined at the moment but are quasi-judicial powers over decisions on planning and licensing, and certain ceremonial, employment and legal decisions.

Nine Councillors can be appointed to the cabinet by a DEM in a Cabinet system as we have currently. The DEM  can delegate powers, either to them as individuals, or to the Cabinet committee, or to subcommittees of the Cabinet committee. In practice, the DEM remains personally accountable, so delegation and hence dilution of his/her powers has not happened frequently elsewhere.

Obtaining Additional Powers and Funding

December’s Cabinet Office prospectus, Unlocking Growth in Cities, stated that cities wanting significant new powers and funding would “need to demonstrate strong, visible and accountable leadership and effective decision-making structures”. This is widely interpreted as having a DEM.

This document launched the Government’s policy of ‘City Deals’ – bespoke packages of new powers, projects and funding sources, negotiated with the leaders of individual cities, in exchange for an agreement to work with the Government, the private sector and other agencies to unlock these cities’ “full growth potential”.

Ministers want to negotiate individual City Deals with elected mayors; and can’t say what any particular deal will consist of until they know who they’ll be negotiating with.

So, as a voter, you won’t know what you’ve voted for or against unless and until the election of a mayor completes and government deals start to happen.

Additional funding and support may well be available without electing a DEM.

Liverpool realised this and its Council decided on 7 February to get moving and have an elected mayor without consulting their electorate. Then the election of the actual mayor will take place on 3 May.

In advance of this  Liverpool has negotiated a City Deal with the Government. This will provide substantial funds for the city to enable business to grow more readily. This is not supposedly dependent on there being an elected mayor but is conditional on the city demonstrating the necessary accountability as described above. The Government has indicated that an elected mayor system would satisfy these requirements.

2. Removal of a DEM

When elected the DEM would be in office for four years.

The Government has said that a “recall procedure” (removal) would be implemented at a later date which it believes is in time for the need for any such action to arise. No information on how this could work has been forthcoming – what would be grounds for removal and who would be able to enforce this and how.

Person Dependent Role

A lot will depend on the person elected as DEM and the outcome could be very good , very bad, or no change. It might help to put down character traits that could affect the outcome.

What a successful candidate might have:

Entrepreneurial skills – achiever, vision, salesmanship, management ability, establishing policy and direction, influential and convincing

The right objectives – working for Brummies, not constrained by a national political party.

The right character – selflessness, open agenda, incorruptible

What an unsuccessful candidate is likely to be:

Biased – inflexible and unlistening

Constrained by the past

Influenced by the wrong things – central Government or political party

The wrong character – egocentric, prone to self-gratification, driven by power lust, monetary reward and/or self-esteem

3. My Conclusions

  1. We don’t really know what we are voting for or against on 3 May.
  2. David Cameron believes this is the way forward, so one’s decision may depend on your view of his motives and direction.
  3. Getting Government help for the City would seem to be easier with a DEM.
  4. Government support will be dependent on the actual person to be elected as DEM (and therefore perhaps his political colour?)
  5. Government control over the running and funding for growth of the city may well increase.
  6. If we choose carefully and elect the right person, the city will benefit substantially, and the converse will without doubt apply.
  7. It may be very difficult to remove the wrong person and the means does not currently exist in law.
  8. Finally, as David Cameron wants all major cities to have a DEM, can we afford not to have one?
  9. If we vote Yes, then we will need to examine very carefully the platform and personality of those putting themselves forward for election as DEM.

4. There are now two organisations intent on converting you to their way of thinking on this:

The Yes campaigners – Yes to a Birmingham Mayor.

The No campaigners – Vote No to a Power Freak.

5. Below are those who currently intend to stand for a DEM plus links to websites with information about them:

Desmond Jadoo, community worker and entrepreneur  – not in Wikipedia but see thisThe Voice article

Gisela Stuart, Edgbaston Labour MP – WikipediaBirmingham Post Article

Liam Byrne, Edge Hill Labour MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  – Wikipedia  – Birmingham Post article

Sion Simon former ex Erdington Labour MP – WikipediaBirmingham Post article

Mike Whitby, Conservative Leader of the Council – WikipediaBirmingham Post Article

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• RTM Companies’ AGMs

I’m told that the content of the presentations given at the AGMs on Wednesday and Thursday this week will be available for me to post to the Members’ Areas next week. Also added will be the 2012/13 budgets.

I’ll give an update on this next week.

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• New Hotel on Broad Street opens 1 May

The number of new hotels recently opened must indicate something!

There have been Travelodges, Premier Inns and others springing up all over the city and more in the pipeline. Does this mean visitor numbers are increasing or businessmen are reducing travelling time by staying over?

Hampton Hotel, Braod Street, Birmingham

Whatever, a new Hampton by Hilton hotel is opening in the converted 1960’s Cumberland House building on Broad Street just opposite Sheepcote Street. The previous use of the building was offices, mainly Government, such as Inland Revenue, DEFRA, BCC, VOSA and, I think, the old TGWU now part of UNITE union. There were also a few bars and clubs on the ground floor.

The conversion has taken 17 months and cost £30 million and will provide 285 rooms.

The outside of the 64 metre high 18 storey building was changed by recladding, replacing the ageing concrete panels with dark modern cladding.

All this refurbishment was carried out largely unnoticed with very little disruption to Broad Street pavement and skyline. A constructor’s lift on the outside of the city (eastern) end of the building was the only evidence that much was ado inside the building, conversion to hotel rooms. The local website Birmingham Central has some good photos of the changing of the outside.

Suddenly it has been completed…A sign at the top and a revised Broad Street entrance has suddenly appeared.

This is the second tower in Broad Street to be given a new lease of life rather than demolition. The Quayside tower two hundred yards towards the city was also recladded 2 or 3 years ago.

The hotel entrance is just a pavement away from busy Broad Street so there can’t be any setting down there. Round the back in Tennant Street there is no alternate entrance and currently the car park entrance has an old  grubby Grosvenor House sign over it. There is no sign for the Hampton at all! (See below – Click an image to display a gallery the press Esc to close it).

This chain currently has 8 moderately priced hotels in the UK, mostly in city centres, but also one already in Birmingham’s Star City. Prices for 2 adults are around £69 to £79 with some special deals in some hotels. It is unclear if breakfast is actually normally included as it says on the Home page but is only repeated in special uplifted price deals – it’s the same with the free internet.

The Offending Car Park is on the Immediate Right

Incidentally, beware of the Venus Fly Trap Grosvenor G Car Park opposite the rear of the hotel. While I wandered past a lady asked for help. She had driven into the car park thinking it was a public one (there is a Pay and Display next to it). The barrier had risen automatically to allow her to enter. Once inside she found there were no vacant spaces, so tried to leave. The barrier remained down – the trap was sprung! – and there were no instructions as to how to get out. The lady’s phone call to the car park operators (Euro Car Parks) help line did not provide a solution. Eventually a Euro Car Parks warden walked passed and when told of the problem walked round to the Grosvenor G Casino in Broad Street and was given a code to feed into a keypad at the exit of the car Park. The trap was released. (The car park is on the immediate right in the above image – click to enlarge.)

Presumably, if you use the car park and gamble at the casino, then when you’ve lost enough money you too will be awarded a code!

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• Student Mugged in Ladywood Middleway

This is not a pleasant matter to appear on the Weekly News but I thought I’d better publicise it to act as a warning for KEW Residents.

A Young PhD student has been mugged this week by huddies in Ladywood Middleway, not far from her home.The Birmingham Mail reports her as saying:

“ I was walking home with my earphones in, listening to music as I always do, when I was grabbed from behind”
“There were two men, their hoods were up and they punched me, pushed me to the ground, kicked me and grabbed my handbag and ran off.”

Her monthly rent of £500, which she had withdrawn that day, was stolen.

Click here too read more.

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• Grand Hotel Gets Planning Permission

Previous article on this Weekly News Friday 16 Mar 2012

Horton Estates, the owners of the iconic Grand Hotel in Colmore Rowe, were granted planning permission on Wednesday for their application 2012/01147/PA for the £30 million revamp of the hotel.
I will report back on any details I get of their project plan for the work.

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Submitted by Geoff Caine

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