There was a large gathering today in the pleasant grounds of Hawthorn House in Handsworth Wood. The Business Transformation Scheme has it on its portfolio, so no messing Hawthorn House has to go. Business is business.
Consultation? I don’t know if that’s catered for in “Business Transformation”‘ ‘cos there hasn’t been any of that. However a few years back there were rumours circulating that Hawthorn House, where there is a local library, was due for the chop and a sizable petition was handed to the Council. Cllr Ray Hassell, then Cabinet Member for Leisure Services wrote indignantly, Who was it who dared to broadcast such a wicked and unfounded rumour? If he knew they would be told in no uncertain terms to wash their mouth out.
It’s a few years since local residents, including my wife, Vron, campaigned for this grade 2 listed building to be preserved since it, together with the grounds, could be put to good use as a community facility. Every time buildings closed down they were likely to be demolished and more homes would replace them. It happened at Island Dairies, where I was promised that this was industrial land and that it would be placed by light industry. The idea being that while people need homes they can also do with a job to pay for it. Land in Regent Road was ideal for play space for that area of the Ward but when I visited recently that is a housing scheme. Local residents campaigned for the former Handsworth Wood Girls’ School to be a community facility and funds were found to pay an architect who came up with a brilliant plan for multipurpose use for young and old, health, leisure, education. The site was sold and the building is now mothballed. Residents of Handsworth Wood Ward were once more empty handed. When my children were little they enjoyed the open space behind Elmwood Church, but when the church building was in need of modernisation that went for, guess what? Yes even more houses.
There is a playground in the grounds of Hawthorn House. I went to have a look while everyone was focussing on the house itself. My wife had taken 16 month old Alfie, our grandson there. She found the small climbing frame had its fence missing. This was to prevent young children falling from a high platform. Another item was missing completely with only the fixed base protruding from the ground covered in striped tape as a warning. Swing seats had been vandalised with cigarettes or something burning the rubber. The notice that this playground was intended for under 8’s was partly rubbed out. Certainly it was not in the pristine condition it was when we proudly handed it to the community only a few years back. I find it particularly galling when the gains I helped fight for as a local councillor only a few years back are so casually snuffed out.
Among those present were the three local councillors and Khalid Mahmood who offered his full support to the campaign. This will be moving on to the Council House on Tuesday in time for the Council Meeting.
Since the Social Services Departments at Hawthorn House are already moving out it seems that decisions have already been made high up. They are not reckoning on much opposition it seems. Anyway, don’t we know about the new Central Library rising from the dust by Centenary Square? The £191 million has to be found to pay for it somehow. We ingrates have to recognise that. Cllr Tilesley has offered to come to Hawthorn House later to explain how Business Transformation works – or doesn’t, depending on your point of view. Weren’t its architects expensive consultants who started the transformation process horribly wrong when the computing system didn’t work? Isn’t the transformation the fact that they, Capita, now virtually run things? Will any of their crew lose jobs in the cuts – no, sorry Business Transformation – process?