City's musical heritage could be celebrated
Dear Editor, The new book by John Taylor on his career with Duran Duran is not just a fascinating and enthralling story. In the Pleasure Groove is a reminder of the superb history of popular music that Birmingham has to offer, and which remains one of this enigmatic city's best kept secrets.
The sixties band ELO recently got into the top ten of the album charts with a greatest hits compilation. A week does not go by without hearing an ELO song on the radio. Yet how many people know that Jeff Lynne comes from Birmingham?
The city has a superb record in popular music even before ELO. The Spencer Davis Group with the magnificent voice of Steve Winwood, started a run of hits which make Birmingham one of the landmark music city's of the world. It is not just pop mainstream that has been enriched. Heavy Metal virtually started here, yet few recognise that Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath are Brummies. In Reggae, UB40 and Steel Pulse are recognised around the world, and Bhangra is as much a Brummy invention as Balti food.
Yet the city simply does not want to recognise its heritage. The classical world is rightly celebrated, and I am the first to acknowledge the quality of the CBSO. Yet the civic leaders, both the councillors and the civic groups in the voluntary sector, show no awareness that this is a record to publicise. Birmingham lost the City of Culture bid, and had virtually no chance of getting it as it has no friends in high places. So when Derry shows in 2013 that it is the official City of Culture, why not fight back by showing that Birmingham is the city of popular culture? The city could even mark the release of the film of The Hobbit by pointing out that JRR Tolkien was born here, but first things first. The Brum beat should go on show.
Wrong election at wrong time
Dear Editor, If there is one thing which really angers me it is how quickly publicly funded organisations rush to set up inquiries, the latest example being the Electoral Commission who wish to "understand" why there was such an appallingly low turnout at the election on Thursday.
Which planet do these people live on? Most of us can provide the answer in two short sentences: first, it was an election no-one really wanted and, secondly, anyone with an ounce of political nouse will tell you, never have an election after the clocks have gone back.
The policy of creating a Police Commissioner was not generally welcomed, myself included, and I only hope the Government will prove me wrong. Even when media publicity made us aware that there was an election, no-one knew who the candidates were, what they stood for and what qualities they possessed to do this unwanted job. What is worse for our democracy did anyone care?
So in many cases we have those appointed to the old Police Authorities now elected as Commissioner at up to ten times more salary. Are they any more competent than they were before?
I do worry about the low turnout and the November date selected for the election because it suggests a lack of common sense and political experience amongst those taking the decision.
Perhaps they wanted a low turnout. If so, they succeeded but I question the sense in that.
The strength of this country is based on a sound democratic system which we should value to our dying day, and that means having elections which we turn out for, and whilst it shouldn't matter when they are held, we are also a fickle people and turning up at the voting station when is dark, cold and miserable is simply not an incentive.
Dear Editor, I am writing to express my thanks to those members of the community who were kind enough to give me their support to be the first Police and Crime Commissioner for West Midlands Police.
I realise many people did not support me as a Labour candidate or support the election at all, and I sympathise with that position as I believe police and crime commissioners are an expensive and unnecessary change, poorly implemented and appallingly publicised.
What I do want to assure our communities is that I am here to serve everyone regardless of how they voted or indeed if they voted. Once I take up office on this week you will be able to see what I'm doing on my website (www.westmidlands-pcc.gov.uk) and follow me on Twitter (@WestMidsPCC). I will be setting up public surgeries and other ways for the public to raise issues about policing with me directly. Our phone number is 0121 626 6060.
Policing and crime prevention in the West Midlands has suffered more severe government cuts than other areas. I will work hard to ensure we get a fairer deal in future.
The low turnout in the election reflects public concern about the role of the police and crime commissioner. I will approach my responsibilities with humility. I can assure readers that I will diligently carry out my duties and I will not be in any way reticent about ensuring that the community's voice is heard - clearly and distinctly, locally, regionally and at the national level.
Bob Jones, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
Support our market, not Germany's
Dear Editor, As a Brummie born and bred, I with my husband, also a Brummie and an ex-market trader in the Bull Ring (1960s version), felt we had to express our total dismay that in these times of hardship - the worst we can ever remember - the City of Birmingham once again is playing host to a German Market.
Having left the city in 1984 for a new life in Cornwall, we visited the city these past two weeks and on visiting the Bull Ring outdoor market we were so disappointed that the atmosphere that used to exist there seemed to have disappeared.
Surely, in these austere times the city council should be encouraging people to come into this part of town to keep alive the old market traditions and to encourage "all things British" not encouraging a German Market that is over-priced and over-rated.
Come on, Birmingham City Council, charity begins at home, support the market traders that have supported you generation after generation - let's look after our own.
With a little bit of help, things could start to get back to what they used to be, otherwise a great Brummie tradition that is the Bull Ring will be lost forever.
Pauline and Ernie Schofield
No laughing matter over high speed rail
Dear Editor, I read in the comments page that people like myself, who question HS2 on environmental grounds are comedians.
The reason? No similar complaints are raised over motorways. Every new motorway has its critics, and criticism includes the effects on the environment.
If your correspondent is referring to existing motorways, no point complaining when they are already in place serving the whole community with freedom whilst vehicle manufacturers continue to reduce emissions.
HS2 is different, it is not built, will be a new scar through the countryside, emissions and noise uncontrolled, forestry destroyed and will only serve the rich. We should highlight this non-reversible effect before HS2 is built.
Your correspondent should visit the site of Birmingham's runway extension to see the effect on our environment. We are told this is to increase existing spare capacity to over 27 million passengers with an eye to serve London when HS2 is built. The latest news on aviation states that only a single airport can operate as a hub for the UK the government having only three choices - do nothing - extend Heathrow - close Heathrow and build a new airport near London, no mention of Birmingham. In the meantime well-healed people still persist in using the term NIMBYs against opposition groups, reduce the HS2 travelling time to London to an impossible 'little over 30 minutes' and do not adjust other possibly inflated benefits of HS2 in line with the current findings of Parliamentary Committees and HS2 itself.
People trusted with making these important decisions should respect the environment, the public and not be afraid of questioning themselves and the unpopular decisions they make.
Social housing sector can play a part in poverty battle
Dear Editor, The call by the Bishop of Birmingham ('Bishop's call for business to help fight city poverty', Post, November 15 2012) to business leaders to help tackle growing poverty in the city is timely.
If Birmingham is to combat the causes of inclusion all of the city's sectors need to work together.
However, while the Green Paper 'Giving Hope, Changing Lives', which the Bishop launched last week, puts forward an imaginative range of proposals under seven key commitments, housing as an issue is a noticeable omission.
Our research with Birmingham-based charity the Human City Institute shows how pivotal housing is to the quality of life, relative deprivation and life chances of citizens.
Housing tenure is a key indicator of inequality - for example, the average home owner has one hundred times the realisable assets of social tenants.
A lack of affordable housing affects the mobility of local people to take up employment so building new affordable housing would improve social mobility while stimulating economic growth.
Birmingham's social landlords are working hard with tenants to offer employment and training opportunities, money advice, affordable credit and help to reduce digital inclusion.
We have worked in the city's most disadvantaged communities over many decades and believe we have a future role to play in reducing exclusion and poverty.
Trident Social Investment Group