Roger Harmer: Lib-Dem Candidate for Acocks Green

Roger Harmer - Lib-Dem

Roger Harmer – Lib-Dem

NB Roger is not standing this year (2016). He won a Council Seat for Acocks Green Ward in 2014. Previously winning candidates’ pages are left up as long as they are in office. For details of Acocks Green election candidates for 2016 please click here

Q. If elected, given the present economic situation and the cuts in Birmingham, what would your spending priorities for Acocks Green be and what (if anything) would you cut?

A. The only spending that the Acocks Green councillors have full control over is the £50,000 Community Chest. My top priority for this would be to use it to support local community groups who are delivering valuable services to residents in the ward. After that I would prioritise locally based public institutions, who are seeking to deliver extra services to local residents, which meet particular local needs.

At a Council level, there is no doubt that any administration would have to face very difficult decisions. However there are still important choices in what is done and Liberal Democrats would have made several different choices to Labour this year. Our priorities would be to restore the free green waste collection (see last but one Q.) to prevent council tax charges being levied on those who receive council tax support, thus protecting some our most hard-pressed families and to freeze council tax for all residents by accepting the £3.3 million grant on offer from the government to do this. This grant has been turned down by the Labour leadership of the Council. We believe savings can be made, for example, by eliminating duplication of contingencies in the budget, by delivering further efficiencies (see following Q.) as an example) in the administration of the budget and by eliminating some of the costs of the introduction of wheelie bins by making the process more consistent with residents’ wishes (also see last but one Q.)

Q.If elected, will you be seeking to further clarify the present BCC spending on the Service Birmingham contract with CAPITA and will you be seeking to make further reductions on CAPITA costs?

A. Yes

Under the previous leadership of the Council, the Liberal Democrats led a major process to improve the efficiency of the Council. This has led to £200 million of savings, without which the Council would be in even worse financial difficulties. It is vital that such efficiency improvements continue, to build further savings in order to protect frontline services. The CAPITA contract is an important potential area for such savings.

Q. Like most Birmingham suburbs, Acocks Green is presently scheduled to receive a 20 MPHLimiton its main road, the Warwick Road, although there is to be further consultation on the 20 MPH limit scheme. An alternative to the almost blanket 20 MPH (sign based) limit is placing 20 MPH (engineering, and traffic-calming based)Zonesin more carefully selected areas. A recent suggestion to add ‘tables’ – raised areas – on crossings, leading to a semi-zone effect on the Warwick Road has just been explored by BCC and ditched on the basis that the costs do not justify this. See further information on zones and limits, especially in regard to their relative safety in Acocks Green here

If elected will you be supporting city-wide 20 MPH limits or pushing to further explore the use of zones?

A. I support measures to reduce traffic speeds on residential roads (while maintaining the 30 mph and in a few cases 40 mph limits on main roads). 20 mph is a good target for residential roads as the survival rates from pedestrian collisions with cars at 20mph are dramatically higher than those at 30mph. The question is what is the most effective way to use the limited resources available to achieve this?

Given the lack of public support for a general 20 mph limit, illustrated by the recent consultation exercise, I believe the most effective route is to develop targeted 20 mph zones, in priority areas. These zones would see a 20 mph limit backed up by road engineering (build outs, chicanes etc.) to enforce the limit. These priority areas would include areas where there is a history of accidents, roads outside schools or where there is strong support from local residents. Good examples in Acocks Green would include the section of the Warwick Road in the Village, mentioned in the question and the section of Yarnfield Road outside Yarnfield School, where I secured the resources for measures to reduce traffic speeds, following an accident, when I was a previously an Acocks Green Ward Councillor.

Q. Shortly after the elections we will be taking forward to Council Committees the results for the Consultation on our very well supported proposal for a Conservation Area in Acocks Green – see details here.

(At our Consultation, which is a Council requirement and strictly supervised, voting was as follows:Inside the boundary: yes 96, no 3, outside the boundary: yes 18, no O.) The proposal has until now also received cross-party local support. We think it is likely that this proposal will be successful. If elected, will you support this proposal, including the application of Article 4 (Planning Consent required for most alterations) across most of the proposed area, and how will you help ensure that the new rules for protecting local heritage are observed?

A. I have always been an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed Acocks Green Conservation Area and was one of those voting for it as an ‘out of area’ Acocks Green resident. If elected I will continue to support it, including the application of Article 4 across most of the proposed area as this will increase the protection of the built heritage of the Conservation Area. If elected I will work closely with local residents and their organisations such as the Arden Residents Association, the Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum and the Acocks Green Focus Group to ensure that the new rules are observed. As an Acocks Green resident living close to the proposed Conservation Area I will be able to go quickly and have a look at any controversial planning applications or works.

Q. Acocks Green is in the shadow of the Veolia Waste incinerator at nearby Tyseley. The present contract with Veolia is due to end in 2019. What do you think should happen then?

A. The end of the Veolia waste disposal contract offers the opportunity to save Birmingham millions of pounds. This opportunity must be taken, through tough negotiation. However we must also ensure that any new contract avoids the mistakes made with the previous contract and retains flexibility to respond to changing conditions. It must also provide incentives to increase the behaviour we want to encourage, in particular increased reuse and recycling of waste materials rather than rewarding the production of a high volume of waste for incineration.

Q. Would you like to add any broad comments on the recently revised and approved BCC waste collection plans?

A. The biggest area of concern raised to me by residents in this election has been the removal of the free green waste collection service. The Liberal Democrats on the Council opposed this and proposed a fully costed alternative budget, which would have allowed the restoration of this service. I am campaigning strongly for this and a vote for me will send a strong message to Labour that they have got this policy wrong and should change course. It is not just that the policy is wrong, but its delivery has also been badly managed, with those residents who have paid for green wheelie bins often having to wait for months for them to arrive and then, when they arrive, often not having the green waste collected on the correct day. Our streets and verges are now littered with uncollected green waste bags, often with a Council ‘Sorry’ sticker on them. It is not an apology we need, but a change of policy.

Wheelie bins are soon to be introduced to Acocks Green. They are strongly opposed by some residents, while others look forward to them. Which side of this debate each person takes often depends on the nature of each street and whether you have a convenient place to store the wheelie bins. Given where we are, I would support the development of a service which responds better to residents’ preferences, by allowing people to opt out of wheelie bins, where they oppose them because they significantly impact on the street scene or because they make collection inefficient. I would also support the introduction of smaller wheelie bins, especially for elderly residents who will find moving them difficult and have no need for bins of the proposed size.

Q. How would you describe your involvement in Acocks Green over the past two years?

A. I have been an active in Acocks Green for nearly 20 years and have served as a councillor here for a total of 10 years. In the past two years I have been:

  • A Governor at Acocks Green Primary School.
  • A member of the Fox Hollies Community Association, helping to write their bid for the improvements to theEnvironmental Centre and the Fox Hollies Forum, which the Association manages.
  • A Trustee of the Charles Lane Trust which manages the Trust Homes for the elderly by the junction of Fox Hollies Road and School Road.

I have regularly attended meetings of the Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum, the Fox Hollies Green Neighbourhood Forum and meetings of Acocks Green Police with residents. I am also a member of the Hazelwood Residents’ Association. I have been actively involved in a number of local campaigns and have publicised these and other community news on my blog at www.rogerharmer.net. Most weekends I have spent time speaking to local residents on the doorstep and have worked with Councillor Iain Bowen to tackle the issues they have raised.

I believe this degree of involvement, over a long period of time, demonstrates I have the commitment to represent Acocks Green effectively at the Council House.

 


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