Last night I attended the Handsworth ward forum in the sports hall. Half an hour into the meeting, there were 13 residents in attendance, out of a population over 12,000. I was a bit disappointed.
I don’t blame residents for not going though:
It wasn’t widely advertised – you have to opt in to an email list (I opted in over a year ago, but I only found out from a neighbourhood WhatsApp chat) or search through the Council website to find dates (here).
There wasn’t much structure to the discussions and it wasn’t related back to the Ward Plan (which you can find here).
The Ward Plan is designed to take into account residents’ concerns and needs, and outline how we are going to improve our neighbourhood. It covers the period from 2018 – 2022, so it’s due for review and update.
What did people raise concerns about four years ago? Fly tipping, antisocial behaviour, the state of our community spaces, litter, the regulation of HMOs and Exempt Accommodation.
What were people raising concerns about last night? Fly tipping, antisocial behaviour, the state of our community spaces, litter, the regulation of HMOs and Exempt Accommodation. The very same things.
There has been no progress in delivering cleaner, safer, greener streets.
- Privately-owned land left as dumping grounds.
- Black bags covering the streets.
- Inconsiderate drivers blocking traffic and pavements.
- Poor regulation and oversight of HMOs which are money-spinners for landlords.
- Fridges and sofas, mattresses and furniture dumped in the streets.
- Litter everywhere, and no sign of street sweepers.
The overwhelming sense was that residents of Handsworth don’t feel listened to, and have been left behind.
I raised the issue of pollution – Handsworth is highly polluted with Nitrogen Dioxide levels 2 1/2 times higher than the limit set by the World Health Organisation, and some of the worst affected areas are outside schools. Here is a link to air pollution outside Rookery School.
It’s not enough to say that our legitimate concerns “have been noted”.
We need more action.
We need a Ward Plan that identifies a firm schedule and names who will be responsible to get it done.
We need a better deal for Handsworth.