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Community first, second and last . . . what Bruce George and I share in common

May 4, 2015

30 04 15 sikh tvIT’S only two months now since I found myself involved in my first TV debate.

My debut was a Big Centre TV broadcast on March 6 at 9 o’clock in the evening on Freeview channel 8. It was nerve-wracking to say the least.

My last one – a 14-minute ‘grilling’ by Sikh Channel chairman Davinder Singh Bal – gave me the chance to give my personal reasons for entering the world of national politics in my first bid to become an MP.

The people and constituency of Walsall South mean a great deal to me.

It’s a personal thing as I told Davinder during the one-on-one questioning. Walsall made me what I am today.

Born and brought up in Walsall in a traditionally voting Labour household, I passed my 11+ exam but as one of six children my mum couldn’t afford to send me to the grammar. Instead I went to the Frank F Harrison School.

As a teenager in the early 1970s I worked in my uncle’s fruit and veg shop, serving among others the sikh residents of the area. I was fascinated by the temples going up alongside the spires of christian churches.

I went from steelworks planning clerk to Mars drinks travelling sales consultant (a Mars a day helped me work, work and stay). I began my life in publishing in 1981, rising from the ranks – reception to company director – helping to launch the Walsall Advertiser a year later.

Sikhs were the first advertisers with the paper. You are fantastic business people and I enjoyed the banter of bartering over advertising rates in the publication.

During my time at the Advertiser I had business dealings with Walsall South’s long-serving MP Bruce George.

NICE TO SEE YOU, TO SEE YOU NICE: Bruce George and I enjoying a joke

NICE TO SEE YOU, TO SEE YOU NICE: Bruce George and I enjoying a joke

Bruce used to pop into our offices at Bradford Street and was a popular visitor. In fact our newspaper column ‘View from the House’ had Bruce as the first contributor and became a regular read for not only many of his constituents but many people in the town.

He was a fantastic MP . . . high profile and visible . . .  working hard for his constituents . . . all the things I hope to be if elected on Thursday.

Some 30 years on I bumped into him on the campaign trail a few weeks ago and we re-acquainted our long association with each other.

Bruce George and I share at least one vital thread of commonality –regardless of politics he always put the community first.

I have to confess I am not a career politician but a businesswoman of 35 years who wants to serve the community all the time.

I want to demonstrate I am truly committed to the people of Walsall, passionate about Walsall.

I will fight tooth and nail locally and nationally for a policy that benefits the people of Walsall South.

I am a Walsall girl born and bred. Walsall is my passion – the town is very much in my heart.

I WILL get the best for residents and businesses in the town.

Being pro-active is vital and with that in mind, if elected, I would drive around the constituency in a Winnebago – engaging with communities.

I want to make seeing an MP as easy as possible – it should not be difficult to access the person representing you in Westminster.

I will adopt an ‘open door’ policy and I also give 10 per cent of my MP salary BACK to Walsall South, setting up a Community Chest Fund where residents and communities will be able to apply for monies.

I was very touched when Davinder Singh Bal said it was a “very noble thing” to offer to put something back into the community as MPs, he said, had been rightly criticised for what he saw as self-serving interests.

Local girl  . . . local champion . . . local community.

Building a better future together . . . that’s the Conservative way

May 4, 2015

9972457-largeIN 35 years of business I’ve always found that there was indelible link between company and community.

One of the proudest achievements of this Tory government over the last five years is in its employment record.

David Cameron’s Coalition achieved an incredible record of creating 1,047 EVERY DAY since 2010 – that’s approaching two million in total.

Labour managed to oversee the LOSS of 25 jobs a day in the their last four years in government.

Business, buoyed by a steadily growing economy which encourages getting the nation back to work, is always keen to help when the call comes.

And here in Walsall we now have a community centre garden – thanks to builders teaming up with a posse of volunteers, made up of local residents.

The result is a fantastic facelift around Pheasey Park Farm Community Centre.

Coleshill-based Bovis Homes have been creating a new part of the community at Nether Hall Park and were happy to assist when an SOS call was sounded by Walsall Conservatives.

The grounds surrounding the community centre were looking rundown, with Japanese knotweed taking over the car park, and the garden areas were looking a barren.

“As a business we are always looking to put something back into the communities in which we build, in addition to the new homes we are delivering,” said Bovis Homes Central region technical director, Daniel Oliver.

The firm kept in close consultation with us and worked to ensure that Nether Hall Park is integrated into the Great Barr community and vice versa.

The Nether Hall Park team funded the refurbishment and arranged for Jack Moody Ltd the landscape contractors to go to work on landscaping the area, planting new shrubs and tackling the dreaded knotweed.

Thank you Bovis Homes  . . . this community investment is very welcome and appreciated.

Building a better future together . . . that’s the Conservative way

Is national politics ready to cede to the will of local, local, local?

May 3, 2015

ESTATE AGENT SIGNTHOSE addictive property programmes carry on constantly about location, location, location . . .

And it got me thinking about something as equally important.

This is the most potentially game-changing general election, possibly since 1945, and certainly since the late, great Mrs Margaret Thatcher showed the world how a grocer’s daughter could successfully run ‘General Store UK’ in the first of her three election triumphs in 1979.

But my message today – with around 100 hours to go to the opening of the polls on Thursday – is more about local, local, local.

Your born and bred WALSALL girl . . . who launched a business in WALSALL . . . and wants to do her best and see WALSALL finish up best.

The emphasis on local – whether it’s backing a Walsall-based business or coming from the world of newspapers who are heading towards hyperlocal websites for generating news – an article from the Express & Star political editor Daniel Wainwright caught my eye.

He tells the best-selling regional daily newspaper’s readers he’s not sure about the final outcome (are any of us?) of next week’s general election; who’s had the most impact; who the real winner might be; although he tends to believe the next government “will be formed as a result of discussions and deals done behind closed doors.”

I might not agree with all his theories but one sentence did resonate with me. He said: “While the parties argue it out among themselves, while they bicker over whether or not the real winner will be Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, the most important thing is going to be having a decent MP fighting your corner.”

He goes on: “What every one of us will need in Westminster will be an MP who is going to be the flea in the ear of the government, whichever party or parties form it.

“We need a professional pest, a squeaky wheel demanding grease.”

ALL FOR ONE, AND ONE FOR EACH REGION:  Are we heading for the choice of local MP being the only thing over which the ballot paper exercises any control whatsoever , says Express & Star political editor Daniel Wainwright.

ALL FOR ONE, AND ONE FOR EACH REGION: Are we heading for the choice of local MP being the only thing over which the ballot paper exercises any control whatsoever , says Express & Star political editor Daniel Wainwright.

And he sees the political throne that has been Westminster for centuries may be loosening its hold. “Ordinarily the best sort of person to have is someone who puts the national interest first,” he argues before adding that “there’s no longer any such thing.” He confirms: “Devolution is coming whoever wins the election.”

And he rightly detects that “we’re not all in this together anymore, not as a nation at least.”

He adds: “It’s going to have to be the West Midlands, with a population larger than Scotland, versus the rest in this new political order.”

He’s sure “another absolute certainty is more cuts.”

And then he notes: “Public resources will continue to be squeezed and if there is to be any money for it then it will need someone utterly and completely devoted to improving their constituency to get it.

That person might come from any one of five different parties, says the regional journalist.

Finally he concludes: “The choice of local MP is the only thing over which the ballot paper exercises any control whatsoever.”

Is national politics ready to cede to the will of local, local, local?

The voters will decide on Thursday whether they want to put local with a capital ‘L’ into the constituency of Walsall South . . .

May the 7th be with you . . . for the X factor

May 3, 2015
QUICK STEP: Come rain or shien, on the trail for the chance to represent my home town. Picture by Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

QUICK STEP: Come rain or shine, on the trail for the chance to represent my home town. Picture by Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

IT’S not something where the train can take the strain.

But to keep me going on the campaign trail, I’m taking a leaf out of an email from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

Their literature doesn’t need to tell me that election campaigns are “physically strenuous” and “the last thing you want is to be laid up on polling day”.

But bless the good physiotherapists, they sent me – and presumably all UK parliamentary candidates – some useful health tips to make it to May 7.

  • Perfect positioning – reduce the strain on your joints through good posture. This will also help you breathe, keeping you calm and relaxed. Stand tall with your shoulders back, pull in your stomach, keep your feet hip distance apart and make sure your spine, shoulder and hip joints are aligned.
  • Sharing the load – carrying all those leaflets can put a strain on your back. Use a rucksack to evenly distribute weight on both shoulders. Never bend down from the waist to pick up a heavy load up but rather squat down, keeping your back straight.
  • Stretch targets – try a few wall presses. Stand with your feet hip width apart, stretch out your arms and rest your palms on the wall at shoulder height and slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Take two small steps back, engage stomach muscles and slowly bend your arms at the elbows. Keep your back and neck straight, looking at the wall. Lower yourself till you’re two inches from the wall and push back to starting position. Make sure you lead with your chest so your arms do the work and don’t arch your back.
  • Manifesto commitments – invest in your health. All that door knocking has done you a favour. A brisk 30-minute walk every day is one of the best things you can do to keep your health. So try to build it into your day!

The society is right – all that door knocking and hand-shaking has improved my physical fitness as well as leaving me little time to eat.

SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS: Having a laugh along the way

SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS: Having a laugh along the way

I thought the above tips might be useful for the voters too, as you digest mountains of literature and prepare to make your way (hail, rain or shine) to the designated polling booth (those of you that haven’t already postal voted).

The X factor – it’s a winning combination for candidate and voter alike.

May the 7th be with you . . .

To be or not to be . . . writing an inviting script where Shakespeare Airport takes off in the West Midlands for Chinese and American tourism

May 3, 2015

HNA Hainan Airlines 787-8 ArtworkTHERE’S been a lot of debate about a region, based on a region even that’s greater than Birmingham . . .

For me it’s all about working with partners to achieve the greater good.

We’ve already seen under this last Conservative Coalition government huge improvements to junction 10 of the M6.

I’m right behind West Midlands Conservative MEP Dan Dalton – who paid a visit to Walsall during the election campaign.

Dan has travelled far and wide and knows his way around England’s county cricket grounds as a former Warwickshire CCC all-rounder and colleague of England vice-captain Ian Bell.

He wants to see Birmingham International Airport become a big hit with China and the United States.

HOWDY PARTNER: Let's brand Birmingham Airport as  Shakespare to the Americans  . . . with West Midlands MEP Dan Dalton

HOWDY PARTNER: Let’s brand Birmingham Airport as Shakespare to the Americans . . . with West Midlands MEP Dan Dalton

The former Elmdon airport gets the first wave of flights this summer with 4,000 Chinese tourists heading for the West Midlands. A partnership between the airport, Hainan Airlines and Chinese tour operator Caissa Touristic will see the launch of a series of 17 return Beijing-Birmingham charter flights, carrying the tourists into the UK on package tours.

Birmingham Airport has also unveiled its new Chinese branding – ‘Birmingham Airport, Shakespeare’s Airport’.

It will be used in China to promote Birmingham as a gateway into the region.

And as I write this blog, Dan reckons that drawing more American tourists to the region is also on the agenda as the idea to rebrand the Birmingham terminal ‘Shakespeare’s Airport’ in the United States takes hold.

This is an idea that can really take off. The West Midlands is world famous as the birthplace of Shakespeare, and as a region we need to maximise the benefit we can draw from our association with the bard.

If Liverpool can have John Lennon Airport, why not have Shakespeare’s airport in Birmingham.

It’s looks to have more chance of success than England’s cricketers in the Third (and final) Test in the West Indies this bank holiday!

Pioneering and industrious West Midlands, of which Walsall has always played such as intrinsic part, has so much to offer our global village that is the world these days.

And if the Conservatives are returned to serve our nation next week then former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine is already lining up the region to be next on the list to receive devolved powers from central government.

The move would see the Greater Birmingham area following Manchester and Cambridge down the devolved powers route.

It would mean greater freedom in areas such as business rates, transport and planning.

Lord Heseltine, who has long been a supporter of devolved powers and regional growth, has worked closely with the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP on the issue of devolution, creating the No Stone Unturned document which is a blueprint for the Greater Birmingham project.

This is my promise: I will act to improve your safety

May 3, 2015

Visa-Debit-CardTHE word ‘courier’ linked to the term ‘fraudster’ almost makes this insidious act on today’s electronic highway sound legitimate.

But here’s a serious and important message in the never-ending battle against crime . . . the courier fraudsters are at work in Walsall.

Please warn friends and neighbours alike – particularly the elderly or vulnerable – to be on their guard against bogus telephone callers.

And a 69-year-old man from the Hatherton area of Walsall has become a victim – with an estimated £1,100 taken from his bank accounts.

The scam sees offenders posing as detectives and using scare stories – often claims that the person’s bank account has been hacked – in order to persuade their targets into handing over account security details, including PIN numbers, and bank cards.

Tricksters then despatch a courier to collect the cards and, armed with PIN numbers, victims’ savings are raided.

In this latest case a man has contacted his victim by telephone and stated he was a police officer who had arrested an offender who was in possession of two cloned bank cards which bore the victim’s details.

The victim was advised to contact his bank immediately. Believing he had ended the call, the victim then contacted what he thought was his bank, however has instead provided a number of personal details, including bank card PIN numbers, to an offender who had remained on the line.

About 45 minutes later a male ‘courier’ called at the victim’s address to collect two bank cards which were used to fraudulently withdraw money from various cash machines.

To protect yourself against courier fraud, the police ask you to remember:

  • Your bank or police will never send a courier to your home to collect bank cards or cash
  • Your bank or police will never ask for your PIN number
  • If you receive one of these calls end it immediately.

Always report fraudulent calls to the police by dialling 101, however if possible call from a different telephone – the fraudster may still be on the line.

For those who are particularly vulnerable, call blocking or number recognition devices may help to prevent them receiving such calls.

As Staffordshire’s deputy police and crime commissioner for nearly three years – I am involved helping with innovative solutions in the war against the criminal, always putting the interests of the victim first.

Sadly only 37 per cent of businesses are reporting crime.

From my perspective – if elected as your MP on Thursday I will always act in your best interests to improve your safety.

We must make Walsall a safer place for our children and the business fraternity

Walsall Police have also warned motorists that there is a blanket ban on ‘car cruising’ – in response to local people’s concerns about noise and road safety.

The police have said that some cruisers think they’ve been forgotten about –  but more patrols have been organised using marked and unmarked law enforcement cars.

The police are also continuing to monitor CCTV cameras covering key locations and will act on calls from the public reporting nuisance to target patrols.

In the last 48 hours six people from Walsall, Shifnal and Telford who were travelling in four cars have been reported to the courts for breaching the cruising order when officers intercepted a convoy.

All were stopped driving away from Asda, Black Country New Road, Great Bridge where local people had earlier reported to police cars gathering and speeding around while spectators watched.

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1200 businesses benefit from tax cut in Walsall South to support jobs

April 30, 2015

Sue Arnold has welcomed new figures released today showing that 1200 businesses in Walsall South  have benefited from the Government’s Employment Allowance since its introduction a year ago, making it easier for small businesses to hire staff and create new jobs.

Our economic plan is backing businesses to create jobs, which is why it is so important that we stick to that plan so we can provide more people with the economic security that a regular wage brings. All that would be put at risk if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister next week, propped up by the SNP – hardworking people would pay the price with higher taxes and fewer jobs.

The Employment Allowance provides up to £2,000 off the National Insurance bill for every employer and is open to businesses, charities and community amateur sports clubs.

The allowance means a business could now hire someone on £22,400 a year, or three people working full-time on the minimum wage, and not have to pay any employer National Insurance Contributions. This is making it easier for local businesses to grow and create more jobs in Walsall South.

Since it was launched in April 2014, over 1.1 million employers across the country have benefitted from the Employment Allowance.

Sue Arnold commented:

“Our long-term economic plan is backing businesses to create jobs so more hardworking people have the security of a regular pay-packet. Since we introduced the Employment Allowance a year ago, 1200 businesses in Walsall South have had their jobs tax cut, making it easier for them to hire staff and create new jobs.

“That’s why it’s so vital that people vote Conservative next Thursday – so we can carry on supporting our local economy and delivering economic security and peace of mind for people in [CONSTITUENCY].”

George Osborne welcomed the figures, saying:

“It is great news that 1.1 million small businesses are now claiming our Employment Allowance. This confirms that our Employment Allowance has been a huge success – and a real boost to job-creating small businesses. Backing small business is at the heart of our long-term economic plan, a plan that is delivering jobs and growth across the country. Britain has now created over 2 million jobs in the past five years, and our £2,000 cashback on jobs has made it easier for small businesses to take on new staff. Our plan is working, but the job is far from over.

'Think Insurance' based in Walsall South.

‘Think Insurance’ based in Walsall South.

“At this election we face a clear choice. People can either vote for political instability and economic chaos, with a weak Ed Miliband propped up by the Scottish Nationalists, which will mean tax rises and job losses; or people can choose David Cameron and the Conservatives, and stick with a plan that is already delivering jobs, growth and a more secure future”.

“These new figures show that our plan is working, but all that is at risk in just seven days’ time if we have Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, propped up by the SNP. Their plan for more spending, more borrowing and more taxes will put vital investment here in Walsall South at risk, and hardworking people will pay the price.

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