Labour Calls for a Fair Deal for Drivers and Customers

Private hire drivers in Walsall are being driven to distraction by unfair rules that put more costs on owners and customers. Taxi operators are now demanding a level playing field with black more>

Boy Racer Scheme Wins Support of Police Commissioner

A local initiative to save lives and combat dangerous driving by boy racers on public roads, has won the backing of West Midlands Police Commissioner, Bob Jones. Mr Jones is lending his more>

FIGHT TO SAVE JOBS BASE IN UNEMPLOYMENT BLACKSPOT

A Darlaston centre which has helped hundreds of local people find jobs and training is threatened with closure because of lack of funds – only months before the area is targeted as more>

Conservative/Lib Dem and ‘Independent’ Coalition’s Real Record

Independent members of Walsall council, who have long denied that they support the borough’s official Tory/Lib Dem coalition, have been ‘outed’ as political allies by a senior Tory councillor. The three members more>

Walsall Council Rejects One In Three Crisis Loans.

  Nearly 40 per cent of requests for crisis loans to provide basic needs were rejected by Walsall council last year leaving their budget under spent by over £600,000; local authority officials more>

Call For Answers On Children’s Safety.

 Labour councillors are calling on Walsall Council’s cabinet member for children services, Rachael Andrew, to come to the next full council meeting and explain how a child of nine and known to more>

Good Music, Good Food and Good Causes

A night of music and good food has helped raise over £500 for the Mayor’s charities. People from across the community joined together to collect £550 at Walsall Cricket Club as they more>

Labour Welcome Tory U-turn on Town Centres

The Labour leader on Walsall council, Cllr Tim Oliver, has welcomed the U-turn by leading local Tories who have finally taken action to tackle declining town centres whose shops have stood empty more>

Blacklisting: Unions and Labour Take Action

  A campaign by trade unions to tackle ‘blacklisting’ of employees has won the support of Walsall council with the backing of Labour councillors. Members of the council passed a resolution proposing more>

Tories and Lib Dems voted down 5p for old and disabled.

A proposal to tackle the£1 million short fall in social services funding has been rejected by Walsall’s council’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat leadership; despite it costing only five pence per day for more>

Labour Calls for a Fair Deal for Drivers and Customers

Doug James and Zulf Ali with taxi drivers who are calling for a  fair deal for all private hire cars.

Doug James and Zulf Ali with taxi drivers who are calling for a fair deal for all private hire cars.

Private hire drivers in Walsall are being driven to distraction by unfair rules that put more costs on owners and customers.

Taxi operators are now demanding a level playing field with black cab vehicles and other boroughs in the Midlands to prevent them going out of business.

Over 60  presented their demands to Walsall Council’s licensing committee which set the rules the drivers operate under saying they are being treated unfairly.

Chairman of the Walsall taxi drivers association,  Mr Zulf  Ali, explained that his members were  being made to carry additional costs.

He said: “At present, the rules say a private hire driver’s vehicle cannot be over 10 years old while a black cab driver’s hackney carriage can be up to 15 years old.  In addition, if a private hire driver has to replace a car when it’s in for repair or because it’s reached the end of its working live, the new vehicle can’t be more than five years old while our competitors can use a replacement vehicle of a similar age to the one taken off the road.  Furthermore, others boroughs like Birmingham have no upper age limit at all.

“All of this means we have greater costs we have to pass on to customers or go out of business.

“Let me make it clear, we are not arguing for lower safety standards – every car has to pass a roadworthy test twice a year – but all we want is a level playing field and a set of rules that are applied to all taxi drivers.

Last week over 60 drivers presented their plea for equal treatment to a meeting of Walsall Council’s licensing committee.

They were joined by Labour councillor for Darlaston South, Doug James, who is fighting for fair treatment for drivers and customers. He said: “Improvements to licensing are long overdue in Walsall.

“A fairer system for drivers will greatly benefit services to customers, particularly in these hard financial times when both passengers and drivers have to make ever penny count.”

The licensing committee will now look at the issue at its June meeting.

 

Boy Racer Scheme Wins Support of Police Commissioner

) Darlaston South Councillor, Dough James; West Midlands Police Commissioner, Bob Jones and community activist, Wendy Collins.

Darlaston South Councillor, Dough James; West Midlands Police Commissioner, Bob Jones and community activist, Wendy Collins.

A local initiative to save lives and combat dangerous driving by boy racers on public roads, has won the backing of West Midlands Police Commissioner, Bob Jones. Mr Jones is lending his support to a scheme by Labour’s Darlaston South Councillor, Doug James, to tackle the life threatening problem of young drivers organising race meetings on roads in Moxley, Walsall.

For months local residents have complained of the races which begin at the car park of an Aldi store and which attract drivers from across the West Midlands. Cllr James is now developing a scheme which would bring together the supermarket , the local community, Police and Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley Councils  to crackdown on offenders.

His plan includes a pilot scheme which uses 24 hour digital cameras to catch offenders, the erection of a barrier to the store’s car park and the setting up of a local ‘speed watch’  backed by the police;  allowing residents to become involved in tacking car crime.

After visiting where the races take place, Bob Jones said: “This sort of initiative works on so many levels and will help save live of local people and even the boy racers who, whatever they think,  simply don’t the skills to control cars at high speed on public roads. It is cost efficient because it shares the limited spend across a number of authorities and most importantly it gets the local community involved, addresses their fears and reinforces the need for road safety. “

Cllr James explained that part of the problem is the races take place at the junction of the A463 Black Country route, which crosses three local council areas: “It’s great that Bob Jones came down to see the problem for himself and has given his backing, it shows that the police at the highest level are taking this issue seriously. For months local residents have rightly complained of these late night ‘race’ events but nothing is getting done. So what I’m doing is a series of simple steps to crack the problem

“With the aid of my colleague, Wendy  Collins, I’ve approached Wolverhampton and Sandwell Council for their support and contacted Dudley Council who are running the pilot digital camera scheme to see if we can extend it to Moxely. On top of that, I want Walsall Council to work with Aldi to help erect a barrier which will stop drivers meeting on the car park when the store is closed.

“Lastly, and most importantly, we want to set up a local speed watch group – backed by the police -  so local residents can report cars speeding on these and  residential streets where the danger of a child or a pedestrian being killed is very real.”

Cllr James is now calling on Walsall Council to back the plan so it can be implemented as quickly as possible.

 

 

 

FIGHT TO SAVE JOBS BASE IN UNEMPLOYMENT BLACKSPOT

Darlaston South has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Walsall

Darlaston South has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Walsall

A Darlaston centre which has helped hundreds of local people find jobs and training is threatened with closure because of lack of funds – only months before the area is targeted as part of a multi million regeneration programme.  The Jet centre in King Street could close in June if alternative funding can’t be found, despite the Black Country town being a part of a £130 million deal with aims to create jobs and help 2800 people back into work.

The centre helps local people in an area where 22%, or one in five, of the working age population are on out of work benefits; according to the Office of National Statistics. Local Labour councillor, Doug James, said the closure of Darlaston Jet would be a disaster for the local area, makes no sense and would set back attempts at regeneration; he is now asking Walsall Council to step in and save it for the future.

The news of its impending closure comes only weeks after the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership announced it had received £130 million City Wide cash to create 5,800 new manufacturing jobs, 1500 industry based apprenticeships and provide support for 2,800 long-term unemployed people to find a job.

Cllr James said: “If Jet closes it would be a stupid tragedy. It has provided welfare benefits support, training and jobs for local people for many years. It’s the backbone of the local area partnership working and the Moxley Community hub when it comes to helping people find work. Just as this City Wide money appears – which can build on its past work, experience, expertise and safeguard its future – it faces closure.  It makes no sense at all!”

He added that he was now doing everything he could to help save the centre by campaigning for alternative funding.

“The best solution is for Walsall Council to step in and provide short term funding until the Black Country LEP’s City Wide scheme comes on stream later this year.

Jet’s seven staff has the skills, experience and contacts with local employers, the council and other agencies, which the City Wide scheme needs to succeed. So saving it is a no brainier. Otherwise we lose all that history and expertise only to try and set up it all up again, with all the costs and delays that brings. In the meantime, the real losers will be the people of Darlaston.”

Cllr James said he will be inviting the director of the City wide fund to meet him and the staff of Darlaston Jet to see how it can compliment the work of the LEP

 

Conservative/Lib Dem and ‘Independent’ Coalition’s Real Record

Cllr Doug James

Cllr Doug James

Independent members of Walsall council, who have long denied that they support the borough’s official Tory/Lib Dem coalition, have been ‘outed’ as political allies by a senior Tory councillor.

The three members for Darlaston South and Blakenall  were described as members of a knife edge coalition by Conservative member of Aldridge Central and South Ward, John Rochelle, in a recent letter to the local press.

The letter pleads with readers to vote for the coalition in the forthcoming local elections.

The admission is particularly damaging for Blakenall’s, Peter Smith, who calls himself a Democratic Labour councillor and Darlaston South’s, Paul Bott, who is facing re-election in May.

It claims that the coalition has saved frontline services unlike councils in Wolverhampton and Birmingham and that council has made only 27 staff redundant despite official announcements that hundreds of jobs have gone and more are to go. It goes on to plead with readers to vote for the coalition saying: “The balance of the council is so fine even the loss of one seat to the Labour Party could result in all our hard work being undone.’

coalition

Darlaston South Labour Councillor, Doug James, said: “This letter confirms what was obvious to anyone who attends a council meeting.  For the last two years the independents  in my ward, and Pete Smith in Blakenall, have effectively propped up the coalition as it has slashed jobs and services.  Their support has been paid for with public money for vanity projects while services like adult social care have been slashed.

“They have said one thing but in their actions they done the complete opposite. We are grateful to Cllr Rochelle for admitting what Cllrs Bott, Smith and the leadership of the Conservatives and the Lib Dems wouldn’t, that a vote for independent councillors is a vote for more job cuts and lost services.”

 

Walsall Council Rejects One In Three Crisis Loans.

Diane Coughlan: Tories and Lib Dems reject one in crisis loans for basic items

Diane Coughlan:
“Tories and Lib Dems reject one in three crisis loans for basic items”

 

Nearly 40 per cent of requests for crisis loans to provide basic needs were rejected by Walsall council last year leaving their budget under spent by over £600,000; local authority officials have revealed.

The limit for the local welfare assistance scheme, designed to help the poorest members of the community,  was set at £1,098,510 for 2013-14 but latest figures from the authority show only £400,013 has been paid out.

At the same time the council issued over 2500 vouchers for food banks to people who didn’t have enough money to feed themselves.

In one case, a couple who received only £112 a week in benefits were told their boiler was too old to repair after it broke down in November 2013.  The couple made an urgent request to Walsall as one of them suffered from asthma and they feared for her health if she had to spend months in a cold, damp house.

But Council contractors who inspected the boiler said it was likely to break down again and refused to repair it, instead recommending it should be replaced. The couple were then told by council officers they would have to pay over £1200 towards the new boiler. In the end, the couple had to borrow money £200 from relatives to pay for a replacement part.

The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, said: “It was unbelievable. We asked for £200 because we simply didn’t have the money ourselves and instead we were presented with a bill of nearly £1300. If we didn’t have £200, how were we supposed to find £1300? The boiler was old but the British Gas engineer who finally fixed it said it was safe and repairable.  If it hadn’t been for relatives who loaned us the cash the council would have left us to go through the winter with no heating or hot water, despite the possible health affects. “

Cllr Diana Coughlan, who has been campaigning on welfare reform as part of the council’s opposition Labour Group, said the figurers show how the council is failing those in the most desperate need.

“While our council’s leaders boast of how much money they are spending on high profile projects like regeneration of Walsall town centre, in the background and conveniently forgotten are thousands of people without the most basic needs despite the money being available.

“Ironically, when the council was setting up the crisis loan scheme a leading Lib Dem councillor said you couldn’t trust poor people with cash. The truth is we can’t trust the Tories and Lib Dems to help the poor.

“Over 2500 food bank vouchers issued by the council show that are too many people in Walsall are living on the margins of destitution but instead of helping, Walsall council is rejecting over one in three requests for help and hoarding over 60 per cent of its budget

“Let’s be clear here, we are not talking about giving money to people to buy flat screen televisions or the latest electronic gizmo, we are talking about buying children new shoes or a school uniform; we are taking about replacing cookers to prepare food or, as in the case we’ve highlighted, heating and hot water during the winter months.

“The criteria for crisis loans here in Walsall were set by the Tory and Lib Dem councillors who run the council. They have set the bar poor people have to clear far too high, forcing council officers to reluctantly turn away those in the most need despite the cash being available.”