Bridge Ward Monthly Report 20

20130602-123808 PM.jpgProclaimed as the coldest Spring for fifty years, it did seem to hail a lot in May. Climate change and loss of Arctic Ice and changes to jet streams are the cause, but will we heed? The City Council debated and celebrated green energy. But new housing submitted to the Planning Committee still missed opportunities.
Designing future homes to be green means lower running costs for the future.
20130602-124004 PM.jpgMaximising the money in people’s pockets at a time of benefits changes and the bedroom tax was the main local political focus. The £135 electricity rebate available to many households was promoted. Clients seen by Meadows Advice Group was up in these early weeks of the new benefits schemes. The first enforcement actions against those not paying is expected in six weeks or so. All this grief whilst millionaires have been given tax breaks.
Note, the disabled are hit hardest by the bedroom tax and the Personal Independence Payment looks set to hit the disabled further.
Austerity continues to show no signs of making progress as the level of national deficit remains the same. We need action focussed on getting jobs for young people and getting local jobs for local people by requiring pay at the proper rate.
20130602-125005 PM.jpgLabour’s new focus on action came a tad too late for an impact at the local elections, but nevertheless, Labour won back Derbyshire (overwhelmingly) and Nottinghamshire (just, as West Bridgford returned 2 Labour County Councillors for the first time, one by only 9 votes). Elsewhere UKIP won a large share of the vote but not many seats (lost 1 in Notts), but divided the Conservative party further, who are distracted by membership of the European Union when Nottingham knows a significant amount of our trade is tied in with EU countries.
20130602-125021 PM.jpgThe national focus moved on following the murder of an off-duty soldier, picked out for what he was wearing, run into by a car, and then attacked with knives and a machete by two men. Unprecedented, we wait to find out how many people were involved in this ideologically inspired attack and what measures might be needed to mitigate against further attacks. The English Defence League had no hesitation in blaming Islam and were then invited in for tea, biscuits and a game of football by the mosque in York.
20130602-124509 PM.jpgAnother approach to tackling the alienation is to invest in community development, but this service is deemed to be a soft target in an age of cuts. Nevertheless, the Arkwright Meadows Community Gardens and Meadows in Bloom continue to make progress; the Meadows Tree project officially launched, EMTRA is relaunching and Friends of Meadows Library is set to officially launch.
Which made the BBC’s black and white and black and dark photographic portrayal of The Meadows so disappointing.
20130602-010001 PM.jpgThe BBC was on the other hand excited by the slide of the new bridge over the railway station using teflon and washing up liquid.
The tram project will still bring future challenges as future diversions and their impact are being worked out. As are ideas for regeneration of The Meadows to replace the stacked maisonettes that are to be demolished.
More certain is the progress for expanding Riverside school to meet shortages in school places. An objector collected a petition of over 300 names, who were then written to by the council. There is currently a question as to whether one person wrote back. Just one. The organiser at one stage claimed the support of a Labour city councillor, omitting to check whether his name was actually on the petition. Really, must do better.
The objection was raised at Area 8 committee, which I now chair. Main business – rights of way over the railway station wooden bridge were supported, performance reports on local services were reviewed and a good discussion on policing matters was held. Crime is falling again in this new civic year, despite fears over what growing alcohol drinking might bring, and shoplifting.
Issues concerning ASB at one particular house in the Old Meadows was discussed, having been raised at OMTRA’s meeting, who were enjoying success with bookmarks produced to celebrate community life.
20130602-012957 PM.jpg
If the photos of the BBC article are unfair, and you might want quotes to be just so, and you can see positive change and improvements, Including a fall in unemployment in the ward, the article is a remind that things aren’t right and not good enough. We must aim higher.
20130602-012046 PM.jpg

A slightly fuller version of this report will be published at

20130602-012150 PM.jpg

Bridge slide on One show

20130601-065746 PM.jpg The new tram bridge at Nottingham Station featured on the One Show tonight. The secrets behind how the 104 metre long, 14.5 metre wide, steel tram bridge was slid into place by NET contractor, Taylor Woodrow Alstom, over a live railway line will be revealed. “The idea that such a colossal structure could be moved along with a few bottles of washing-up liquid and half a dozen sheets of Teflon was just incredible,” said BBC One Show researcher Stuart Blackburn. “And all the while, passengers boarded their trains below, completely oblivious.” 20130601-065812 PM.jpg
The new tram bridge at Nottingham Station featured on the One Show tonight. The secrets behind how the 104 metre long, 14.5 metre wide, steel tram bridge was slid into place by NET contractor, Taylor Woodrow Alstom, over a live railway line will be revealed. “The idea that such a colossal structure could be moved along with a few bottles of washing-up liquid and half a dozen sheets of Teflon was just incredible,” said BBC One Show researcher Stuart Blackburn. “And all the while, passengers boarded their trains below, completely oblivious.”
Nice to have something positive from the BBC today to balance their web-site nonsense.
Meanwhile a new sign for the tram station at Station Street.

League tables should be used to inform

Some frustration that once again, league tables have been by the media in a way that obscures, and doesn’t illuminate. Witness the article published by the BBC News today.
This time it’s league tables of Gross Domestic Household Income.
Proclaiming Nottingham as the poorest city in Britain does nothing to help understanding.
The City Council’s rebuttal can be found here –
Whatever, the focus has to remain on what matters – helping people find work, earn a proper living and getting the social security they are entitled to.

BBC derelict of style

Well nice to see Meadows people feature in a news article. BBC News at that.
People highlighting the problems with not enough money in the pocket.
Can’t always hope for people to say things just so, but then journalists just have to wait to hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest – or have I nicked that from somewhere?
20130531-102042 PM.jpg
For the Meadows, the article came with a sting.
The most ridiculous black and white images designed to make the area look abandoned and grim. Unfair.
Reward to anyone who can work out what the photo shows.
Meanwhile, grateful for one reply in particular –

“In terms of the Meadows specifically: as an “incomer” who has lived here by choice for around 15 of the 20 odd years I have been in Nottingham, I would characterise it as a vibrant, diverse and generally harmonious area. There are shutters on shops everywhere: it is not an indication of any particular problems in the Meadows. Indeed it’s telling that the most persistent & significant concerns from local residents are about littering & occasional fly-tipping, not violence or property related crime!”

Respect the volunteers who fought for freedom in Spain

20130531-014135 AM.jpg
It is truly disappointing that yesterday, the Leader of the Nottinghamshire Conservatives again invited us to choose between celebrating British members of the International Brigade, and British servicemen who have lost their lives in service of our government, and even with Lee Rigby, the off-duty soldier killed last week in Woolwich.
Across the river is the Peace Memorial on Victoria Embankment, where we meet every November to commemorate those who served and those who fell.
The memorial to the International Brigade does not compete, cannot compete, has never tried to compete with such a significant building.
The argument actually comes down to the board that explains a very impressive metal plaque. The metal is helped by the explanation.
I was a Nottinghamshire County Councillor when the memorial to those from Britain who volunteered to fight for the republic in Spain in 1936 was installed. There was real pride amongst the veterans who were there that day.
A shame Nottinghamshire Conservatives have behaved the way they have.

Gould calls for full employment …

…but It’a bit abstract.
From my chats with people on the doorstep, I find people are ready for –

    – a drive to help young people get work;
    – local jobs for local people; an end to the undercutting of the minimum wage by agencies;
    – an end to bedroom tax; although neighbourhoods not affected may still need to be persuaded;
    – lower energy bills through home improvement and
    – other job creation; getting other projects going through starting those designed but shelved – like improvements to schools etc.

When the Gov’t has not got the deficit down for three years running through austerity, time to start a new approach.
Bryan Gould bewails that –

Labour is again advised by its friends that, if we are to win the next election, we must demonstrate that we are ready to perpetuate Tory mistakes by taking the “tough” decisions – for which read imposing yet more cuts and austerity. Anything less, we are assured, will show that we are not ready for government.

Clear frustration, although some of the evidence cited is over a year old.
The focus needs to be – a fresh start; getting the economy growing again quickly; getting he rich to pay a better share; using the reserves that corporations are just sitting on; making the money work for us; not how we’d make painful cuts in a different way.
But “breaking economic orthodoxy” can’t be a catchphrase.
We want action!
It’s a focus on action that’s needed, hints of which were in Labour’s Alternative Queen’s Speech.

puppet exhibition in the pavilion

20130529-103320 AM.jpg
Pat Thomas of Meadows Art Gallery writes –

There is a puppet exhibition in the Queens Walk Park Pavilion.
About 40 puppets, scenery and scripts are on display.
Each has a purpose: fruits of my puppeteering over 15 years gathered there.
Good King Wenceslas, the Boot family, King Charles, the Qweenies, Greythorn the dragon as well as a basket of puppets for children to play with.
I’m happy to tell stories or answer questions about puppet making or shows, but if you bring a group, please let me know.

Usual opening times – Tuesday, Thursday, from 1pm till 4 pm and Saturday 11am till 1pm.
Photo shows the Boot family.

Personal Independence Payments

Meadows Advice Group’s board heard tonight that from April 1st to 22nd May, our advisors sought to help people on 246 matters, a high number in part cos of the benefits change, in part by trying to reach out more because of all the changes, and in part cos of a lag in data entry cos of the benefits changes.

– £189698 benefits gained as annualised amounts
– £ 41925 benefits gained as lump sums

– £ 10659 priority debt managed
– £ 17823 non priority debt managed

Because of the new contract and monitoring systems and because people are not getting into debt to the same scale so often, it is difficult to compare results year on year. But it appears that targets have been met by Meadows Advice Group, and by the wider Advice Nottingham, on clients helped and benefits gained.

Training of advisors about the benefit changes has highlighted new worries, particularly in relation to Personal Independence Payments. With everything happening about the bedroom tax, reduction in council tax support, and changes to the social fund, the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment seemed a long way off. The changes to eligibility seem even more severe than thought, particularly for people with mobility problems. As a lot of the language is being changed (assessing problems with ‘moving’ rather than ‘walking’), most of the precedents on Disability Living Allowance will no longer apply. New applicants in Nottingham have to apply for PIPs from 10th June, with DLA recipients changing around December. Some disabled families could lose £3,500 a year. Perhaps this could be an even more damaging change than the bedroom tax.

For a campaigning take on PIP, see


20130529-054511 AM.jpg
So 840 people on DLA.
Guessing that 400 are going to be worse off, but have to check this.
20130529-054523 AM.jpg

20130529-054530 AM.jpg
This data from Nottingham Insight shows Bridge ward seemingly faring better than Nottingham city as a whole, and this is because the census shows the city centre, with higher value properties, growing dramatically since 2001; something not reflected in voters registered.
Meadows Advice Group’s remit means it serves the poorer half of the ward.

Returning to Nottingham’s figures – Latest data (November 2012) shows 20,060 people in Nottingham claiming DLA. Of these:
12,910 were 16-64
2,070 were under 16
5,080 were over 65+

Of those aged 16-64, 2,830 receive the higher rate.

Attached is more information on PIP, including the following timetable:

From 10 June 2013 – DWP will only accept new claims PIP from people claiming for the first time between the ages of 16-64. No new DLA claims for this age group will be accepted.
From 7 October 2013 – PIP will become relevant for:
Young people who turn 16 claiming for the first time
Existing DLA claimants whose circumstances change
Those who have a fixed term DLA award that is due to end after February 2014
October 2015 – October 2018 – All remaining DLA claimants will be asked to claim PIP