Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Election results for 2019

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Campaigners fight plans to turn beauty spot into cemetery

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Gurdip Thandi

People are vowing to continue fighting plans to build a cemetery on a beauty spot despite councillors approving the move.

Powke Lane, Rowley Regis

Some residents left a full Sandwell Council meeting in tears after a slim majority voted the proposal through for Powke Lane, Rowley Regis.

More than 1,200 people have so far signed a petition against the plans.

The local authority said the area was running out of burial plots at current sites and, if the plans were rejected, it would have to stop accepting new burials within four years.

But campaigners claim the scheme will harm wildlife and be a bad move for traffic and road safety and say they have already ask the secretary of state to call the plans in.

Road and buildings damaged by water main burst

Allen Cook

BBC News

Part of a building appears to have collapsed after a water main burst in Tipton.

Bricks and rubble left after water subsided
Sandwell Council

From photos posted on Facebook by Sandwell Council, the supply appears to have now been cut off and flood water has subsided.

The local authority said Park Lane West remained closed at the junction with Manor Road.

South Staffs Water has confirmed it's isolated the water main and will carry out repairs through the night.

Missing £10,000 tractor 'lost' councillors hear

Local Democracy Reporting Service

George Makin

Council bosses in Sandwell have admitted that they have "lost" a £10,000 tractor.

Sandwell Council House

The ride-on unit went missing earlier this year and despite a search and a police investigation its location remains a mystery.

The tale of the disappearing tractor came to light at a meeting of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee, where councillors and independent board members discussed the authority’s annual internal audit.

It stated a review of the grounds maintenance service was carried out after concerns the small ride-on tractor had gone missing.

It added the vehicle was purchased in February 2016 and visits and checks had been made to parks, buildings and satellite depots to try to locate it and the matter had been reported to the police.

But the report added: “However, due to the poor audit trail within the council, we understand that the police have since closed the case."

Council chief executive has left role

Local Democracy Reporting Service

George Makin

Sandwell Council's chief executive has confirmed he's left the post.

Jan Britton's statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service comes just a week after the authority said he'd taken "extended leave".

Jan Britton
Sandwell Council
Jan Britton

The move follows a tough period for the council, including in 2018 children’s services being transferred to the care of a trust after Ofsted called provision inadequate.

In January, leader Steve Eling had his membership suspended by the Labour party, preventing him standing for re-election in May.

His replacement Steve Trow resigned within hours of the party taking all of the council’s 72 seats in the recent election.

The council hasn't said when there will be a permanent replacement for Mr Britton, but the deputy chief executive "will continue to take on responsibilities".

Council chief executive 'on extended leave'

Local Democracy Reporting Service

George Makin

Sandwell Council has confirmed its chief executive, Jan Britton, is on "extended leave".

Councillors and town hall staff were notified in an email on Wednesday which said: “In the interim David Stevens will take on the role of acting chief executive.”

Sandwell Council House

The reason for the absence has not been revealed, but it follows a tough time at the local authority.

In 2018, the council’s looked after children’s service department was transferred to arms-length company Sandwell Children’s Trust – after the education watchdog Ofsted described the department as inadequate.

In recent years the authority has also been beset by a string of allegations of misconduct, bullying and infighting by councillors.

The authority’s council leader, Steve Eling, had his membership suspended by the Labour party in January, preventing him standing for re-election in May.

His replacement Steve Trow resigned with hours of the party taking all of the council’s 72 seats in the recent election.

He was replaced by Yvonne Davies who was elected leader after a controversial ballot marred by several councillors being excluded from the Labour Group only hours before the crucial vote.

Ms Davies said she would "concentrate on working to provide the best possible services to the public".

Children 'waiting years for new homes'

Local Democracy Reporting Service

George Makin

Children in Sandwell Council’s care are left waiting years for new homes because of delays in vital decision-making, inspectors have warned.

The failings have been highlighted in Ofsted’s latest monitoring report into Sandwell Children’s Trust, anagency set up 14 months agoafter the council’s service was labelled inadequate.

Sandwell Metropolitan Council House

Delays are adding to the record number for youngsters being cared for in the borough.

In the last two years, the number of looked-after youngsters has risen by about 300 to an unprecedented 901 as of April this year.

Inspectors said delays in the past had led to some children not being brought into care, while others who could be discharged earlier remain in the system.

Frances Craven, Chief Executive, Sandwell Children’s Trust, said: “Our new dedicated court team are working to see if there are alternatives to care such as special guardianship.

"They are also speeding up the process of children exiting care who are either returning to their families if circumstances have changed or to a more permanent home."

Jacqui Smith, Chair of Sandwell’s Children’s Trust, said the inspection had also revealed "some real positives".

Plea to find D-Day veteran's family

Allen Cook

BBC News

An appeal's being made to try to find a D-Day veteran's family so his ashes can be scattered eight years after his death.

Sandwell Borough Council said George Mills (pictured, right) died in 2011 but had no known relatives surviving him so his ashes were kept at the care home where he'd been living.

George Mills, right, when he attended Remembrance Day Parade
Sandwell Borough Council

Born in Wales in 1923, Mr Mills was one of the first men ashore on Sword Beach during the D-Day landings and lost an eye after being wounded in Normandy.

The council said he then settled in Tipton after marrying his wife and worked as a postman before his death in 2011.

The local authority and the Royal British Legion hope any surviving relatives come forward so they can hold a ceremony in his honour and scatter his ashes at a future date.

Statue of West Brom legends to be unveiled

BBC Midlands Today

A statue marking the careers of three of West Bromwich Albion's pioneering black players will be unveiled later today.

The statue
Sandwell Council

Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis were stars of the thrilling Albion teams of the late 70s and early 80s.

Their manager at the time, Ron Atkinson, dubbed them The Three Degrees after the famous US singing group.

Former team-mates and family will attend the ceremony to reveal the 10ft (3m) tall statue of the trio in New Square shopping centre, West Bromwich.

New council leader appointed

Local Democracy Reporting Service

George Makin

Councillors have chosen a new leader of Sandwell Council in a tightly-fought contest where the margin of victory was just two votes.

Cllr Yvonne Davies
Sandwell Council
Yvonne Davies

Councillor Yvonne Davies beat Ann Shackleton by 35 to 33 at the Annual General Meeting of the Labour group on Monday.

She said her first step would be to take stock, talk to people and take advice, adding: “I hope that everyone recognises that we have spent past years on the wrong side of doing the right thing and actually we need to move forward with integrity, honesty, transparency and openness, and political infighting benefits no-one.”

A second meeting of the Labour group will take place before Ms Davies is formally selected as the political leader of the authority at the next full council meeting on 21 May.