CONGRATULATIONS TO ANN NIGHTINGALE
- 04:19 pm, Wed 24th Nov 2010
Congratulations to local resident Ann Nightingale who was recently awarded an MBE. Ann has been active in the local community in the Lunt Estate for fifty years. Every area needs people who will go the extra mile and Ann does a fantastic job in helping people, organising things and generally turning an area into a community. I was very pleased to see that she had rightly received official recognition for her work. Best wishes to Ann and her family on receipt of the honour.
- 04:17 pm, Wed 24th Nov 2010
Congratulations to the Punjabi Wolves supporters club who have raised money to build 30 new houses for some of the poorest families in India. The Punjabi Wolves not only do a great job in supporting their team but they also raise a lot of money for good causes. In the past they have raised a lot of money for local charities such as Promise Dreams which aims to fulfil the wishes of seriously ill children. This time their effort was focused on India where, despite its growing economic strength, millions of families still live in abject poverty. Putting a roof over some of these families’ heads will transform their lives and is an inspiring act of human kindness. I believe the link the large Indian population in Wolverhampton gives us is a real strength and the whole city should take pride in the actions of the Punjabi Wolves in doing what they have done.
- 01:16 pm, Tue 23rd Nov 2010
Each year since I became the local MP, I have attended the Remembrance Sunday service at Bilston cenotaph. Sometimes the word “community” can be overused, ascribing a common interest or identity to those who in fact share little. But it’s exactly the right term to describe this event. It is a real coming together of the area. The event is of course led by the Bilston branch of the British Legion and the veterans but also there are the local churches, the police and fire service, the political parties, scouts, schools and other organisations. Hundreds gathered to take part in the prayers and hymns and observe the two minutes silence. In a world full of rush and bustle and a public life so often riven with division, this is one of the few moments of the year when the country comes together and lays aside its differences.
Earlier in the weekend I had visited one of the new houses built in the Lunt. This is an £8m 67 property development led by Heantun Housing Association. A mixture of houses of different size, they are available for rent, part ownership or even an option to rent for three years and then buy a stake in the house later. At a time when there are thousands on waiting lists and when the age of a first time buyer is now about 37 years old, the provision of new housing is hugely important.
I also met with USDAW (the shop workers’ union) reps at Morrisons. They were taking part in the local launch of the union’s “Freedom from Fear” campaign which calls for respect for shop workers, particularly at Christmas when queues can be long and tempers short. USDAW was the first trade union I ever joined, when I was packing shelves overnight in a Glasgow Co-op store, aged about 17. It does a good job for its members and I was pleased to support the Freedom from Fear campaign.
Congratulations to Bert Williams MBE
- 10:16 am, Mon 15th Nov 2010
Former Wolves and England goalkeeper Bert Williams receives his MBE today. It is fitting and overdue recognition for a proud son of Bilston and a great player of his era. Nicknamed “the cat” he was Gordon Banks’ inspiration and played between the sticks for Wolves in their great 1950s period. I had the honour of meeting Bert and his family last night in the House of Lords. Bert is a true gentleman and spoke with joy about how he had achieved his dreams in playing for Wolves and England and winning honours as a player. “We played for the love of the game” he told me as he reminisced about earning, at the top of his career, £12 a week in the summer and £15 a week in the winter. Changed days indeed. I was glad to support the campaign for Bert to receive official recognition and readers of this website may recall the petition encouraging constituents to sign up to the campaign. It’s great to see Bert finally get the recognition he deserves. I wish him and his family all the best for today.
POLICING OUR CITY
- 10:15 am, Mon 15th Nov 2010
On Friday, together with Bilston Councillors, I met with Chief Supt Neil Evans of Wolverhampton Police and his colleagues who are responsible for policing in the Wolverhampton South East constituency.
Chief Supt Evans and his colleagues do a tough and very important job. They constantly have to juggle resources which are set to diminish in the coming years. They are charged with protecting the public and that can mean everything from investigating the most serious crimes to keeping the city safe on match days through to neighbourhood patrols aimed at giving confidence to the local community.
Recently there has been a reorganisation of policing in the city with the old east/west or G1 and G2 command units being abolished and a single command structure for the city being put in place, with sub divisions for the three parliamentary constituencies. I think the new organisational structure is sensible. Under the old one, our constituency had a line drawn through it, with some parts being policed from Wednesfield and others from Bilston St. Now we have a dedicated part of the policing structure focussed solely on our constituency (apart of course from the Coseley ward which comes under the remit of the Dudley command unit).
The main subject of the meeting was the persistent anti social behaviour being suffered by some residents in some parts of the constituency. People don’t tend to report serious major crimes to politicians but we are spoken to regularly about disorder, a lack of respect, vandalism and so on. I don’t call this low level crime because it is anything but low level for those on the receiving end. Persistent anti social behaviour can completely destroy people’s quality of life and I hope the police take a very firm line with this. Many new powers have been granted in recent years including dispersal notices to break up gangs hanging about the streets, fixed penalty notices and ASBOs prohibiting people from entering certain areas. They should be used to the full.
Later on Friday I visited a number of shopkeepers in Dudley Road. Again policing was high on the agenda. There have been a number of burglaries on Dudley Road recently and all the traders wanted a more visible police presence and more CCTV. Our new Tory Lib Dem coalition government wants to make it harder to use CCTV. I don’t know who they’ve been speaking to but certainly not my constituents. There is a real demand for more cameras and a strong visible police presence on Dudley Road.
Grey Wolves take a bite out of MPs
- 12:28 pm, Fri 5th Nov 2010
Last Friday was a bit like being back on the campaign trail. The Wolverhampton branch of the National Pensioners Convention - known, not for nothing, as the Grey Wolves - had invited all three local MPs to address their meeting at the Civic Centre and take questions. The meeting room was packed with, at my guess, around 50 people. For two hours we debated issues such as the deficit, bankers' bonuses, Europe, immigration, crime, Afghanistan and many others. There's a view often expressed that people are switching off from politics. Certainly not the Grey Wolves. I have spoken at a number of their meetings over the years. The exchanges are always lively and robust but also carried out in a spirit of respect for politics. This generation knows that while politics may fall short of our hopes at times, at its best it gets things done, it changes things and it is the banner around which people gather. I would like to thank the organisers and everyone who came for a very enjoyable meeting and I look forward to taking part in more in the future.
Later in the day I had a tour round the new community centre in Blakenhall. This beautiful new building has facilities for exercise with no less than three separate gyms, meeting rooms, a sports hall and many other facilities. The money to pay for it came from the Labour Government's new Deal for Communities programme - known locally as ABCD. It is a great new facility for the Blakenhall area. I hope it is well used and provides a focal point for community activities in the area for many years.
Finally, on Friday night I attended the switching on of the Diwali lights in Phoenix Park. There was music, food and fireworks and a brave crowd had gathered in the biting cold wind. If I am honest, there were perhaps more speakers than the crowd were really hoping to hear so I kept it short, thanking the organisers and wishing everyone a Happy Diwali. It's a good initiative to have this ceremony and I think it will grow in the coming years.
FLOODS IN STOWHEATH LANE AREA
- 06:43 pm, Mon 1st Nov 2010
Many residents in the Stowheath Lane area found their homes flooded today after a burst water main. This will cause huge distress to local people and the damage to property will be enormous. I hope Severn Trent manage to fix the problem as soon as possible, but it will take a lot longer for people to get their homes back in order.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT
- 06:42 pm, Mon 1st Nov 2010
On Friday I visited the burnt out wreckage of Wilkinson Primary school. To pile pain upon pain, as well as the fire, someone had broken into the store room where salvaged materials were being kept and I met head teacher Tina Gibbon and her colleagues moving the remainder of the material to protect it from theft.
Looking at the twisted burnt out remains of the school is heartbreaking. When you think of the good a school does, teaching generations of children to read, write and be curious about the world you cannot imagine the mentality that would want to destroy that and burn it down. But of course the sprit of learning cannot be destroyed. The building can be burned, but learning in Bradley will go on.
And I saw that spirit of learning alive and well when I went round the corner to St Martin’s church where a determined and upbeat operation is in place to prepare for the return of the pupils on 1 November. This is where the children will be taught until temporary, then permanent facilities are available on the Wilkinson site. Classrooms are being prepared, material which has been donated by many kind people is being organised and the staff are determined to ensure that the children’s education continues with the least disruption possible.
To witness what is happening at St Martin’s Church is to see the triumph of the human spirit over the evil that has been done at Wilkinson school.
I want to thank every person who has made it possible – the Reverend Raphael Duckett of St Martin’s, the head teacher Ms Gibbon and all the staff and parents who have refused to be defeated by what happened at Wilkinson school.
WHAT PRICE RESPECT?
- 06:40 pm, Mon 1st Nov 2010
Sometimes you come across acts which defy understanding. Two local ones come to mind. The first is the pink graffiti that was sprayed all over the Wolverhampton cenotaph a few weeks ago. What thought process? What logic? No pause for thought about what that memorial meant, why it was there or the sacrifice of those to whom it is dedicated.
The second was the burning down of Wilkinson school. As I stood looking at the charred remains again I couldn’t fathom it. This is a place where children are taught to read and write, where new worlds are opened up to them, where friendships are made that will last them the rest of their lives. And someone burnt it to the ground. Everyone in Bradley has rolled their sleeves up to get things moving, the headteacher Ms Gibbon, Reverend Raphael Duckett of St Martin’s, the local councillors, parents and pupils. People will pull together and I am sure the area will recover. But the good that there is in communities could triumph so much more easily if it didn’t have to fight against the mindlessness behind these kinds of acts.
On a smaller scale I am regularly asked to visit residents whose lives are blighted by anti social behaviour, by damage to their properties, by neighbours who blare their music at four, five am. What they tell me sadly has a common refrain, “tried to speak to them and was told to f off, scared to leave my own home, why do I have to live like this?” Is it so difficult to learn and abide by the basic rules of human behaviour? I am sure none of us are perfect and we are occasionally short with people or fall below the standards we’d like to live by. But this pattern of utter consistent disrespect shown by some in the community for others is much more damaging. It destroys the quality of life for those subject to it. It can ruin a street in a matter of weeks. And as yet, we have not got the right combination of tools and determination to deal with it. Too often, we look at the snapshot, rather than the movie as a whole. Only when we get better at doing the latter will we really be able to deal with this.