Cllr Robert Alden is Leader of the Conservative Group on Birmingham City Council
People often assume that Conservatism is dying in the urban centres that drive our country forward. However, in Birmingham nothing could be further from the truth.
While in 2012 we lost control of Birmingham City Council to the Labour Party, since then the party has been on the up. In January of this year we won a by-election from Labour in Kingstanding Ward, once upon a time the largest council estate in Europe. Winning the ward for the first time since the 1960s, we followed this up by gaining a further two seats in May from Labour: a second seat in Kingstanding Ward (Erdington Constituency) and one in Kings Norton Ward (Northfield Constituency).
Obviously this takes huge amounts of local work, but also city-wide campaign themes. In Birmingham these have focused on the introduction of the Garden Tax, a charge on green waste collections and the wasting of taxpayers’ money elsewhere in the council by Labour.
Two of these examples have hit the national press in the last two weeks. One relates to the above average levels of FTE Trade Union officers Birmingham City Council funds. While no one doubts the good work trade unions do for their members they are none the less a members’ club, whose job is to operate for the benefit of its members. It is dubious that councils should fund this in good economic times, but to allow the expenditure (over £1 million a year) to continue unchecked in a time of reducing budgets is clearly wrong.
After all, people pay a membership fee to Trade Unions, so this should be used to fund the union officers that are required. In last May’s elections we highlighted how Labour voted against a plan we presented to reduce expenditure on this and other items to preserve free garden waste collections.
The second example to hit the national media recently was when Birmingham City Council chose to spend £9,000 to send a member/officer delegation to Chicago. While normally the benefits of such a trip would be open to discussion in this case the only cast-iron benefit listed in the report to council was that it improved links with the University of Birmingham.
So Labour spent £9,000 of taxpayers’ money to improve links with a University two miles from the Council House for a cabinet member who not only attended the university herself, a few years ago, but also represents the ward in which the university students are based.
It is no wonder residents are left saying that in Birmingham “Labour’s priorities are not our priorities”.