A tale of two clean ups…


This week I joined City Council Cabinet member Lisa Trickett and Longbridge Councillor, Andy Cartwright on a visit to meet Frankley Street Champions.

Frankley Street Champions are a brilliant example of local people getting together to make a difference in their area, organising community clean ups and projects to protect the local environment – as well helping lots of individual residents. They are all volunteers but they also get important support from the local Parish Council. In fact, Frankley is the only part of Birmingham to have its own elected Parish Council, having taken advantage of legislation introduced by the last Labour Government which enables local people to stimulate community democracy and participation.


With clear pride in the work they undertake, the Street Champions gave Cllr Trickett a guided tour of how they have restored and transformed a wooded footpath called Princess Diana Way. It led to some important conversations about how other areas in Longbridge and beyond can learn from the way things are done in Frankley.

The Street Champions do it all without fanfare. They do it because they are part of the local community and want to bring out the best in their area. There’s no showiness about it. It’s a world away from the way you sometimes see politicians running “clean ups” which are in reality little more than staged photo opportunities to catch votes.

Sadly, as the General Election gets closer, we are seeing astonishingly shallow examples of the latter approach right now. Partly they seem designed to divert people’s attention from some of the key political issues that will face voters on May 7. Partly they seem designed to project an image of their Parliamentary candidate as a local resident, using her purchase of an expensive second home in Kings Norton to mask the fact that, as far as anyone can tell, her family home remains in Solihull.


If you live in the Northfield area, you can’t fail to have been bombarded by Tory leaflets boasting about their “clean ups”. Look a bit closer, though, and the image does not always match reality. Just this week for instance, you saw Tory candidates on social media patting themselves on the back after having cleared a footpath near Thomson Avenue, Kings Norton. In reality it was cleared by the City Council some weeks ago, following work by the local Labour team.

Or take the well-known Donkey Track, also in Kings Norton, where a Tory “clean up” again did not match the boasts. The three pictures here tell the story. At the top is a picture of Tory candidates claiming to clean up the footpath last month . The bottom right picturewas taken just a few yards away, a couple of days after the supposed clean-up. As you can see, the path is still strewn with rubbish. The bottom left picture shows the same part of the path a couple of weeks later – after it had been cleaned by the City Council, again at the request of the local Labour Team.

We followed up these, and other, issues with inspections to ensure the City Council had done the job properly. In the case of Thomson Avenue, we also circulated leaflets to keep local residents up to date.

I guess it is up to the Tories if they want to campaign in the way they are doing. It’s so transparent, though, that it beats me why they think anyone should believe a word they say.


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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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