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In Conversation With Andrew Mitchell

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Join us as we talk to local MP Andrew Mitchell about his love for politics and Sutton Coldfield

Hi, I'm Arianna and this is royal town talking podcast. What's on in certain could field. Today we have with US Andrew Mitchell, MP for certain cold fields. So, Andrew, thank you for joining me today. Understand you've been a MP for certain cold field now continuously for around twenty years. Yes, twenty, twenty one. I think it's obviously the great privilege to represent the Royal Town and has Commons my my predecessor, Lord Norman Fowler, represented something Coldfield after representing a Nottingham seat and I fact by coincidence that is that the same thing? I was in parliament for ten years before coming to Southfield in Nottingham. Sure, and then I came across and was lucky enough to be selected and elected to represent the royal town and it is, you know, the greatious privilege of my life to have been given the chance to represent the good people of the royal town of Sut Coulfield. And, as you mention, of course you've you've represented in Nottinghamshire also and I believe several other roles as well in your history and politics. And I guess one thing that always interests me is why people want to get into politics in the first place and what they find rewarding it about that as a role. Well, I think most people come to politics from mixture of altruism and EGITISM. And in a way, you know, if you're too far one way, maybe you shouldn't be involved in politics. If you're maybe if it's too altruistic, the other professionals for you. And if you're too EGOTISTIC, there certainly other professions for you. But but I think it's a mixture of those two things. And for me I had a father who was in politics, who was a member of parliament to so in a way I sort of learned about the pluses and minuses of politics at the kitchen table and I saw him looking after his constituents. But in the end, once I sort of left university and got a proper job, I did find myself shouting at the television over some of the things that were going on and and in the end, you know, someone symphony will, instead of chatting a television way, you do something about it, I suppose. I suppose that was really my my rout into into politics. You must have had some interesting family dinners at home. Well, my father was always to the right of me I'm a pretty centrist politician. Really, I'm a one nation polity. Indeed, I am the chairman of the One Nation Group of Conservative members of parliament and lots of people try and appropriate for themselves the One Nation title. But actually, you know, I think that something cold field is a very one nation term. You know, it's full of moderate people who are internationalists to care about the world around us and, of course, who care hugely about the environment and climate change and the quality of life in the Royal Town. I think it's a very one nation sort of place and I sort of tease my labor friends and something gold field that really they are certainly small sea conservative and should really be joining the one nation brand of conservatism that I hope I represent. So what drives you and motivates you most in your role? I think that the heart of anything a member of parliment does has to be looking after their constituents and I think at the point where you know it's no longer exciting and important and fulfilling to you when you get back to your constituency on a Thursday, when that when you reach the point where it is no longer for filling, then you shouldn't really do it anymore, but I think that the motivation I have is, I hope, to look after somethin cold fields and all the people,...

...the hundred thousand or so who are within the curtilage of the Royal Town, and to try and improve those things that need to be improved and also make sure that we keep the good things and don't allow them to be fritted away or or not take a note of or just missed, so that we make sure that we build on what is good and tackle what is not so good. What you find most rewarding? Oh, I keep a file of thank you lessons actually, which on bad days I sometimes have a look at and I think that that the most in many ways. You know, a lot of being in politics is very frustrating actually, but the but in the in the end, if you know made a difference to someone's life, one of your constituents, as something has happened which you've been able to effect to make things better for them, and that's enormously satisfying. I love that. You keep a file. That's great. Yes, well, it's it's some years old now, but it's it's quite a thick file. I'm please to say. Good so of course. I guess over the last twelve months or so we've had some unprecedented circumstances, for sure, and one of the larger impacts within our community has been on the small and independent retail businesses, as well as, obviously, the large household names that we've seen recently close and leave our high streets. I've been talking to some local people, and I mean even Nigel for instance. He told me that he'd counted about thirty close units within the Grace Church shopping center and the high streets. So I'm curious really what you can tell us about what might be being done now to help support those retailers and specifically the small independence that that really we hope not to lose. Well, let's deal with the very specific and then the more general. Specifically, in the budget last week the business rates holiday was extended for three months and then it tapers on for another nine months. So, alongside of twenty three revaluation to reflect accurately the impact of Covid the government has initiated a fundamental review to the business rate system as a whole. The reviews as reflect a desire, amongst other things, to address concerns about complexity improve the targeting of reliefs, examine alternative methods of setting business rates multipliers and investigate how the billing process can be modernized and digitized. So that's the specifics in the last budget we've done to try and help. But turning to the town center, I have very close relations with the business community and I have been in awe and humbled by the way local small businesses throughout this crisis and I've visited a lot of them, you know, from the two parlors to some of the restaurants and lounges and cafe landers and so on. I've been in all of the way. They have hot clown by their fingertips. They're full of innovative ideas how to survive soon as they can reopen. Many of them are literally hanging on by the skin of their teeth. But but you know, it will get better and I am sure you know that there is a bright future ahead and one of the things we've learnt in the town center is is what is required. It took a long time to get mere green right, but once we knew what to do, we did it and Mere Green as a success story. I think on any objective basis now and in the town center. We know we need a mixed economy where you've got housing of all sorts, freehold, part equity hold, leasehold flats. You know, we want a whole range of different types of dwelling places alongside a full community of activities, you know, whether it's small niche retail, Cafe Society, whether it's...

...big national retail. We need a hotel, we need all sorts and conditions. We want to have a build on our fabulous library resources. We want to have a heritage center in the town center there. So we want to build a community which is not just retail and it will happen. It may take a bit of time, but it will happen. And we're going to have an interchange system between for transport, between the station and buses and we will have this. And the town council, which is the right entity, is very much in charge of coordinating with the mayor, with me, with Birmingham City Council, with private developers. The town council run by Simon Ward, a considerable businessman who knows what he's doing. We have the benefit of Andy's street, our mayor, who used to run John Lewis and understand about retail and the need to refashion the way the town center is done. So we've got lots of plans in the making. I can't tell it's going to happen with enormous speed, but it's going to be heavily consulted locally so we end up with a town center that is fit for purpose in one of one of the most ritzy places in Britain to live. You know, if you look at the Sunday time supplements, you'll find that some cold field is always in the top four or five the most desirable places to live in Britain, and I believe it absolutely is. For sure I would agree with that. And so you mentioned there the the New Public Transport Interchange and which you know is part of that town center master plan, and can you tell us anything about how that is progressing? Yes, I mean the the town because it's now in the hands of the the town council. They have commissioned a report, very detailed report. That report and the discussion with the owners that it's been like, you know, through playing three dimensional chess in the town center because you've got very different ownership. You've got the grace chip center, the ownership. There you've got the principally, but not only the parade and so forthwis zonned by Burning City Council and you've got other elements. So that owned by a major pension fund from the north. So you know, getting everyone into the right place for this redevelopment is incredibly important. And the time under the Time Council's leadership, we are now making progress, okay, but there's no timelines that you can disclose at this moment in time. I don't think I don't think it's right to think in terms of timelines, but every day that goes by brings it closer and, of course, brings the finish. And all of us will be very conscious of the fact that in two thousand and twenty eight it's the five hundredth anniversary of our royal charter from King Henry the eighth and you know, I very much hope that by that state will be able to see a town center, at least in the distance, that is fit for purpose for the Royal Town. A sudden GOINGFU and it states at the heart of the master plan there are a series of big moves. Are these things that you could expand on for us well, I think it's all comes in the context of what I've set out for you and that's that's the context in which the town council is working. Okay, wonderful. Thank you. Now crime is always high, I guess, on everybody's agenda, but I think there are perhaps and misconceptions that business crime is generally victim less. However, it's not the case as far as understanding. In the ACS is most recent crime report, the estimates with it shop theft and owne can cost a convenience sector approximately forty four million pounds. So what I would like to know when he is what can be done to help move business crime higher up on the police's agenda to stop repeter fenders stealing from shops and harm in the communities that they serve ultimately. Well, you're quite right and that analysis.

And again let me deal with the specific first, through the National Retail Crime Steering Group, we bring retailers and police together to tackle retail crime and we are encouraging closer local partnerships between police retailers to the better crime prevention measures are put in place by routailers and the local police respond effectively to crimes when they are reported. You know, in two thousand and fourteen the government also changed the law to enable cases of theft from a shock of goods for the value of two hundred pounds or less to be dealt with US summary only offenses, and this enables certain types of shocks theft to be dealt with a swiftly and efficient is possible and it enables the police to prosecute uncontested cases. It is it is really for chief constables and police and Crime Commissions, as operational leaders and elected local representatives, to decide how best to respond to individual crimes and local crime priorities, but to help in sure that the police have the resources they need to do so. And one of the things I've been very concerned about, along with many, many people throughout the royal term, is this Labor police and Crime Commissioner proposal to to shut down something coil fields police station. And the conservative candidate in the in the elections, the mayoral elections, for the role of police and Crime Commissioner is a Subtonia Jay Sohn Sing, and he has made a specific pledge to keep open the police station and I'm very pleased about that. But you know, policing is local, as your question implies, and we need local policing in Sun kill fields, source sourced out of the police station and not have that police station closed down, and I'm glad to hear that hopefully that will be the case, that it will not be so one of the things we did, Andrew, was speak to some of our followers to see if they had any questions specifically for you that they would like me to ask. So I've got a few here that I hope are okay with you, that we felt were relevant. Right. So, Justine had concerns around road safety, both in terms of the general conditions and speeding drivers in certain coldfield and she asked with less traffic on the roads due to covid nineteen, it was a perfect opportunity for the council to target and fill the growing number of potholes. However, many concerns have been raised with the council and whilst for some day do do a temporary fill, in others they don't, merely just marking around them. Surely when they go out to fill these pot holes they must notice the others in close proximity, but they don't appear to be remedied. Yes, well, it's an extremely good question from justine and as a matter of fact, I asked all written question in parliament just last month to find out how much money the transport department has allocated to Birmingham City Council for the repair of Pot Holes and the last twelve months. And as as you as you may know, it's not a royal southern Kilfield town council issue. It rests with Birmingham City Council and you know, the answer I got was this that Birmingham City Council is a local highway authority is responsible for the maintenance its local road network. Birmingham City Council has a highways maintenance private finance initiative project for the Comprehensive Upgrade and maintenance over twenty five years of their highway network. The project commenced operation on the seventh of June twenty ten and the department is providing over one point two billion towards the two point seven billion total cost. I've also raised a number of queries...

...petition specifically with Birmingam City Council on behalf of constituency. Complained about this because I very much agree with justy. But with less traffic around it's the perfect opportunity to fill those pot holes and the government did announce some time ago that this was the case and extra money would be available for pot holes as well. It's good to have that context actually that it's the the Birmingham City Council, because I think it's it's useful for us to understand where those responsibilities lials. So and next, on the issue of road safety, just seene also said that the speed of traffic generally is very high. I know that there's been counselors monitoring speeds in certain areas. Webster way had been called out specifically, but there hasn't really been any remedial action as yet that has been seen. And when just in in fact raised it with her counselor, it was suggested that she actually monitor the Times where the speeding was getting worse, which I seem strange. It should be recommend members of the public should have to track that speedling. So I guess the question here is really what is the protocol on having traffic calming or slowing measures implemented well again roads and not devolved to the Royal Southin Coldfield term counsel and I have received number of emails about this. Each situation is different. There was a very bad situation indeed on the a thirty eight where the police intervene heavily and I always support local residents, whether as a consensus about what is required, for example, dummy or real speed cameras, signs, etc. So I always weigh in on behalf of local residents. But the the decision rests in part with the police and in part with Birmingham City Council, and it's important to you know, to say that our a certain conservative Birmingham city councilors always press on this point and you know they go over the border and Birmingham and fight very, very hard for our interests in the royal term. So if anybody has concerns of this nature, who should they be talking you? Should they bring it up with? Well, I think in the first instance they she'll bring it up with the Birmingham City Council who, as I say, I know will take action. But if they're dissatisfied or they don't get what they want out of it, they're very welcome to come on to me. My role in that really is to back our councilors. It's getting a positive result okay, perfect, thank you. Next, there is an extra level which certain could filled residents pay as part of their council tax, and Sheila Mansel wanted to know what plans there are to enhance or promote within the area. She does say that the team is doing a great job. We've cleaning and hiding up, but she would like to know if there's a perhaps a list of where the money's have been spent, ideas of what the plans are for the future. Well, the minutes and agendas of the meetings of the Royal South Coil Field Town Council are available online, Sheila, and there is a strategic plan for twenty twenty two and twenty three available also. I mean the the the great thing about the town council is that it is staffed with mate as it happens, mainly conservative counselors, but all the counselors on it have the blue blood of St kild field flowing through their veils and it's one of the reasons why I'm so keen that the park should be taken over effectively. I think there'll be a number of of ways of doing this, including through some sort of trust structure, but I think it should be led by the roles suthin killed field...

...town council, because the counselors there are closest to the park and and the the in general, government is always best when it is conducted is close to the people it affects as possible, and I think that's a particular important aspect of the growing row of the Royal Soup Kill Field Town councle. It is the biggest town council in the country. It's not very old and it is gaining in experience and I want to be sure that it gains also in authority and row locally as and when it can and indeed takes over some of the role of Birming City Council, which, because it's closer to local people, it is better able to execute. And what is most important, and it sort of bears on Sheila's first point, is that we should not see any form of double taxation. In other words, if we take over the role of Biron City Council on the park, it mustn't mean that my constituents are paying twice over, once through the precepts to something Buillfield town council and once through the council tax to Birmingham City Council. I can't think of anything that will annoy people in the royal town more than feeling there being legged over and double tax so it's very important that the precepts should not compensate for things that should really be dealt with by Birmingham City Council but which are not being dealt with and outer frustration say well, will use the preset money to do it. And I'm full of admiration for the town council's parsimony and care with our precept because, you know, they are accumulating balances and I'm these balances will undoubtedly be needed. They'll be needed if we do something with the park, they'll be needed in terms of the town center roll. But by not frittering the money away but by ensuring that these grants are these that these this thumb is really carefully looked after and built up. I give top marks to the town council for not, you know, spending it, because people say used to spend it, but but looking after it very careful good husbandry for the time when it will really benefit the world term. So top marks to the Tory administration for that parsimony and care. Absolutely thank you and I know we've touched somewhat on some of the plans and the next steps for the region, but I wonder if there were any other key priorities that you were able to share with us today. Yes, I mean the agenda of Andy streets, who is currently our mayor and who will be seeking re election in May. Is incredibly important for the region and also for stuff and cold fill. And why do I say that? Because he is able to negotiate with the Tory government in Westminster and get everything possible for the West Midlands and also for Suthin Coldfund. He's already heavily engaged with town center plans. He's engaged on transport issues, opening up the southern part line, all of these things. You know, a good mayor like Andy step can help deliver for the region and for Sudn Coulford. Perfect. So, Andrew on a light to note. I've got a couple of signature questions, which I hope is okay with you, of course. I would like to know in the last few months what your biggest surprise has been. That can be personal or work related. I guess my biggest surprises. HMM. Well, I'll tell you what it has. Actually it's I've found a publisher from my book. I read a book in between looking after all my constituents. Join the first blockdown. I wrote a book and as a publisher who who likes it very much and it will be published later this year. That's probably my biggest price. Oh, congratulations. What's it called? It hasn't yet got a title, but we're working on that. Okay, so watch this space and it'll definitely be available from from a good book shop in something Coldfield in due course. Wonderful. And...

...do you remember what the first records you bought was? You know, I do. It was by the Beatles and it was it's a such a long time ago now, but it was by the Beatles and it was called can't buy me love. You still have it? You know? I don't think I do, and if I didn't, be worth a lot more than I paid for it. Exactly, okay, and I guess. Finally, then, do you have a secret skill or a party trick of some sorts? I think that in that I have a secret skill. It is. It is that, I suppose. I suppose if I have a secret to get it is if I know. That's a bit about why? Only wine from a particular area of France and because I was rather brought up in the wine trade, of taken a particular interest in that. So, so so I know a bit about the wine that comes from the Bordeaux area of France. Very good. So you'd be able to tell the wine in a blind taste test. Well, I always avoid those because it's so embarrassing when you get it wrong, but I have I'd have a chance. Sounds Great. Okay, so wine and books is what I've learned from this. We look forward to to that, hopefully when when things reopen again and we can enjoy those things. I hope so, and I hope it won't be too long. And Arianna, thank you so much for such a nice and enjoyable podcast interview. Thank you, Andrew. Thanks for joining us today and enjoy the rest of your evening. It's pleasure all right. Take Care, Andrew, thanks ever so much again for joining us. We look forward to seeing your book, hopefully soon in the stores when it has a title, and thank you for sharing all your plans with us. Join me next time when I'll be talking to Laura Hughes from power medics and finally, to all our listeners. Thank you for listening, and please do leave us a review, good or bad. It's the only way we can find out if you are enjoying the content and get ideas from what else you would like to hear. So, until next time, stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Take care and goodbye. This for post production for what is on its.

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