I RECENTLY visited Solihull’s flagship Central Library, formerly a bustling and vibrant public area in the heart of town. Oh dear. . . what has the council done?
When picking a venue for the Flu Anti-viral centre, somebody got this horribly wrong. Instead of an accessible but quiet Civic Centre or council reception, a central church hall or a school gym, they picked the one place people of all ages congregate, use computers, eat, drink, see a show, donate blood, or browse books while paying their council tax!
Arriving at the library I was heading for the café toilets until stopped abruptly by the Flu Team who insisted I go outside in the rain and re-enter via the outside café fire doors to get to the WCs! Most of the busy library foyer is sealed off, the café doors blocked and tourist information office closed and moved elsewhere.
When I asked why, I was told “it’s for isolation, to stop people with flu mixing with those who don’t!” Did the council or NHS decide the best way to cut down on spreading flu is to direct ‘Flu-Friends’ to a busy car park, in busier Touchwood, than into an active building filled with lovely well-used facilities. Then to do this they shut these facilities down one by one because… guess what?… they’re full of people!
What kind of numbers are they currently getting to justify this upheaval? I’m all for being prepared, but that lovely building is being turned into a ‘no-go area’ when better locations certainly exist, causing far less disruption.
M Brown, Charles Road, Solihull
Footing the bill
I READ your Viewpoint regarding the application for the redevelopment of the rugby ground at Sharmans Cross Road with interest (Solihull News). It betrays a clear lack of knowledge of the underlying facts.
* The Bees/the developer are looking for a number of subsidies from SMBC/the ratepayers totalling over £6m plus ongoing funding of over £350,000 over five years through: 1) No contribution to affordable housing of £3.088m (the developer’s figure). 2) Free transfer of 5.85 acres of SMBC freehold land to them. Our advisers indicate that at a middle value this equates to some £3.3m. 3) Charging over the market rate for coaching/community work payable almost entirely by schools and other SMBC departments (ie the ratepayers).
* The Bees have accumulated losses over eight years of over £1.1m plus at least £650,000 of refundable sponsorship due to the developer if planning approval is achieved.
* The Bees’ 2008/9 accounts could not be signed by the auditor ‘as a going concern’ because of the level of ‘due debts’ with no agreement on postponement.
* The Bees’ budget for paid community work in 2008/9 was well over 3,000 hours. Their actual figure – 670 hours. Their indications on July 31 for 2009/10 – c.1,340. Their budget – over 4,000 hours.
* The developer has submitted a survey of playing pitches and teams for St Alphege and Silhill Wards to Sport England and SMBC claiming there are surplus pitches available for the community, so the loss of the rugby ground does not matter. It said 40 pitches are available. The reality is less than 20.
* The developer claims the site at Sharmans Cross Road is worth £8.05m, but refuses to put an independent valuation in the public domain. Our independent advisors indicate less than £3m.
And so it goes on. Why should Solihull ratepayers pay the debts of the rugby club and the profit of the developer and permanently lose the amenity at Sharmans Cross Road? It just does not make sense.
Pat Montague, chairman, Sharmans X Action Group
IN response to the letter in last week’s Solihull News I would like to point out that Solihull NHS Care Trust’s move from Mell House in Solihull town centre to Friars Gate, Stratford Road will result in a saving of over £100,000 a year from 2010/11. The move was approved by the Care Trust Board in November 2008. The board considered a full business case and concluded that this move represents good use of resources.
Sally Burton, chief executive, Solihull NHS Care Trust
Veg shop blow
I HAVE been to my local vegetable shop J Richards and have been told that it will be closing down shortly.
It is the only one around with fresh vegetables delivered daily - it’s like going to your own local market. I feel let down. Why do we need another food shop to sell pasties when you can purchase them from Greggs, Firkins and the cafes. We will now have to buy our fruit and vegetables from the supermarkets or travel to Shirley or Sheldon.
I know that the elderly will be let down. You can’t beat fresh vegetables and bargains for flowers, pot plant, and reduced fruit.
Clive Edgar, via e-mail
The place to start
SINCE 1997 there has been an increase of over 650,000 extra public servants nationally. Relating this figure to Solihull would mean 45 coachloads of extra employees funded by us, the taxpayers. Yet performance in most functions has generally deteriorated.
It is interesting to note that the new central government group “Total Place” has chosen Solihull MBC to investigate bureaucracy, duplication and waste.
Hopefully the group will be made up of a wide variety of business people, untainted by the local government culture of freely spending other people’s money.
They could well start on the department attempting to manage the borough highways where taxpayers have to endure third world road conditions in the rural parts and put up with their cavalier attitude.
Richard Davis, Balsall Common
Up the junction
I WAS fascinated to read in a Highways Agency press release of a plan to allow drivers to use the hard shoulder, southbound only, through junction 5 (for Solihull) which is not allowed at present at any junction.
An excellent idea you might say, but we will then have a different arrangement for Junction 5 southbound compared with the other junctions, and I believe that this is a recipe for confusion. A recipe that is costing a staggering £3million including six more CCTV cameras.
Having a different arrangement at each junction will inevitably mean that drivers will be even more likely to fall foul of the hard shoulder rules and doubtless the local constabulary will use this as another excuse to further line the Exchequer’s pockets with fines. Or maybe when the first £3million has been collected they will re-arrange another junction?
David Badger, Solihull
Time to jive
JIVING was considered, quite unfairly, to be wildly uncivilised exhibitionism when it belatedly appeared on dance floors in the early 1950s.
It had crossed the Atlantic from the USA in the swing era but except for spells during World War II, it was not usually permitted in formal dance halls.
A local exception was the Midland Jazz Club in Digbeth where the leading proponents were Diane (I never knew her surname), a young lady from Shirley and Ben Oni, her jiving partner, a medical student at Birmingham University.
The pair danced brilliantly together, eclipsing all opposition. The floor literally cleared for them and they were enthusiastically applauded. It was many years before jive became a legitimate dance, acceptable to the ballroom dancing authorities.
I regularly attended the club, listening and jiving to the Second City Jazzmen. Ben Oni later graduated as a doctor and for a time served as Minister of Health in the Nigerian Government. Diane is thought to have pursued a long career with Rackhams. Almost certainly a grandmother now, wherever she may be, I am sure she is looking forward as many of us are to the new series of Strictly Come Dancing.
Lionel King, Chadwick End
DURING normal term time approximately 100 pupils walk through Knowle Park to Arden School, whilst around 800 pupils walk along Station Road using footpaths that are narrow between Purnells Way and Arden School. Pupils are perpetually spilling over onto the roadway.
Knowle Park Protection Group is informed that on January 21 2008, Arden School submitted a ‘Safer Routes to School’ application to Solihull Council requesting that the footpath that runs along the North Eastern boundary of the school playing field be made into a dual use cycle/footpath. The proposed path was to run parallel to Station Road.
The reason for the request was that the main route to Arden School along Station Road was dangerous because the pavements are too narrow to accommodate, in safety, the number of pupils using them.
A dual use cycle/footpath that ran parallel to Station Road could potentially reduce dramatically the footfall along the most dangerous parts of Station Road, ie between Arden School and Purnells Way.
This sensible solution to the problem of overloading the Station Road footpath was proposed by the pupils of Arden School themselves and would therefore, we believe, be popular with both the pupils themselves and their parents. The probable cost of this proposal has been estimated to be in the region of £27,000.
The application was passed to Solihull Council for assessment. The response, six months later, was found in Appendix A of the Transport and Highways minutes dated July 3 2008. The conclusion was that the scheme would be too expensive and unlikely to provide the best return on expenditure!
On what basis did the council come to the conclusion that a popular plan that would enhance the safety of around 800 pupils should be discarded and preference given to an extremely unpopular plan (costing circa £210,000+) that many feel is likely to benefit only very few but which is likely to introduce dangerous situations to very many in that cyclists are to be encouraged to ride along busy ‘shared use’ paths through the park.
Our group can find no valid reason for this decision.
Knowle Park Protection Group
Hip hip hooray
ON June 9 I was admitted to Solihull Hospital Ward 15 to have an infected hip removed and replaced.
I was told I would be on bed rest for six weeks with 5lb of traction. You can imagine how a 72-year-old man, who had been fortunate enough not to have spent any time in hospital in his first 70 years would feel.
I did not know how wonderful the doctors, sisters, nurses, assistants and cleaners would be in wonderful Ward 15.
They attended to my every need and I can never thank them enough. I was discharged on July 31.
Bryan Sedgley, via e-mail
I WOULD like to thank the people of Shirley who contributed to our annual street collection on Saturday, August 1. Despite dreadful weather conditions we were able to collect a total of £320.30. This will be used to donate to many animal sanctuaries, local and national, who are very much in need of funding at the moment.
Y Troth, treasurer, Solihull Animal Aid
Care needed here
THE law lords may have cleared the way for assisted suicide, but have they also made a path for premeditated murder.
Dignitas may have controls in place at its clinic in Switzerland, but what controls are there in leafy Solihull? We need to be very careful in our attitude as to what’s better for others, and when we decide it’s time for them to depart this world.
ST Vaughan, Glastonbury Rd, Yardley Wood
The best option
MR Jamieson has rather underestimated the key campaigners aiming to ‘Save Solihull Maternity Services’ (Solihull News, August 7).
I would like to reassure him that I, for one, have had meetings with the chief executive of the NHS Trust, the chairman of Solihull Care Trust and presented a reasoned argument to the Solihull Council health scrutiny board.
This is in addition to reading the Department of Health publication ‘Maternity Matters’ and the Royal College’s ‘Safer Births’, having informal discussions with medical staff and of course listening to and reading the many comments and experiences of hundreds of Solihull mums.
I can also add that, as a qualified biomedical scientist, and working with the NHS for many years I do have a good insight into the issue.
Rest assured, Mr Jamieson, this is not a knee-jerk reaction, but a thoroughly investigated and reasoned campaign with the ultimate goal of getting the best option for both mum and for baby.
Maggie Throup, prospective parliamentary candidate for Solihull
Fears for hospital
AS former press officer of the Save Solihull Hospital Campaign I, our committee and many thousands of Solihull people believed we had finally won our 12-year battle. Thus two years ago the campaign was closed down and the remaining £800 funds were donated to Friends of Solihull Hospital for purchasing equipment.
Now the ill-thought-out Trust proposals, operative next April for reducing the annual amount of births there from approximately 3,000 to 635, cause us great concern.
An extra approximate 10 per cent (300) of potentially complicated pregnancies was always handled by the more specialised Heartlands Hospital and we agree that mother/child safety must always be the top priority.
I accept that with next year’s stricter national guidelines a further 10 per cent may benefit at Heartlands, but at least 2,700 could still be safely handled at senior midwife-led Solihull, thus keeping the unit viable. Otherwise, sooner rather than later, it will close down. An extra 2,400 patients diverted annually to Heartlands would greatly increase pressure and costs there.
It seems too much emphasis is being given to ‘empire building’ at Heartlands. The dogmatic attitude of chief executive Mark Goldman is disappointing.
Don Bargery, member of the Patient Information Advisory Panel
THE Abba evening at the Library Theatre on Saturday, August 1 was a tonic in these troubled times, especially for the majority of the audience who were in the ‘grey’ category.
The performance was 100 per cent enjoyment with the audience singing and dancing in the aisles and down by the stage. Thank you Abba for the memories.
Martin and Valerie Round (aged 72 and 69), Claverdon Close, Solihull
Sonnet to Ken
THE Leader of Solihull Council, ie Mr Profligate, has a capacity for donating our well earned cash to schemes which are a recipe for disaster such as Parkgate, cycle track, investment in Icelandic banks.
With apologies to the Bard of Avon, I have penned the following truncated sonnet:
Can I compare thee to a busted flush,
For pouring voters’ money down the drain?
As if one harebrained scheme is not enough,
You have to go and do it all again!
Dennis Sanders, Binley Close, Shirley