It’s Hustings – 2022
Have you missed the white-hot energy of local government elections? I have. It’s been four years since people stood before us and made passionate cases for why they should be the people I complain to when the bins don’t get emptied. As we’re now in this stupid “all in all out” election system that means there are seven people standing for two positions.
Fortunately the Green Party and one Conservative candidate couldn’t be bothered to turn up. Which meant getting it all done in two hours was a very real prospect. It used to be the case that Green candidates turned up really late to hustings with elaborate excuses. Now they just don’t bother.
The hustings, as always, were chaired by David Isgrove from Moseley Forum. David has now subcontracted his onerous bell ringing duties to Jean. I don’t know who Jean is but she takes ringing a bell extremely seriously.
Each candidate got a couple of minutes to tell us why we should vote for them:
Kerry Jenkins – Labour – Kerry told she us she has been our Councillor for four years and we shouldn’t believe anything we might have read in the Birmingham Mail today. As literally nobody reads the Birmingham Mail this didn’t seem the best tactic to deflect attention away from something none of us knew about. I still don’t know what we shouldn’t believe. She explained it isn’t all about getting bins emptied, there is also fighting crime and fixing potholes. Kerry is proud of setting up the Moseley Together Covid Mutual Aid group which is still going. She also gave a shout out to Mohammed from The Village Barbers that delivered a copy of the Guardian every day for two years to her Mum. Well done Mohammed.
Abid Kahn – Conservatives – Abid told us he’s never been to a hustings before and apologised in advance in case he wasn’t very good at it. He’s local and lives in Edgbaston. Which stretches the definition of local a bit. He will tackle the Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) and potholes. He added that he became a Conservative because they had given him everything he ever needed in life. He had the haunted look of all Conservatives made to stand in Moseley just thinking about better wards in better places.
Izzy Knowles – Lib Dems – Izzy gave a big thanks to Kerry and Martin for being our Councillors. Which was nice. Izzy listed all the community things she is involved in. I tried to list these four years ago and didn’t have enough space. Since 2018 she’s added more. She also set up the Moseley Together Covid Mutual Aid Group, she has created a Speedwatch thing, sent aid to Ukraine and been a volunteer vaccinator. She got a British Empire Medal for her Covid volunteer work.
Radley Russell – Lib Dems – Radley also thanked all of the other candidates (though presumably not the Green candidate). Radley is annoyed about where he lives. He feels like we are being ignored by the Council and wants more support. Radley is a producer for the BBC, which he apologised for. It seemed an odd thing to apologise for but from the reaction in the room it seems like exactly the sort of thing people should be apologising for. Radley has also set up loads of local things, including a Streetwatch that covers a geographical area that sounds like it has imperial aspirations.
Martin Straker Welds – Labour – Martin is proud to have been our representative for eleven years. When residents on Eton Road wanted rubbish collecting – DONE. When residents on School Road wanted leaves swept up – DONE. I’m a bit dubious about the leaves claim as I was slipping on unswept leaves for months. He’s going to bring us street parties and an annual culture festival. He’ll crack down on speeding and monitor air pollution outside schools.
Then there were questions. Lots of questions.
Question from Christine – How can the community help Ukrainian refugees?
Izzy – Izzy told us about how she had helped organise a lorry load of stuff that had gone to Poland.
Kerry – Told us that the Council had set up a dedicated team to do checks on potential hosts for refugees
Question from Lee – Lee had a lot to say. I won’t bother with most of it but basically will the Council go back to the Committee system?
Kerry – Kerry was keen to return to a Committee structure and has asked the leader of the Council about it.
Martin – Martin told us that he remembers the Committee system and it wasn’t that good at making quick decisions
Abid – Abid would probably support the Committee system. Abid didn’t look like a man who knew what the committee system is.
Izzy – Izzy told us that a return to the Committee system was in the Lib Dem manifesto.
Question from Virginia – There are inequalities in educational attainment that are worse because of Covid how do you improve life chances?
Izzy – Izzy told us how young people have suffered and that there are nine primary schools in the ward.
Radley – Radley agreed with Izzy that Covid had been “tremendously horrible” for young people. He believes there should be more support
Abid – Abid knows from being an Academy Trustee that some schools have mechanisms that parents don’t know about and if they don’t have mechanisms then they should do. It wasn’t clear what a mechanism is.
Kerry – Kerry told us Labour will invest £1m into services this year and the Council has provided free school meals over holidays. She also said that 43% of children are in absolute poverty. I didn’t get whether that was in the City or wider, or smaller.
Martin – Martin tried to tell us an anecdote that Tim Brighouse once told him but realised, as soon as he started, that he couldn’t remember how it ended. Martin thinks the Government should stop forcing people to jump through hoops for money.
Question from Mike – Will candidates commit to listening to the public opposition to the LTN plans?
Let’s face it this was the only issue that was likely to be of interest to anyone who turned up.
Martin – Martin told us that people have been listened to and that’s why Council officers have been told to go away and come back with a plan after the election. Martin doesn’t like the term LTN and would prefer to see areas rebalanced in favour of prams and bikes.
Radley – Radley doesn’t believe people have been listened to and feels sorry that Moseley got dragged into all of this.
Izzy– Izzy told us about her long involvement in LTN stuff dating back to the School Road road closure. She is worried that the project board only involves Councillors and MPs and the plans ignore people who live in places like Yardley Wood Road.
Abid – Abid told us that he opposes the LTN but it’s something that’s really happening in Kings Heath rather than Moseley. He told us it has been really bad for Kings Heath High Street. I don’t think Abid has done much canvassing in Moseley.
Kerry – Kerry told us she was astounded by the Conservatives and it’s the Government that has told us we can’t remove LTNs. She also told us that there is another much better plan but we can’t hear about it until after the election.
Question from Carol – Will the new consultation take in wider Moseley?
This is odd. Nobody suggested there will be a new consultation.
Kerry – Kerry’s answer was basically “we know where you live”. Not in a threatening way. But she clearly knows where Carol lives.
At this point Jean started ringing her bell a lot.
Question from Claire (or Clare) – Why is the LTN project board made up of only Labour Councillors? Won’t they just agree with each other (Claire has obviously never joined the Labour Party)
Kerry – Kerry told us Councillors represent people and this board has been set up to make Council officers accountable to Councillors. Plus there have been lots of engagement events. Other political parties can’t be involved because they don’t have Councillors in the ward. At this point there seemed to be a moment where everyone realised that Kerry was proposing that people should try voting for other parties. A bold move in a hustings.
Izzy– Izzy regrets how much toxicity the LTN has created in the community. She told us she wanted it to work but it has been done so badly the community have lost trust.
Radley – Radley told us that all of this has happened because one Councillor had put their hand up and asked for the LTN money without a plan. A stunning revelation from Radley. Who could he mean?
Abid – Abid told us that people ring him up to complain about the LTN and he doesn’t even live in Kings Heath. He didn’t explain why random people would do this.
Martin – Martin said he wouldn’t apologise for having so many Labour Party Councillors and it is obviously a sign that people trust the Party. Possibly reading a little too much into this.
Question from Elizabeth – Tell me your vision for Moseley?
Radley – Radley told us he would like to see the bins emptied and more Streetwatches.
Elizabeth was having none of this. She didn’t want to know about things in pamphlets. She wants to know how we can get back to when Moseley was a nice place with a butcher and a bookshop. For reference the butcher closed in the last century. Elizabeth is concerned that it is all bars and barbers and restaurants. We do have a lot of barbers. Including Mohammed, as mentioned earlier.
Radley – Radley tried again with the somewhat cryptic “If we work together we can make it what it is”.
Abid – Abid Told us that in some surveys Moseley is the most sought after suburb in the country and it holds its value very well.
Izzy – Izzy told us she loves Moseley and pointed out we were also sitting in one of the Community’s biggest assets. She told us she also likes other things like the Moseley Society and the work that Jean does (I assume this is more than bell ringing).
Kerry – Kerry told us Moseley is diverse and she is proud of mobile recycling and wants to improve safety around schools.
Martin – Martin told us he wants everyone to be a stakeholder and it shouldn’t just be his vision.
Question from Luke (yes, Luke from the 2015 series of Moseley hustings) – Are any candidates landlords and what would they do about Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs)?
Abid– Abid told us that he’s not a landlord but he does insure HMOs. Apparently in insurance you see everything including local residents trying to burn down HMOs. Which sounds extreme.
Radley – Radley told us he is a landlord but only rents to bankers. Possibly overestimating the popularity of bankers in Moseley. He also thinks there are too many rogue landlords.
Kerry – Kerry told us there is a real problem with exempt housing that is regulated by Government rather than the Council.
Izzy – Izzy applauded the work of the Council and the Birmingham Mail (weird, two references to the Mail in one evening) on getting Government to understand the problems in Birmingham with exempt housing.
Question from Jack – Crime is on the rise. It’s the number one issue what would you do?
Martin – Martin told us that he had helped set up a Streetwatch in Moorcroft Road. He also told us that the police budget had been cut by 40%. This caused the woman sitting next to me to gasp in surprise.
Radley – Radley told us about his Streetwatch that stretches from Park Road to the foot of the Urals.
Izzy – Izzy told us she had sent out 5000 questionnaires and had 500 responses that said crime was the number one problem in Moseley. This got another gasp from the woman sitting next to me.
Kerry – Kerry told us there are going to be 400 additional community police officers at some point.
Question from Claire (Clare) – Birmingham has not funded Children’s services for years, why?
Radley – Radley said he agreed with Claire (Clare) and that Birmingham has been marked down for years.
Martin – Martin told us that Birmingham has spent an enormous amount of money setting up an independent Children’s Trust and we haven’t had scandal in years. Which seemed a dubious metric for success.
Kerry – Kerry told us that Children’s services have been terrible to decades but there will be an additional £9m for them this year. Also we can statistically prove that Children’s services are improving. Nobody, especially Claire (Clare) looked convinced.
Abid – Adid suggested that the Council is spending money without a plan and that having a strategy might work. Hopefully someone can suggest this to the Council if Abid is not successful.
That’s about it. I’ve left a few questions out, and some answers, because if you’ve got this far you’ve already been through enough.
I think the only way I can end this is with the review provided to me, unsolicited, from the woman sitting next to me. “What a meeting”.