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John Hemming's New Year's Message

Its that time of year and I think there is some merit in doing a message for the new year. Normally I don't comment about constituency issues on this weblog. That is because the audience is a wider one than those people living in Yardley. People living in Yardley should get leaflets and reports. However, this time I will look at local issues as well.

Yardley
One aspect of local activity that is always busy is dealing with local people's problems. I started a new casework system in 2004. The last case created in 2006 was 5597 and in 2007 7763. This gives rise to just over 2,000 new cases in each year. Some are simple and are resolved quickly. Others take a long time and are difficult to resolve.

Some issues affect more than one person. Issues like the redevelopment of The Swan have dragged on for almost 10 years now. We are, however, seeing the start of the practical work. Some of the buildings are being demolished and work should be starting on Bakeman House soon. This development is a major development including moving the road.

Other issues like the Boy Racers drag on. The use of the Coventry Road for street racing is not a good idea. I have been working with ACPO on proposals to extend Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 to make it easier to keep the roads safe for other road users.

Similarly Graffiti (particularly tagging) has been a big problem. We have now treated a lot of cable boxes and other surfaces with anti-graffiti paint which means tags can be removed with a cloth. We do have a graffiti removal kit in the Coventry Road office that can be borrowed as well.

It is good to see work happening at the old Glynwed Site. We are, however, suffering from planning gamesmanship over the Wagon and Horses. We should not be forced into accepting an unsafe retail proposal because otherwise the premises remain in a bad state.

The second runway proposals at BHX have now essentially been abandoned. It is important to see the blight removed from people living around the airport, however.

Birmingham
We have had a mixture of news for the city. We have had good news in that we are getting more of the funding that we were supposed to have. We also have the announcemnet of a scheme to replace NRF. We don't know what strings are attached to this as yet.

New Street Station's redevelopment always seems to be just about to be announced. It does look like rear guard actions are being fought in some government department. (probably transport).

The City Council's biggest problem is having to do a pay and grading review. All local authorities have to do this. However, because Birmingham is the biggest local authority it faces more problems. There were, however, some really silly deals (such as 52K to paint white lines) that had to come to an end.

West Midlands
The government have held back on creating the regional select committees. This makes it difficult to have a true regional agenda. The regional spatial strategy is still a mess and the government's figures for housing growth don't add up. Perhaps we will see some movement on this in the new year. I don't think the government have done sufficient to help people deal with flooding, however.

Parliament
I have been on various Bill Committees and remain on the Procedure and Regulatory Reform Select Committees. I chair the New Media and Peak Oil All Party Parliamentary Groups and am vice Chair of Carers and Performance Alliance. I signed 1,400 Early Day Motions in 2006-7 and tabled 32.

Campaign Issues
Justice for Families
One of the areas that I have done a lot of work in is in trying to improve the way in which the judicial system treats families. This includes grandparents and other members of the extended family. In a year in which Sally Clark died the Angela Cannings Foundation has been launched to support victims of such miscarriages of justice.

There are many problems in this area of the law. The fact that children can be taken into care and adopted merely because their parents did not cooperate with the local authority or missed some school days is basically wrong. There are literally thousands of miscarriages of justice and there is a failure of accountability in the system. I am hoping to see some changes in the new year. The government officially, however, do not recognise that there is a problem. There is a massive problem in the Family Division and a smaller one in the Criminal Division.

Peak Oil
We are running a good number of peak oil events in the new year. With the failure of Milford Haven to come on line the UK is more vulnerable this year to gas problems than it was last year. However, although the system is still showing the error of taking gas from storage in preference to import, the weather has so far not been too cold. If it is like today's Daily Express (-17C) then we will face problems as a country. My objective is to get the government to recognise reality.

Bingo
The campaign against the dual taxation of Bingo will continue.

Government Accountability
I am continuing to try to find mechanisms to reuqire government ministers to answer questions. The procedure select committee is looking at this issue.

International
I am aiming to produce a report looking at global conflict and how to reduce it. The neo-cons in the USA don't seem to have learnt anything and adding the oil shock to the global cooking pot creates more uncertainty.

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