Failing economic strategy and local planning applications dominate Selly Oak Report Back event

Steve McCabe held one of his regular Report Back events in Selly Park on Thursday 18 April at St. Stephen’s Church, Serpentine Road. It was well-attended by local residents. The meeting opened with a summary of events at Westminster and key issues in the constituency.

The budget debate provided an opportunity for Steve to share his survey results with the Chancellor on what the people of Selly Oak wanted in the budget. The budget is a disappointment to many but the cut in National Insurance contribution to help small employers take on staff is very welcome. You can find a copy of Steve’s contribution to the budget debate at:  

Welfare changes have also been a dominant issue at Westminster recently. Some of the changes such as the bedroom tax and cuts to tax credits have actually ended up penalising working families. There was agreement that employment is the key to cutting welfare and that those who can work, should work. Youth unemployment continues to be a major concern (up again in Selly Oak). Too much bureaucracy and red tape, as well as the poor economic situation, seem to be the main reason why small and micro businesses are reluctant to take on apprentices and young trainees.

Local issues involved the joint campaign with other MPs to ensure that Birmingham and the Midlands receives its fair share of licence fee funding from the BBC. Steve reported back on a recent meeting with new BBC Director General Tony Hall where the MPs had pushed their plans for a Digital Hub in Birmingham, a creative industries incubator project and more production from this area; including the excellent drama village on Bristol Road where Doctors is produced.

There was also some discussion on the importance of Katie Road NHS Walk in- Centre and Steve’s campaign to keep it open and a very lively debate on a planning application to convert a former elderly persons’ home in Serpentine Road into a 68-bed student accommodation block. Steve has contacted the City Council’s Planning Department to make clear the concerns of local residents. He said he was worried that recent changes to planning laws had tipped the balance in favour of developers rather than residents when it came to this kind of proposal.

There was discussion about jobs and the lack of an industrial strategy to help bring sustainable jobs and growth to the city. The rapid de-industrialisation in the late 1970s and 1980s had created a lost generation and we must be careful we don’t repeat the same problem. Steve said that a jobs programme for young people was urgently required and that it should include a training and education component. He argued that now was the time for Birmingham to diversify and suggested that the key areas for growth are Life Sciences and medical technology, digital and media industries, green energy technology and promotion of self-employment and micro-businesses. On energy in particular, Steve said that the Government needed to include a 2030 decarbonisation target in order to send a clear signal that there was a market in new clean technologies and that it had to end the reliance on gas which is bad for the environment and will drive up prices and make the country vulnerable to volatile situations in Russia and the Middle East. He said there needed to be urgent action to protect pensioners and vulnerable people from rising energy bills.

Finally, a number of constituents asked for an update on the former Battery Park site development in Selly Oak. He said he had consulted constituents over proposals in 2012 and passed on their views to Sainsbury’s and he felt they had modified some of their plans appropriately. You can view a copy of the latest plans here: He welcomed the reduction in the retail content on the site which he thought was a threat to local shops and plans for a Life Sciences Park but expressed his concern that the current plans omit a restored Lapal Canal link. He said he recognised that it might not be reasonable to expect the developers to meet the total cost of the canal link but said it was vital that planners kept the option open and had called for developers to include it in the plan.

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