Today is St George’s day and our patron saint and Englishness will be celebrated in West Bromwich with an annual parade on Sunday 28th April. For a time, it looked as if the parade would not take place. The organisers claim that the council was imposing impossible costs. Then following a meeting, a £1,000 council grant solved the problems. And the council took more than its fair share of the credit for solving a problem of its own making.
Throughout its 22 years, the St George’s day parade been an unwelcome event for the lefties running Sandwell council. Past council sponsored criticisms have hinted at racism and disorder generated by the event without producing any evidence of either. One year, councillors pretended scandal at an Irish pipe band’s participation. Recently, any joyous celebration of patriotism has attracted loathing from the miserable Corbynistas. Despite this negativity, the parade has grown in numbers and popularity.
Its popularity is what the left most fears. It’s popular because it’s a community created event, organised by local people; not something foisted on us by the Socialists who always think they know what’s best for us. Worse, to the minds of Sandwell’s rulers, it’s successful in attracting large crowds of visitors from around the country; something millions spent on council vanity projects consistently fail to achieve.
The council resents that it can take no political credit for the event. It’s well organised and invites unfavourable comparisons with the organisational hash which the council frequently makes of its junkets. In Sandwell, you‘re more at risk of injury at a council run bonfire than at one in your own in the back yard.
The ultimate left wing objection however is that the event is not controlled by the council. The council wants to have at least a finger and preferably a whole fist in community pies. This is shown by the local Labour party taking over voluntary organisations and the council seeking to control them through the use of grants, the awarding of contracts and the victimisation of the uncooperative.
Voluntary organisations in Sandwell need to beware of over reliance on grants from council funds and, despite the council claims to be on its uppers, there are an amazing number of funding streams available. If the council pays the piper it will sooner rather than later call the tune.
The notorious Whats App exchanges between Sandwell’s former “leisure chief” now ex Cllr. Richard Marshall and Julian Saunders, the Sandwell Skidder, provide an insight into how the system operates and the use of control mechanisms by the council in respect of voluntary groups.
The council sees it legitimate to bully a group into conformity. Here’s an example with local charity Murray Hall.
“26/10/2016, 15:33 - Jules: Do we know why The Hobbit [Labour Cllr. Bob Lloyd] is no longer chair of Murray Hall?
26/10/2016, 15:36 - Richard Marshall: Yes Lollzzz
26/10/2016, 15:36 - Jules: And....
26/10/2016, 16:22 - Richard Marshall: I'm led to believe that the Trustees at Murray Hall felt that the obvious link between Cllrs under scrutiny and question was maybe starting to have a negative effect on their relationship with Council and may ultimately effect contracts they may or may not get awarded.”
Interference in the running of an organisation was illustrated in the case of Wednesbury Celebrates, a Labour front organisation which commandeered Wednesbury’s town hall.
“09/08/2016, 11:27 - Jules: At Weds TH. [Wednesbury Town Hall] When I said I was Skidder woman walked out of back of office. Can't swear but think it was Costigan.
09/08/2016, 11:28 - Richard Marshall: Blonde hair?
09/08/2016, 11:28 - Jules: Yep.
09/08/2016, 11:29 - Richard Marshall: Probably. Shes on our side but the Joneses don't know it.
11/09/2016, 10:54 - Richard Marshall: Also don't say yet as the Joneses aren't aware but police have been called in by the new WC
11/09/2016, 10:55 - Jules: "The new WC"????
11/09/2016, 10:55 - Richard Marshall: Wednesbury Celebrates
11/09/2016, 10:55 - Jules: Who is running that?
11/09/2016, 10:56 - Richard Marshall: Volunteers that were involved but hated the Joneses. They are being assisted by people we've sent in”
This indicates the steps taken by the council to achieve control of what claims to be an independent voluntary organisation.
Other texts show the contempt the Labour council leadership has for its foot soldiers who do the heavy lifting in these organisations. Labour councillors pull the strings but, except at photo opportunities, remain in the background. That way they get credit for any good done and avoid criticism when things go wrong.
“04/01/2017, 08:15 - Richard Marshall: I think the new Wednesbury Celebrates would like to meet up with you at some point soon, they are getting frustrated with the time the system is taking to deal their issues if you're up for it?
04/01/2017, 08:15 - Jules: Certainly
04/01/2017, 08:16 - Richard Marshall: Ok ill pass on your details if that's OK?
04/01/2017, 08:17 - Jules: No probs …..
04/01/2017, 08:17 - Richard Marshall: Ok warning though you will need to go to the pub after
04/01/2017, 08:18 - Jules: Can manage that....
04/01/2017, 08:18 - Richard Marshall: Your ears will be buzzing for hours. They literally tell you EVERYTHING at once
04/01/2017, 08:19 - Jules: ?
04/01/2017, 08:20 - Richard Marshall: They struggle with order of importance and to stick to one point
04/01/2017, 08:20 - Jules: Well I have time....
29/09/2016, 20:04 - Richard Marshall: These are all little old ladies”
In some wards, Jezza’s looney army, have been particularly aggressive in infiltrating organisations to exercise control. Labour councillors in Wednesbury edged out Wednesbury 2000 as organiser of the Christmas lights event. Here again the councillors do not get their hands dirty. They delegate the footslogging to an outside organisation. In 2017 it was Tipton Community Association and Steve Downing, then a Labour party member and activist appointed to organise the event.
Here’s what Mr. Downing had to say of the experience; “There appeared to be a hidden agenda.
There appeared to be separate secret meetings where arrangements were made without my knowledge.
All three Councillors arranged external sponsorship and direct payment of some activities and attractions. These arrangements were kept secret and not discussed at any meetings I attended, even though I requested information on several occasions.
The sponsors were not revealed until the event, they did not appear on any publicity until the event when a large banner was placed at the front of the stage.
A FINAL meeting was arranged by the three Councillors which had to be rescheduled at my insistence as they had not informed me, or invited me (as the organiser)
I have no knowledge of the amounts of any external funding, who received it, or who it was paid to. I felt coerced into accepting decisions that had already been made, ……..
I was also pressurised into ignoring the requirements of SMBC's Safety at Public Events Committee regarding the Fire Eater's act insurance cover
In another meeting, where I was trying to ascertain the content and running order of the event (as more secretly arranged items had been added) I was subjected to an array of dirty looks, tuts and eye rolling from all three Councillors,………
When I raised concern about the level of expenditure (as we were at that point over £1500.00 over budget) I was told to not worry as there was plenty of money and they would simply sign another LAB grant, this I felt was contrary to the spirit of my tender for the project.
Throughout the whole sequence of planning meetings and site visits I felt unwelcome, pressured, and treated with a level of contempt by the three Councillors named.”
The three councillors he named were Elaine Costigan, Peter and Pamela Hughes. LAB is the local area budget, dispensed in grants to local organisations by councillors.
Other Wednesbury Labour Cllrs. Olwen Jones and Bob Lloyd were not invited to meetings. The remaining Wednesbury Labour councillor was then Tony Meehan. Though Wednesbury deputy town lead he was doing little but pocketing cash for the privilege and didn’t attend.
Needless to say TCA and Mr. Downing were not invited to organise the 2018 event.
We wish the organisers of the St George’s day parade every success with their event on 28th April. We only caution them and other Sandwell voluntary organisations that there is no such thing as a free lunch and if supping with Sandwell council they should take a long spoon.