LOCAL ISSUES UPDATE:
Criminal Justice – support for witnesses
The Home Office published their witness intimidation strategy earlier this year which brings together a number of previously separate elements both within and outside the criminal justice system. The work involves court based measures – such as facilitating witnesses giving evidence by means other than through attendance at Court (live TV links, pre-recorded evidence) and community based measures – such as rehousing those who are the subject of violence and threats. You can access more details at: http://www.cjsonline.org/library/pdf/18890_victims_and_witness_strategy.pdf
For more info on crime policy, click here.
Pit Leasow Close – window replacement
In April, residents complained to me about the poor condition of the wooden windows in Pit Leasow Close, a sheltered housing scheme. On a visit I confirmed the windows are in a very poor condition and many now beyond economic repair. The Housing Department have now agreed that Pit Leasow Close will be included in the window replacement programme for the next financial year (2004/2005) and other joinery will be repaired and painted.
I have regularly complained to the Council about their failure over many years to paint Council homes, which is leading to the need for windows to be replaced prematurely. At last it has been accepted that a painting programme needs to be reinstated but this will come too late to save what would have been the unnecessary expense of window replacement even in relatively new developments like Pit Leasow Close.
Nearhill Road – garages
In November 2002, whilst on a ‘walkabout’ in the West Heath area, a resident pointed out the poor condition of the garages in Nearhill Road (and communal area serving them). The communal area had a huge pothole and many of the garages were in no fit state for use following break-ins and incidents of arson. Following correspondence with the Housing Department, they have arranged for the pothole to be filled in and have also decided to demolish many of the garages. I am pressing the Council to come up with acceptable proposals for the site.
I receive many complaints about low level nuisance caused by young people gathering in residential areas. In such circumstances, my usual approach is to contact relevant agencies such as the Police, Council Housing Department (where appropriate) and Council Youth Service. The new community wardens that have been set up in Kings Norton and Moseley wards have also been playing a useful role in observing and reporting anti-social behaviour. I have found that when these various organisations work together effectively, it is possible to direct the youths towards more constructive activities.
Ingoldsby Estate cleaning contracts
On walkabouts on the Estate, I have been made aware of the poor standard of cleaning in the communal areas of three storey flats. I have complained about the poor supervision of the private contractors and the Housing Department have now stressed to staff that robust audits of cleaning standards need to be maintained and have agreed to put up notices detailing the cleaning specification in each block so that residents can inform the Housing Department when standards are not met.
Flyposting and illegal placards on lampposts can be a real blight on the local environment and I have raised this with the Council’s Environmental and Consumer Services Department. Over the summer months the Council initiated an exercise at certain ‘hot spots’ in the constituency to tackle illegal placards and propose a similar initiative to deal with flyposting later in the year. If you notice problems with either of these issues in your area, you should report the matter to the Environmental and Consumer Services Department, Four Dwellings, Quinton Road West, Birmingham B32 1PJ. Alternatively, you could call them on 303 5440 or send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taxi Services for disabled people
Several disabled constituents have been in regular contact with me about the problems they experience in accessing taxi services, due to the reluctance on the part of many drivers to take people who use wheelchairs. Although this can sometimes be attributed to taxis which simply cannot accommodate wheelchair users, it seems the extra time and effort required in helping disabled people on and off board is seen by a small minority of taxi drivers as too time consuming.
This is all about to change! TOA, the taxi-owner’s co-operative that runs most of Birmingham’s black cabs have recently invested in a modern call handling system using GPS (Global Positioning System) in every taxi. The system uses satellite technology to map locations of cabs and fares and automatically directs cabs to the nearest jobs. This should stop drivers ‘cherry picking’ what they see as better jobs and avoiding less lucrative fares.
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