Dear Editor, I attended a “consultation” meeting run by Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust concerning proposals for a polyclinic in the Handsworth Wood Ward.
Having first class facilities in areas with high indices of deprivation is not contested. What is a matter of concern is who will provide the new specialist services.
The so-called consultation was interested in getting our views abou having a polyclinic in the area and where it might be sited. However the speaker was unable to say anything about providers because it would go out to tender.
This means it could be Boots, Lloyds Chemists, or it could be a large US pharmaceutical corporation. In other words what we aren’t told is that this is another giant step to privatising our public services.
Since the move towards privatisation was pushed by the Thatcher Government it met with resistance, yet New Labour has taken the concept to undreamed-of levels.
It is difficult for there to be any opposition from the Tories because it was their idea. The Lib-Dems support the Tories, so what are we to do?
In education we are getting academies, which like other privatisation of public services (remember Jarvis with the railways and Group 4 with prisons?) will end in tears.
This is not to mention the problems we have got when a US company took on marking SATs tests. Often companies that tender have a track record, yet they get contracts in any case (dig a little with those companies being awarded lucrative contracts for schools in Birmingham....) Look at the problems Birmingham are having with Capita.
A private company phoned me on behalf of HoBtPCT and asked me what would get me to change my GP.
Would longer opening hours make me do this? The questions were endless. But they were leading questions.
At the end I protested “I don’t want to lose my GP”. What I had said in the survey would make it look as if I did.
As it happens my GP practice, in Handsworth Wood Ward, is already like a polyclinic, has changed opening hours following government pressure and is well regarded.
However they sent their patients for tests which turned to be run by Lloyds Chemists, who are being paid with NHS cash for doing this work.
John Tyrrell, Handsworth
The New Street myths now arriving
Dear Editor, I hope you give me the opportunity to answer a number of myths about the New Street station Gateway project and the alternative Grand Central station which keep reappearing in the Birmingham Post.
1) Myth 1 – Grand Central would sort out all of Birmingham’s rail capacity problems at only £1billion.
The latest projected cost of Grand Central is between £2billion and £3billion. The original cost of £1billion was only a rough estimate and further examination of the proposal is already escalating its cost. For example, the Grand Central station would require the creation of three new railway chords to cope with the extra train services it would put in the train lines immediately to the east of the Grand Central station. This is because it proposes to reverse trains out of the station, so as to avoid the already congested narrow railway tunnel underneath the Bull Ring. These three chords, one of which would extend one and half miles to Aston Station would at a minimum cost £0.5billion – this is the cost of the Gateway project alone.
There are huge engineering and logistical problems associated with the building of Grand Central. It would involve flattening half of the historic parts of northern Digbeth – the statutory list Gun Proof Barrel House would be demolished, the Warwick Bar Conservation Area completely flattened and potentially the iconic Curzon Street station would be demolished. The whole road system in the immediate area would have to be redesigned to cope with the new flow of traffic to and from Grand Central station.
After building Grand Central with its umpteen platforms, it would still face the same bottlenecks that New Station faces – namely the limited width of the tunnel underneath the Bull Ring; the lack of capacity at Proof House junction and most importantly the lack of capacity within the West Coast Main Line.
Finally, the Grand Central proposal does not deal with the urban design issues of the present New Street station and Pallasades shopping centre which the Gateway project resolves.
2) Myth 2 – The Gateway project is JUST a cosmetic job for the Pallasades shopping centre.
The Gateway project is a major restructuring of the ground floor level (the concourse) and the railway platforms of New Street. Yes, there will be benefits to the Pallasades shopping centre, in so much that the entire centre of the Pallasades will be removed and opened up to natural light. The Pallasades is a dark dingy 1960s shopping centre. The Gateway project will bring natural light into the Pallasades and put its interior design on a par with the airy and light Bullring centre.
The Gateway project will for the first time in 50 years make New Street station a stand alone building. Pedestrians will be able to walk around the entire perimeter of the building. This will create new pedestrian flows between Stephenson Street and the Bull Ring. A new pedestrian route from Stephenson Street to Station Street will make the walk from Hurst Street to Corporation Street pleasant – no need to walk up urine stained concrete stairs or through the daytime crowded Pallasade shopping centre. This in turn will open up investment into Station Street and the southern end of Hill Street.
3) Myth 3 – The Gateway project will not increase the capacity of New Street station
The Gateway project will double the passenger capacity of New Street station.
The new New Station will be able to handle predicted passenger increases until 2035.
For capacity issues after 2035, we will need to consider increasing the use of Moor Street and Snow Hill stations. This can be achieved by numerous ways. The following are some examples:
a) Creating two Camp Hill railway chords – north-west corner and south-west corner. This will enable train services to be diverted from New Street into Moor Street
b) Converting the Midland Metro route to heavy rail. This will allow train services on the West Coast Main line to be diverted off at Wolverhampton into Snow Hill.
c) Construction of additional platforms immediately to the north of Moor Street OR on the site of the former cattle market at Bordesley Station - the railway viaduct is wide enough here to handle a substantial number of platforms
4) Myth 4 – The Gateway will not increase capacity, since it does not add any new platforms or tracks.
The Gateway increases the utilization and efficiency of the present platforms, so as to allow more trains to use the station.
The station however, will still be limited by the capacity of the tunnel underneath the Bull Ring and Proof House junction.
The Grand Central proposal is a hugely expensive, ill thought out and wouldn’t solve all of Birmingham’s rail capacity issues.
I would hope that The Birmingham Post puts its support full behind the Gateway Project since it will deliver the railway improvements this city badly needs.
Coun Martin Mullaney, Chair of Transportation and Street Services Scrutiny committee, Birmingham City Council
I despair – Noddy is in charge of diplomas
Dear Editor, The Industrial Training Act 1964, was placed on the Statute Book with all parties’ support when statutory industrial training boards were established, tasked to
1...Improve the quality of training
2...Improve the quantity of training
3...To spread the cost of training more evenly throughout industry
4...To provide direct training where no such training exists.
To achieve the above objectives I.T.Bs operated a “carrot and stick” Levy/Grants system.
On balance, the system achieved but it required an Inspectorate.
Since political skulduggery closed most of the ITBs, we have seen shamateurism in industrial training, when clerks with no industrial experience or qualifications, have often been found in the “blind leading the blind” situations!
But prior to 1964 we had in technical colleges, pre-apprenticeship courses.
At 15 years of age youngsters sampled three constructions crafts, before deciding on one. Lecturers being motivated to enthuse! Completion of the courses, taught by experts, resulted in U.E.I. qualifications and a one--year remission from the then apprenticeship schemes.
Many former students have since succeeded, rising to the top in industry or in the Public Service.
Colleges also ran Link Courses, that offered “sampling”, when many of the less motivated academically went on to trade training or even craft apprenticeships.
Why on Earth cannot we learn from past successes?
The present Noddy Book means of delivering the recently announced Diplomas in High Schools causes “wrinklies” like me to despair!
Tom Wareing MCGI, MCIOB, Chartered MCIPD, Headless Cross, Redditch