Hammersons, a footsie 100 company, owner of Birmingham’s Grand Central development is also owner of a slice of land near Sandwell and Dudley station, slap bang between the town centres of Oldbury and West Bromwich.
Its original plan was to develop the area as a retail park. A plan that would no doubt have had an adverse effect on trade in both those adjacent centres. Hammersons is now rethinking its strategy and aims instead to build houses on the site.
Good for them. Another retail park is as welcome in Sandwell as the black death. Homes are desperately needed for current residents and an expanding population. Particularly because the Labour council has failed yet again, this year, to meet the government’s target for housebuilding. It’s the same sorry tale of extravagant Socialist promises and pathetic performance. Another example of that party neglecting the very people it claims to represent. The usual Labour excuse “cuts” and “lack of resources” is baloney given Sandwell’s large financial reserves and vast undeveloped land holding.
Now, the nastier face of capitalism. The development of the Lion Park playing fields as a “designer” shopping village remains a threat. This involves building on a green field site and the destruction of sports and recreation facilities. Should it happened it will produce traffic congestion over a wide area and increased pollution and diminished air quality. The only benefit likely to result will be to the pockets of the developer.
Following the May elections internal feuding in the local Labour party continues unabated. Prior deselection of a large number of sitting councillors, plus the suspension of two others enabled Yvonne Davies to secure leadership of the council by a thumping majority of two votes.
Her faction lost no time seizing the levers of power. All the previous cabinet members were sacked except Sayeda Khatun (the Moslem vote). Cllr.Simon Hackett had made such a hash of his responsibility for Childrens’ Services that he was expected to remain, but didn’t, and Sandwell’s governing body is, also, now deprived of the towering intellects of both Cllrs Gavan and Costigan.
We don’t want to intrude into private grief. However, while Labour councillors are engaged in conspiracies and back stabbing they are not considering and serving the interests of the people of Sandwell. The corrupt practice of maintaining posts of “special responsibility”, really jobs with no work and no responsibility but cash handouts for councillors will remain as a system to buy individual support. Feuds and splits also pose a dilemma for the discerning voter who needs to ask “Is my local Labour council candidate a Corbynite or a Blairite, a Daviesite or an Elingite, or just in it for the special responsibility cash?”
Sandwell’s chief executive, Jan Britton appears to have become collateral damage in this civil war. He’s on “extended leave” which in all likelihood means gardening duty while the lawyers work out his severance package, another tab to be picked up by Sandwell’s council taxpayers. Unfortunately, rather than maintain civil service neutrality, Britton allowed himself to be identified with the now defeated Eling faction.
Britton is unlikely to be the last to go. Monitoring officer and Director of Law and Governance, Surjit Tour would be wise to study the “Sits Vac” ads. He’s presided over too many of the Eling “show trials” of Cllr. Davies’ supporters.