Category Archives: Opinion

Covid closures a sign of things to come

The Butlers Arms was temporarily close because of a Covid-19 infection
The Bracebridge in Sutton Park has closed its doors temporarily

COMMENT: We are facing chaos over reopening as cases surge and businesses shut down

As pubs are forced to close their doors again in Sutton Coldfield because of Covid-19 infections, there’s a sense of deja vu as so-called ‘Freedom Day’ looming large.

Last summer’s reckless early reopening of venues and the ridiculous ‘eat out to help out’ scheme should have served as a warning. This was followed by the autumn lockdown and the botched Christmas messaging which led to the catastrophic January and February death toll.

Yet again, this blundering government is leading us down a path to who knows where, as infections rocket.

At the time of writing this there were nearly 50,000 daily infections of the killer disease across the country.

The Butlers Arms on Lichfield Road had to close after a member of staff contracted the virus and reopened on July 16. The Bracebridge in Sutton Park has been forced to temporarily close and will reopen on July 24. It has informed the public on Facebook and with notices posted in the park itself.

The sign announcing The Bracebridge closure

A statement from the Butlers Arms said: “Unfortunately, we were made aware last night that one of our team members has tested positive for Covid-19. Thankfully, they are not seriously unwell.

“We have made the decision to close temporarily with immediate effect for the safety or our team and our guests.

“So far, no other members of the team have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test & Trace but we have decided to close as a precaution.”

You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to figure out they are just the first of many more to come as the virus runs amok throughout the population. Nearby Lichfield has already experienced several pub closures.

This commentator agrees that the country should continue with the gradual reopening, but opinion polls show that people are unhappy with the lifting of all measures and support continuing with face covering and the social distancing, whether it be two metres or ‘one metre plus.’

Sadly, those fears are being dismissed with ridiculous comments from government ministers about being on your own on long journeys on a train where you can take your face covering off and ‘expecting’ people to wear masks.

That might be OK for travelling first class back to your leafy constituency in Middle England, but doesn’t address the reality of the dangers of travel for the general public. Or the fact that many workers in hospitality could be in a constant on/off employment state without the necessary financial help to see them through this continuing nightmare.

Not to mention the actual businesses, like these venues, who have been clobbered hardest by the effects of the pandemic, with many forced to close permanently, while others teeter on the edge. They have the dilemma of self policing, balancing making a living against keeping customers and staff safe.

A reply to a my letter of concern about premature relaxation of all rules to local MP Andrew Mitchell received a reply which trotted out the same tired out lines.

I don’t often agree with Mr Mitchell, but admire his stance on foreign aid, in this case though we are miles apart.

In his reply, he said: “It is clear that we will need to learn to live with Covid and as Chris Whitty and others have outlined, continuing the restrictions beyond July 19 is unlikely to reduce the number of Covid deaths and could potentially lead to a worse peak in the winter months.”

Chris Whitty’s body language implied something else. England’s chief medical officer has warned that Covid hospitalisations were doubling every three weeks and could hit “scary numbers” in future.

Mr Mitchell continued: “Ultimately, although these are not easy decisions to make, I believe that we are now in a position where we can use our own judgement and common sense and I support this approach rather than continuing legal diktat.”

In other words, ‘it’s not our fault guv, blame the public for not using common sense.’ Unbelievable.

With the exception of the furlough scheme, the handling of the pandemic has been catastrophic, but one thing I think we can all agree on is that this is a long way from over.

Bill McCarthy

Opinion – Sutton Park under threat from these mindless fools

Sitting virtually in the heart of landlocked Birmingham, Sutton people are privileged to have one of the finest beauty spots in the country. Sutton Park is one of the largest urban parks in Europe, at 2,200 acres, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has been a National Nature Reserve since 1997.

Bracebridge Pool is a particularly picturesque spot and an oasis for many during troubled lockdown times. But these pictures show how mindless cretins who gather in large groups treat it, scattering beer bottles, coffee cups and other human detritus across the frozen pool. Why? There are bins nearby. Answer: They don’t give a toss.
Good to see the pub has taken action though, with a few random notices, which even now are out of date as we go back into lockdown. The pub provides a welcome takeaway service, but it could do more to discourage the shocking behaviour and has finally removed seating near the takeaway.

It’s not just the mindless drunken yobs though. Throughout the rest of the park there is a certain breed of dog owner. I am ambivalent about dogs, neither loving nor hating them.

They have their place in people’s families, but those people also have a responsibility for the behaviour of their pets, which are, after all, dumb animals. The pets I mean. Then there are the mountain bikers, racing past without warning and putting life and limb at risk with their reckless riding, not to mention spraying walkers with mud. You know, the latex-clad supercilious Tour de France wannabes who think it’s all about them and if you complain, or berate them in any way, use their helmet camera videos to threaten you with the police.

But there is that air of exceptionalism with certain dog owners. They let their animals do pretty much as they please, including harassing the Exmoor ponies roaming in the park. Just last week I saw dogs worrying these creatures on three occasions in the space of 10 minutes.

Then there was the oaf who had his dogs swimming in Little Bracebridge, coming out and shaking themselves dry all people sitting at nearby benches. When one complained he was told to fuck off. Nice, and a great advert for dog owners.

On another occasion I saw a huge Great Dane bound out of the bushes to knock a child over. The owner’s reaction. Indifference, but gurning with: “he’s really lively today.” They might as well be on the Planet Tharg. They give responsible dog owners a bad name.

Get them on a lead, the dogs that is. The park is special, the wildlife is special and while dogs are special to families, they should not be allowed to roam free in the park. It should’t be necessary with extendable leads.

We are lucky to have Sutton Park. Shame the morons want to spoil it for everyone.

Opinion – Sutton Park lockdown lunacy

This was the scene at the Bracebridge in Sutton Park today. Scores of people queuing at the takeaway, lemming-like, or standing at tables near the pub.

There’s little or no social distancing in a 60 year queue, little evidence of face coverings and everyone appearing to treat it just like another normal Sunday.

This, less than 24 hours after after the latest restrictions were announced, as the virus is rampaging through the south of England and probably on its way to the Midlands before long.

The death toll is now approaching 70,000, more depending on which figures you look at, with hospital intensive care units near capacity and people just don’t seem to care.

It does not bode well for Christmas, whatever the law says, if people are just prepared to flout the rules, and yes, put others in danger.

Time to think of others.

Bill McCarthy

Opinion – Could mayor Andy do better?

Sutton Coldfield deserves better than naked electioneering during pandemic

As the coronavirus held us in its deadly grip this year, I have held my tongue as government and local leaders grappled with the horrendous number of fatalities caused by this terrible disease, writes Bill McCarthy.

But with a figure of approaching 70,000 dead, more, depending on which figures you look at, due mostly to government incompetence and the catastrophic consequences for business and jobs, I can hold my tongue no longer.

Why? Well, just the other day we what I can only describe as a propaganda sheet dropped through the letterbox, extolling mainly the virtues and achievements of West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

My local the Butler’s Arms, on Lichfield Road, being a classic example of keeping customers safe with ingenious and ground-breaking ideas, at some considerable costs, all for nothing it seems.

This is the mayor who speaks of his contacts with health secretary Matt Hancock, but seems to have little influence. Take the vaccination programme where Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham, our second city let’s not forget, is left off the initial rollout.

He says on a recent Twitter feed: “I expect confirmation this afternoon that vaccinations will begin in Birmingham in the coming days. Disappointing and surprising that the city’s NHS trust wasn’t part of the initial roll-out given its size and record, but I’ve been in contact with Matt Hancock to put that right.”

On an electric bike at Sutton Park and e-scooter in Birmingham

Seems par for the course, just like the cosy phone calls about the tier system and how he was ignored on that score as well.

But back to the four-page sheet called Sutton Coldfield Champion. It goes into great detail about the Conservative mayor’s achievements, together with praising other local Tories, including MP Andrew Mitchell, town council leader Simon Ward and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Jay Singh-Sohal.

The fine print tells you it is published on behalf of West Midlands Conservatives. Which is fine except Andy Street is mayor of the West Midlands, not just Sutton Coldfield. So the Sutton Champion angle is a bit disingenuous, don’t you think? Especially when his Twitter feed says he is ‘Conservative Mayor of the best region in the world’.

Looking at ‘achievements’. It’s a bit like Frank Sinatra. He’s had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

It seems to be a case of ‘pressing’ for this, ‘supporting’ that or ‘maintaining’ the other. Hardly a roll of honour is it Andy? Constantly lobbying on our behalf. Well the lobbying is buttering few parsnips as far as Sutton’s hospitality industry is concerned.

I have to admit an interest here as family members work within that sector. Furloughed if they’re lucky, but not sure if they have a job to go back to, or already out of work, with a bleak future ahead of them.

The efforts to keep Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield in tier 2 failed miserably. The lobbying was so low key, it was invisible. Hospitality venues have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep premises Covid-secure. My local, the Butler’s Arms, on Lichfield Road, is a classic example of keeping customers safe with ingenious and ground-breaking ideas, at some considerable costs, all for nothing it seems.

Meanwhile, the mayor is never shy of a picture opportunity, wobbling around on e-scooters, electric bikes or digging yet another hole, while the hospitality sector tanks. Bit like Nero with his fiddle.

He boasts of having the ear of Matt Hancock, well try the organ grinder, the Prime Minister, rather than the monkey, although I doubt he will get much joy there either.

For the record, Sutton Park was the venue for unveiling the new cycle hire scheme which is due to launch across the West Midlands next year.

The operator, Santander Cycles, has been appointed by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) to offer bikes for hire in Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Wolverhampton and Walsall from next Spring.

Contractor Serco will initially provide 1,500 bikes for hire, of which 10 per cent will be ebikes. Serco? Think track and trace. What could possibly go wrong?

You really need fewer picture opportunities and more concrete action Mr Street.