Colors: Blue Color

With one month to go until the launch of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, Birmingham City Council has published the Birmingham Clean Air Zone Charging Order 2021.

The order sets out the full details of how the Clean Air Zone will operate. The order (except Article 7) came into force on 26 April 2021. Article 7 (Imposition of charges) will come into force on 1 June 2021.

This means that from 1 June 2021 onwards vehicles of specified classes that do not meet the emissions standards set out in the order will, subject to specified exemptions, be required to pay the charge stated in the order to drive in the Birmingham Clean Air Zone. Owners of high polluting vehicles will be charged to drive within the A4540 Middleway (but not the Middleway itself).

The order sets out the temporary and permanent exemptions available, how the council will approach any enforcement associated with non-payment of the Clean Air Zone daily fee and how it intends to use any income generated from the zone.

Temporary exemption permits are available for:

·         people who live in the Clean Air Zone

·         businesses who store vehicles overnight within the Clean Air Zone.

·         people who live outside of the Clean Air Zone but who:

    • work more than 18 hours a week at premises within the Clean Air Zone
    • earned not more than £30,000 in the tax year ending 5 April 2019
    • are the registered owner/ keeper of a non-compliant vehicles

A voucher scheme, which will enable visitors to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Attwood Green Medical Centre and Badger Medical Centre to cancel any charges online. Following conversations with the NHS, this scheme has also been extended to include Millennium Point as a mass vaccination centre.

Stephen Arnold, Head of Clean Air Zone, said: “With less than four weeks to go until the launch of the Clean Air Zone on 1 June 2021, the publication of the Charging Order represents another significant milestone on our journey to cleaner air. As we move even closer to the zone’s implementation, we are urging people who have not already done so to check if they will be charged and if eligible, apply for a temporary exemption permit or financial support.

“If you are subject to the charges, now is the time to consider your options to either pay the charge or explore alternative options to travelling by private car.”

Those who are eligible for a temporary exemption permit are being advised to apply with all supporting evidence by no later than 10 May 2021 to be guaranteed their exemption in time for the 1 June 2021 launch. Applications submitted after that date will still be processed but there is no guarantee they will be approved in time for the Clean Air Zone and therefore charges will apply.

Jay Singh-Sohal, who is standing to be the regions next Police and Crime Commissioner, has welcomed the announcement that 628 police officers have been recruited in the West Midlands in the first year of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s campaign to recruit 20,000 by March 2023, as part of the 8,771 additional officers that have been recruited across England and Wales.

This means the Conservative Government’s target of recruiting 6,000 by March 2021 in the first year of the programme has been dramatically exceeded, with the halfway milestone likely to be reached within the coming weeks.

The addition of these new officers brings the total number of police across the West Midlands up to 7319, meaning there are now more frontline officers on our streets to keep the public safe.

The pledge to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers was one of Boris Johnson’s key pledges during the Conservative Party leadership contest nearly two years ago.

The new figures have also confirmed that every single force across England and Wales has met or exceed their recruitment targets. 139,000 people have applied to join the police since the start of the recruitment programme. Analysis of diversity data shows that there are now 10,218 officers from a Black Asian and Minority Ethnic background – the highest number on record. 

In addition to recruiting 20,000 additional police officers, the Conservative Government is supporting the police with the powers they need to crack down on crime, including through introducing the landmark Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which will give the police additional powers to get knives off the streets, a £636 million funding boost for police forces this year, and a new police covenant – which will enhance support and protection for frontline police officers.

Commenting, Jay Singh-Sohal said: “Getting more police officers onto our streets is one of my top priorities, and so I am delighted that this Conservative Government has already delivered an extra 628 officers across the West Midlands.

“Every one of these officers will make an enormous difference in helping to cut crime and keep people safe – and I know that many more will follow as this Government continues to deliver on its promise to recruit 20,000 extra officers over three years.

“If elected as Police and Crime Commissioner next Thursday, I will work constructively with the Government to ensure that the West Midlands gets as many of those officers as possible - and I will cut out politics and waste to free up funding for even more.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “When I became Prime Minister, I made a commitment that we would recruit more police officers, cut crime and make your streets safer.

“In just one year, we have hired an extra 9,000 extra police officers, smashing our first-year target and putting us well on track to recruit the 20,000 new officers we promised.

“But we need Police and Crime Commissioners locally who can continue to work with the Government to recruit police officers and cut crime as we Build Back Safer from the pandemic, so I’d urge people up and down the country to vote for their local Conservative candidate on Thursday 6th May.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “As Home Secretary, keeping you, your family and our country safe is my number one priority.

“One of the Government’s key promises was to put an extra 20,000 police officers on our streets, and I’m delighted that one year in we have surpassed expectations and already recruited nearly 9,000 additional police officers.

“Our police officers are the very best of us and I will continue to give them the resources and powers they need to keep us and our loved ones safe. But I need local Police and Crime Commissioners to work with me to get crime down as we emerge from the pandemic, so I’d urge everyone to vote for their local Conservative candidate on Thursday 6th May.”

Is your local area sitting on a gold mine? Rubbish collection company Divert.co.uk says we all are - and that recycling our overlooked ‘beige gold’ could fund transformative community projects.

As a result of the seasonal demand for cardboard - for delivery boxes, birthday cards, and more - combining with an explosive growth in online shopping sparked by global lockdowns, cardboard packaging manufacturers are finding themselves struggling to get hold of the materials needed to make more boxes, tubes and packing.

This material comes largely from the recycling process: we recycle almost 80% of the cardboard we use in the UK, so much of our packaging finds its way back into the manufacturing process for a new lease of life. But this ‘beige gold’ is now trapped in the homes and recycling bins of the Great British public, rather than the faster-moving commercial recycling processes used by large retailers, restaurant chains and the like.

The result? The price for waste cardboard has now reached £80-100 a tonne - and Divert.co.uk has devised a scheme to get that money into local communities while getting the cardboard log-jam plaguing manufacturers moving.

A spokesperson for Divert.co.uk, Mark Hall, said: “It’s clear that the combined effects of an enormous boom in online shopping and Christmas, plus personnel issues as a result of Covid-19, have had a knock-on effect on the cardboard waste life cycle in the UK, but all hope is not lost.

“We propose placing cardboard waste bins in easily-accessible locations across communities and encouraging residents to bring their ‘beige gold’ along: this can then be sold at the currently high rates per tonne, raising much-needed funding for local communities and fostering a sense of community well-being that is so crucial during these difficult times.

“It’ll open up the conversation about recycling, provide funding for community projects, and can be scaled up as necessary - we could have a Community Cardboard bin at the end of every street!” Between 2011 and 2016, English local authorities cut spending by 27% (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The cost of the cuts report) - leaving scant resources for frontline services, let alone community projects seen as ‘non-essential’.

To explore how communities would use funds raised, Divert.co.uk ran a poll to reach real communities and hear their ideas. The results were telling - and heartwarming.

Over a quarter (28%) of the respondents said they would allocate the money to creating or renovating playgrounds for local children, while a green-fingered 26% opted for a community garden or shared allotment project. In a more sobering look at the needs of many local communities, a fifth (20%) said their first choice would be to fund local food banks. Happily, local sports teams, community arts projects and other such initiatives also featured highly, suggesting that these projects are sorely underfunded at present.

What community initiative would you fund with money raised from a Cardboard for Communities drive?

 

New playground for local children - 28%

Community garden/allotment - 26%

Fund local food banks -20 %

Support youth sports teams - 13%

Community arts projects - 9%

Other - 4%

Divert.co.uk’s spokesperson continued: “We’re really excited about how much of an impact this initiative could have: everyone involved would benefit, from the communities collecting their waste and receiving much-needed funds, to waste processing centres which desperately need more cardboard to speed up their recycling process.

“Nowadays, the general public is well aware of how important recycling is to the environment: this is a natural progression of that, encouraging them to see the direct benefit of recycling right in their local area.

“We’ve seen and heard some incredible ideas for the funds raised by this initiative, from planting trees along high-pollution local roads to improve the air quality to funding food banks in more deprived areas. The beauty of this scheme is that each area can decide what’s important to them and then reap the benefits.”

Knife crime is an epidemic on our streets, according to Desmond Jaddoo, speaking at the Matthew Boulton College.

Jaddoo was one of six panellists at the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Hustings, an event hosted by The Lunar Society, Chairing the session, New Style Radio's Charmaine Burton was central to proceedings as the panel tackled knife crime, racism in the police force and illegal substances, amongst other matters.

On the panel alongside We Matter Party's, Desmond Jaddoo were Labour candidate Simon Foster and Mark Hoath of Reform UK. Also, Jon Hunt of Liberal Democrat, Conservative's Jay Singh-Sohal and Julie Hambleton (Independent). Billed as an opportunity for the public to hear from candidates for the role of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) before the election on Thursday, May 6, 2021, the event streamed live via zoom.

"I don't see knife crime as a phenomenon," Jaddoo said via a video presentation. "I see knife crime as an epidemic on our streets."

He said: "We're doing a lot of work on knife crime over the years. I've been involved in school education programmes, Weapons Surrender Bins - indeed, yesterday we opened our Weapons Surrender Bin in Sandwell, the only knife bin in West Bromwich. In addition to that, over the past three weeks, we've collected in excess of one hundred and fifty knives off our streets. "We also place Bleed Control Kits out.

“We've place out over a hundred and twenty Bleed Control Kits now, and that is increasing. "Developing awareness and having, an --- what we call --- 'In Your Face Campaign,' in layman's terms, is what we need to be doing. We need to energise communities. We need to have a zero-tolerance approach to knife crime, but what does that zero-tolerance approach look like?"

He said: "We don't need any more reports. We don't need any more seminars. What we require now is affirmative action, to work with young people particularly, to educate young people about the ills of knife crime, and also as well to get to the root causes." The votes counted in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell, Coventry, Solihull, and Walsall will decide the next PCC.

Since 2017 when Andy Street CBE was elected Mayor of the West Midlands, the face of the region has changed almost to the point of being almost unrecognisable from its former self, proudly boasting the fastest growing economy anywhere outside of London.

 From redevelopments across the West Midlands both towards local infrastructure and public transport, to Commonwealth Games related new builds and redevelopments, alongside the completion of projects like the facelift at Symphony Hall, the region has flourished, despite the last few years of uncertainty and downturn during the pandemic.

These redevelopments would not have been possible without the local, national and international investment in the region that Andy Street has been able to secure, including more than £3bn of Government investment to support the local economy with no Mayoral precept added to council tax bills. The level of transport investment this year was seven times higher than in the year before Mr Street became Mayor.

Before the Pandemic struck, the West Midlands enjoyed record-breaking housebuilding, with over 48,000 homes built, nearly doubling the target originally set when Andy Street became Mayor.

“Our region was doing well before COVID struck, with record-breaking numbers of jobs, record house building and the best growth anywhere outside of London,” explained Andy. “Now we need to recapture that success and surpass it.”

Andy also helped to secure both the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and Coventry City of Culture for the region, alongside creating over 97,000 new jobs in the three years before the pandemic.

“From the day I was first elected I said I wanted to be a Mayor for the whole of the West Midlands, not only reaching out to the different communities that make up the region, but also recognising that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths.

“As we begin our recovery, I think those principles of equality and inclusion are even more important now, because it’s vital that all of our communities benefit from investment we attract.”

Looking forward, post-pandemic lockdowns, Andy has already got a strong vision as to what he wants to target. “The West Midlands needs a Mayor who can deliver an ambitious but practical plan, and drive our recovery as we come out of the pandemic - I’ve pledged to create 100,000 new jobs in the first two years and continue to bring billions of pounds of investment in to create new opportunities for local people.”

Andy is also committed to reaching the region’s target of becoming net zero by 2041, using large-scale green programmes to reduce carbon emissions in transport, industry and homes, as well as maintaining the record-breaking house building rates achieved pre-pandemic, especially with his ‘brownfield first’ policy, protecting the green belt.

Polling day is May 6th, so if you’ve not already completed your postal vote, make sure you get to your polling station on the day and ensure that your voice is heard.