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Tories cut up rough as green issues dominate council election campaign

Tories cut up rough as green issues dominate council election campaign

🕔07.Apr 2016

A hard-hitting poster showing a bulldozer tearing up a Birmingham park is the latest Conservative weapon in what looks certain to be a city council election campaign dominated by green issues.

The opposition Tory group has been concentrating its fire on topics that regularly head lists of residents’ concerns – refuse collection, street cleaning, fly-tipping, and now a proposal by the Labour-led council to release eight acres a year of “under-used or unwanted” park land for housing development.

The proposal features in the council’s 2016-17 budget and is an attempt to find additional space for the 51,000 new homes to be built in Birmingham over the next decade. The idea will give the council an additional £800,000 a year in income by 2019-20.

Although Labour is stressing there is no intention to build on public open space or parks “which are well used”, Conservative group leader Robert Alden said the scheme would be a “disaster for Birmingham” and give the impression the council didn’t care about sustainability. Cllr Alden said:

 The environmental impact alone of removing land which helps clean the air we breathe would be damaging in itself.

In addition to that you have to consider the fact that the majority of the parks were gifted to the city and the council has no moral authority to build on them. While most parts of the city are already underserved by the amount of parkland – removing more just makes that worse.

A city which claims it wants to be a world leader in green issues and sustainability is planning to build on the green lungs of our city, the parks, is failing to hit its recycling target, is burning wood meant to be recycled and has doubled the amount of waste sent to landfill since taking over.

It is clear that only a Conservative council will save our parks from being built on and will make Birmingham a greener, safer and cleaner city.

Pressed by the Conservatives to identify park land to be developed, the cabinet member for neighbourhood development and homes, John Cotton, admitted he had no comprehensive list of unwanted or under-used parks land at the moment.

However, he gave the example of a recent development at Jarvis Road, Erdington, where the council is building 116 homes, as the type of under-used park land that could be developed.

City council meetings are dominated by Tory and Liberal Democrat councilors firing questions about missed bin collections, dirty streets, and fly-tipping. Their war of attrition has been unintentionally assisted by council leader John Clancy’s open data policy, releasing publicly for the first time facts and figures detailing performance measures for the fleet and waste service.

Cllr Clancy has made cleaning up Birmingham a major priority for his administration and wants communities to work together to identify rubbish-strewn hot spots.

But the day to day brunt of the Tory-Liberal Democrat assault is borne by Lisa Trickett, the cabinet member for a green, smart and sustainable city.

Last December, Cllr Trickett took the unusual step of conceding that the refuse collection service was “appalling”, although she later insisted the poor record was down to a lack of investment by the council’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition between 2004 and 2012.

At this week’s full council meeting Cllr Trickett suggested the coalition had been spending up to £4 million a year on overtime for refuse crews without any reliable data about collections. The overtime bill is now down to £1.2 million.

Cllr Trickett insisted the waste collection service was improving with “a massive increase” in recycling and that the roll out across Birmingham of wheelie bins had led to cleaner streets. Incidents of fly-tipping had fallen by 30 per cent over the past two years, she stated.

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