Once upon a time when we lived in a fairly civilised society we had a wooden hut which served as changing facilities for a range of sporting activities. The hut was available to us in the community, With Ernie in charge it was made available when needed. From 1990 onwards the ward changed from being represented by Tory councillors it transformed in three years to having three Labour councillors with the largest majority in Birmingham. After elections we would return to Laurel Road to tune into the election results late into the night.
One day came the news of a fire. Our precious centre had burned down due to an electrical fault in a drinks machine. What would happen to the site. We wrote letters to Pepsi-cola, or whoever owned the drinks dispenser to see if they would help sponsor a rebuild. Eventually we learned that we would get a new building which we were asked to comment on. I remember we were told we couldn’t have a clock tower (don’t remember anyone asking!) Sports England came on board to help out and gave us funding for upgrading the facilities including a climbing wall (instead of the clock tower I suppose).
On the downside Ernie disappeared to look after another centre nearby. African Caribbean himself he was popular with local youth and could reach out to young people with excellent results. The centre became managed with a new staff. We could hire the building for meetings but it had to be cleared by 9.00pm.
Last Wednesday a large group of people assembled at Hamstead Hall School from the Handsworth Against the Cuts Campaign with banners and songs led by Dave Rogers of Banner Theatre. Laurel Road was a candidate for asset transfer. It was the Handsworth Wood Ward Committee meeting at which the three Labour councillors were present. A request had been made for Laurel Road to be an agenda item. This had not happened but I suppose because of the size of the protest group discussion was grudgingly allowed. We were promised that our views would be taken back to the City Council. The councillors said they were on our side, but in view of the draconian cuts in funding there was little they felt could be done.
The question remains why the Labour Party, now in control, acquieces to everything thrown at it. Handsworth Wood Ward may have continued with its Tory representation. The question is whether the three Labour Councillors oppose the transfer of assets and privatisation. The sad fact is that they do having openly supported first Academies and then Free Schools. While Labour brought in academies their stance of Free Schools has been oppositional. At least of two of the Councillors actively supported Free Schools in Handsworth set up by the Nishkam Centre. Do these councillors not understand that asset transfer and privatisation is the handing over of public money for the purpose of making the now private assets profitable to an unaccountable group of people? How will they support us when they believe in asset transfer etc?