Tuesday fun – Walsall Council and interesting statistics

Nothing too serious but one for the ‘surely that can’t be right’ department.

Got the latest edition of ‘Walsall Pride’ through the door today. For those not aware, this is the council funded publication that Walsall MBC knock out to tell us how wonderful the place is with the usual array of smiling Tory councillors. (no sign of a single Labour or LibDem one in this edition, they usually at least throw in the odd token one)

This one appears to be a ‘special edition’ telling us what the local council is doing to help people with the recession, stuff like implementing schemes set up by the erm, *cough* Labour government.

I do like the emphasis in the first paragraph, “In this era of uncertainty created by the national economic downturn” – like no mention of the fact it’s a global recession or anything but you’ve got to hand it to the munchkins at the Walsall Press Office for that neat bit of wording, very clever.

I also couldn’t help noticing the statement from Councillor John O’Hare (leader of the council and a Tory) of course. “Short-term, high impact and easy to implement measures are needed right now by Walsall’s residents and businesses coping in some extremely difficult times.”

‘Short-term high impact” is he some kind of Keynesian geezer or something? I’d hate to think what old Cammers boy would think of Tory council leaders espousing such views. Actually I’d love to know what O’Hare actually means by this.

Are we talking extended public service related stuff like support and all that hideous old dogmatic socialist crap that involved y’know employing people in the public sector to do stuff? Can’t quite see how that fits with the Tories national argument that there’s like, all these public employees sitting around knitting and the like.

Or are we talking about sticking cold hard cash into business through loans and the like (of which there are a few examples contained within the publication) which strikes me as a good old bit of Keynesian economics which I like thought, y’know, the Tories didn’t really dig.

OK, party political things aside and back to the genesis of this post.

On page 18 and you can find it in the online edition here. (PDF) By the way, if that link doesn’t work, do let me know, looking at it they’re on version 3 of the publication so perhaps they may be amending it as they spot errors. If in doubt, you’ll be able to also get it by going here.

So what we’re dealing with is the claim on page 18 that states (in relation to reducing waste and saving energy) “A dripping tap can waste 500,000 litres or £400 a year.”

Let’s just deal with the cost. As these parts are served by private monopolist, Severn Trent water this is easy. According to their charging structure and forgetting sewage costs and standing charges (on a meter the sewage cost would bump the figure up even more) they charge 130.06p per cubic metre of water. So 500,000 litres wouldn’t be £400, it would be £650.30.

So apart from potty prices there’s the original assertion that a dripping tap wastes 500,000 litres of water a year.

In a highly unsophisticated scientific experiment of my own involving a clock with a second hand, a two litre bottle of cherry coke (empty of course) I worked out that I can fill said two litre bottle of cherry coke with my tap on full blast in 12 seconds.

That’s 10 litres a minute, 600 litres an hour, 14,400 litres a day or 5,256,000 a year (not leap year). So with my cold water tap (should say that as the pressure is higher on the cold tap than the hot so therefore more water) on full blast I could get through over ten times the amount of water they state.

The only problem being, a tap on full blast does use a tad more than one that is dripping.

Now I’ve had a look around and there are some differing figures from various energy saving organisations and research from universities and the like into the amount that is wasted by a dripping tap but we’re actually looking at somewhere between 4,600 and 5,500 litres a year.

So lets pick say 5,000 litres a year as a nice in between and easy to do figure. At Severn Trent’s prices that would be £6.50.

Now don’t get me wrong, saving water, cutting costs are all things I value highly but £6.50 a year odds on isn’t going to make or break any household or business over the space of a year.

There you go Walsall Council, I even did the research and figures for you, feel free to amend, I won’t charge you for my services.

On a separate note, via Twitter, JimboGunn asks the very pertinent question “ask them how viscous water would have to be for a 16ml drop to form every second?”

Nice one.

Congratulations to Tory controlled Walsall Council

Actually that really should be the EU who’s legislation has managed to drag an area of UK environmental practices into the 20th century* but we’re dealing with the new recycling scheme we’ve got round these parts.

Bit of background. A fortnight ago we got a new wheelie bin. One of those 120 litre ones that is now designated for non-recyclable waste – it’s black btw. The old 240 litre green wheelie bin is now for recyclable waste only and we’re allowed to keep the old green box that was supposed to be for recycling.

Here’s how it should work. The 120 litre bin should be collected on weekly and the 240 litre on a fortnightly basis. All good stuff although I’m curious as to whether the council would have bothered if it weren’t for the EU threatening to impose massive fines on councils but in general terms I like this arrangement as opposed to the previous ‘system’.

Given that Walsall MBC failed to collect my recycling box for the five years I had it and our genuinely positive attitude towards recycling here at Penguin Central I was looking forward to see how the new system would pan out.

A fortnight in and our black bin was collected last week but not the recycling one which is fine because last week we had a couple of bags in it as an overhang of our rubbish that had accumulated before we were able to actually separate everything out. This week we managed to cut our non-recyclables down to a single bag which is pretty good going for a family of four but the recycling bin was getting dangerously close to capacity.

Today’s bin day in our parts and thankfully the recycling bin was emptied. Oddly though, our non-recyclables bin wasn’t. The bin men couldn’t have missed it, it was sitting next to the other bin they emptied so what exactly is all this about? We were promised by my favourite Tory Councillor Rachel Walker who apparently has responsibility for Environment that weekly collections for non-recyclables were guaranteed. If I was in a particularly sarcastic mood I guess I could say this was a case stealth fortnightly collections by the back door but I’m not, they might just have accidentally missed mine.

There is however an important point to this. In a situation where the ability to put out non-recyclables has effectively halved, a missed collection is even more problematic. It is in the end just a good job that we’ve been so good at sorting out our rubbish here which means we’ve still got plenty of space for this week.

That said, I think there should be a little more care taken in how the bins are put back after they’re emptied. The pavements on our road were strewn with bins all over the place this morning which makes me rather glad that I don’t use a wheelchair or motability scooter because I’d have had no chance. It could of course be a clever method of creating temporary chicanes to stop the kids riding their bikes fast on the pavement though.

Well done Tory Walsall council, after 5 years of not collecting my recycling box you’ve managed now not to collect my new non-recycling bin.

*That was deliberate.

Tory u-turns and in less than a week – classic

Ah, the joys of living in Walsall. OK, Walsall’s always had a reputation for being a bit of a rotten borough and even at times when the other workings of our political system sometimes seem lifeless, there’s always the prospect that Walsall will come riding to the rescue and liven things up a bit.

So without further ado, I present you two rather curious pieces of reporting courteous of the last remaining bastion of impartial news reporting, our veritable own region’s favourite newspaper, the Express & Star.

First article here and second here.

At the risk of being accused of having some personal vendetta against Cllr. Rachel Walker as this is now the third time I’ve dared to criticise her/department I think it’s just fair to say I simply don’t like muppets with a propensity for cocking things up.

Here’s the scenario then. The other week local Government workers undertook a nationwide bit of industrial action over pay. Nothing wrong with that but it seems unlike every other local authority in, well the country I think, Walsall seems to have cocked this one up royally.

Unlike the others who seem to have sorted out any bins not collected on the days in question Walsall has ever so wisely decided in true huggy cuddly New Tory fashion to turn this into a nice bit of union bashing.

So up pops Cllr. Rachel Walker with the “we’re not going to pay those oikish filthy trades unionist scum extra money to collect the rubbish mounting in the streets that wasn’t collected while they we’re being filthy lazy sods and just so you hideous little proles out there know, we’re not going to let them pick up any extra bags the following week either so don’t even think about getting the service you’ve already paid for through your council tax either, what do you think this is a public service or something?”

OK, not the exact words but you get the gist of it.

Then, oh hang on, people ain’t happy about this. Bugger bugger the proles are complaining and it’s getting into the meeja, better call in the Walsall Council Communications Unit to sort this one out.

So now we have a new litter ‘hit squad’ with the obligatory “we’re still not going to let those oiksome trades unionist types get any extra money for striking because they’re scum I tell you, scum.”

Except, hang on a moment here. According to Cllr. Walker herself, these ‘Hit Squads’ (sorry have this really perverse image of blokes dressed all in black with balaclava’s on roaming the streets of Walsall SAS style) are made up of “extra teams of binmen”. So here’s a question.

These ain’t binmen on their normal rounds picking up a bit of extra rubbish on top of the normal. They’re dedicated teams that have required additional organisation and presuming that Walsall council doesn’t have an army of binmen sitting around doing nothing to be called in to sort stuff like this out then where did they come from because presumably all the other binmen would be working on their normal rounds.

They’re not by any chance binmen doing a bit of overtime perhaps?

I wonder how much all this extra organisation and staffing is costing the council to sort out a cock-up that could so easily have been managed within normal services at no cost whatsoever.

Incidentally, kudos to the local Tories for managing to get the timing spot on. Let rubbish mount in the streets during the hottest week to date this year, you couldn’t make up this level of incompetence.

Strangely the comments section on the two articles on the E&S’s website are closed. Heaven forbid people might be critical of a Tory council eh? Got to be trailblazers for freedom of speech you know.

I do love good balanced reporting

Over to the Express and Star for another installment of local taxation rises. This time with Walsall Council announcing a 2.94% increase which is heralded in the Express and Star with the headline ‘Tax rise lowest in area’.

There are two issues that seem to crop up in relation to this. Firstly that I questioned as to why the article on council tax rises for Wolverhampton only reported the ‘Band D’ figure and it’s good to see that the Express and Star have reported the actual figures for all the bands for Walsall but anyone would think the Express and Star were biased and I’m sure it would have nothing whatsoever to do with the political control in the respective boroughs.

However, and this really does indicate rather poor journalism in the use of the headline. Now I’m not exactly sure what the Express and Star determines to be ‘area’. Is it Wolverhampton and Walsall? In that case then yes, factually accurate but at lease from my perspective, if we are talking about comparisons then I would consider ‘area’ to mean the four Black Country boroughs (please, no arguments about the boundaries of the Black Country) of Walsall, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Sandwell.

This is strange because Sandwell Council put out this press release the other day.

Now forgive me for questioning the mathematically competency of your average Express and Star hack but isn’t 2.9% less than 2.94%?

That said and I’m sure like any other householder, the figure that’s really important to me is the bottom line actually cash amount.

I know I should do a nice table with all the bands in it but it’s late and I can’t be bothered so here’s ‘Band A’ as that’s what is of more concern to me in actually living in one.

Sandwell: £855.88
Wolverhampton: £941.52
Walsall: £948.94

Dudley don’t announce theirs till March 3rd so we’ll have to wait on them but it’s fair to say, Walsall, despite the nice headlines isn’t exactly the cheapest place to live. Let’s not get on to the quality of services either shall we.

Hacking Walsall Council’s servers

Not literally of course. I’m one of those people who has always sought out knowledge and tries to work things out. Much in the same way that I possess the knowledge and skills to illegally rip DVD’s, I also have also over the years accumulated what could be defined as the slightly darker side of the techie nature. I’m not a hacker per say, nor a cracker either so much in the same way that I possess the knowledge to undertake what are decidedly illegal activities, I simply choose not to because it’s against my own principles.

That said, and one of the reasons I’ve been very busy was that I had something rather complicated to sort out with Walsall MBC the other week that required me to pop into their OneStopShop up at the Civic Centre in Walsall.

I’ll start by saying which will not be a surprise to regular readers that I don’t hold Walsall MBC in particularly high regard. I’ve visited the OneStopShop twice before and on both occasions I’ve been dealt with by a member of staff who really didn’t appear to know what they were doing and subsequent problems that arose after those encounters only went to confirm that. I also find it a bit of a pain that I should have to go all the way up to Walsall to sort these things out because they are too inflexible to sort out the issues any other way but there you go. In time past I could have gone to the Neighbourhood office in Willenhall which is a whopping couple hundred yards walk from the house but since the Tories closed them all down and centralised everything (note to self, don’t believe Tories that talk about communities) now us poor residents of Walsall have to wade our way through the complete mess which passes for the road system around the town.

While I was at the OneStopShop waiting my 38 minutes to be served (yes I did time it) I noticed that they’d got some public terminals for web access so I decided to check them out. They’re a bit pants really. Anything interesting or useful like Google are inaccessible along with it seems most blogs so that probably explains why the computers are sitting there unused while their highly inneficient Pentium 4 processors burn up electricity for no reason. Strangely enough this site isn’t restricted which is strange given how critical I’ve been of the council but there you go.

What I did notice however, being the curious Penguin that I am is the setup of the machines. They’re quite restricted in what you can use on them for obvious reasons but with two glaringly obvious exceptions.

First up, there are various bits of the Window XP operating system running and available which if you know what you’re looking for would provide any would-be hacker/cracker a good starting basis for trying to break into their system. I won’t obviously say what but as my blog is read by a number of people up at yon council I’m sure someone will tip-off the IT bods to have a look.

Secondly, and probably more indicative of the times is the rather easy access to the DOS prompt. Now for those under 30 who are not techie bods you probably won’t remember this but back in the days before all these cute little icons that you click to load stuff there was what’s called the Command Prompt. It’s easily recognisable as a black screen with a little flashing white cursor where you can actually type stuff to tell the computer what to do. I was very amazed to find it easily accessible on the public machine and in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing can be an absolute dream for getting in and causing all kinds of mayhem. Perhaps the techie bods at the council are young and don’t know what it’s for or what it can do, or perhaps they’re just schooled in the click an icon approach of a Windows system but someone tell them that this isn’t really a good idea.

In fact, having the computers set up in such a way really isn’t advisable. I mean have they never heard of ‘dummy terminals’ or hey, they could always be really kicking and up to date and run bloody virtual machines through an entirely different server than leaving their system open to attack like that. Just a thought really, never mind, it is only Walsall Council after all.

Just when you thought it was safe to dip your toe into the blue again

It’s interesting to seen how David Cameron has truly changed his party. Nolonger the heartless uncaring breed of Tories that drove our public services to the brink of collapse throughout the 80′s and 90′s. He’s reassured the British people that it’s safe to vote Tory again. That they care about our communities, our elderly, our young and about worker’s welfare and conditions. Gone are the days when people would have to fear for their job or suffer changing working conditions that make them worse off. It’s great to see that Dave has instilled this caring ethic into his party and as someone who happens to live in a local authority (Walsall) controlled by his party that I have to accept as a cynical old leftie that I was wrong about the Tories. They really have changed and one has to look no further than Walsall Council’s budget for this and the forthcoming years to appreciate the focus and dedication that Tories at the local level have towards delivering top notch public services to us residents of all ages and circumstances.

In fact, I thought I’d share a few of the highlights with you, of course with a bit of commentary and interpretation of my own. Enjoy.

Increase of 10% on all leisure facilities activities:

Yep, that’s 10%, no not in line with inflation. After all, in a Borough that has one of the worst obesity rates in the country, forget about encouraging people to exercise or take part in sports activities, nah lets just try and screw some extra money out of them. After all if people stop going to the leisure centres, we can always claim they’re under-used and shut them in the future saving even more money. Everyone’s a winner eh?

Southwark council tax

Just really a post of sympathy to Jon Worth, who has been duly added to my blogroll for being up there in the higher strata of the political blogosphere, (he talks about serious stuff, not innuendo and tittle tattle crap) not to mention a good open sourcer.

He’s having a few problems with his council tax by his Tory/LibDem run council. I can fully sympathise, we had similar difficulties with our council tax up here at Walsall MBC which also used to be a Tory LibDem coalition, till the Tories took over of course and it’s even worse now. A wait in the OneStopShop is not for the faint hearted when it comes to irate punters getting rather miffed that their landlords are threatening to evict them because the council hasn’t coughed up the money.

One might think the council’s a bit on the skint side with all those payments due to staff it’s unfairly dismissed through poor managerial practices but that would just be cynical. However, it’s nice to know that Tory-Tory/LibDem run councils share such common problems. You never know, they might just share other similarities.

Reflections on the Walsall result

It’s been interesting in Walsall, and I’ll try to say a bit more about the matter than my young fresh faced and chipper mate Paul Mac.

I’ll start with a brief reflection on my own humble predictions that I made in the last post. Not far out but not spot on either which is always annoying as I’m usually quite good at this stuff. However it begs a few questions and perhaps a little more analysis of what was actually going on in specific wards.

I happily got it wrong on the positioning of the parties in Short Heath, the BNP didn’t come second as it seems for some reason their vote across the whole of the West Midlands seems to a petered out and fallen back. Hopefully this is a pattern that will continue ad perhaps the electorate have started to realise what they really are as a party.

I got the jitters on polling day about Blakenall, Darlaston South and Brownhills. Thankfully in the case Brownhills they were uncalled for and an excellent hard working local Labour Councillor was returned. Sadly in the case of Blakenall and Darlaston South those jitters turned out to be well founded.

In Blakenall we lost to the DLP (Democratic Labour Party) by 15 votes. The DLP have been targeting this ward for years. On paper Blakenall should be the safest Labour ward in the Borough, although it vies closely with a couple of other wards who should also be far safer than they actually are. All I can say is if anything it should have been last year that the DLP would have seemed likely to gain this seat, put off by a very good campaign then. Why this year? Well, I wasn’t involved in the campaign this year so I have no clue how well or badly it was run but the margin is of course very slim. I’ve been conveyed two versions of the events at the count, the first that a recount was not allowed because staff were tired and the second that the Labour candidate decided not to have a recount because he thought the staff were tired. If the former then I’m sorry, this is democracy and whether the staff are tired or not is irrelevant. If the second account is true then the Labour candidate is a complete and total tit. If it’s a case of only 15 votes then it’s a recount and tough if the staff are tired or not.

On Darlaston South which rightly did go to a recount the margin was even less at 11 votes where the Independent defeated the sitting local Councillor. It wouldn’t have been for any lack of trying on our part as the campaign there was probably the best run and organised in the Borough which the result shows given how far off the mark we were last year when the Independent was returned. This time it was his wife up and plain and simple, they won. Did they deserve it? Well no and Darlaston South is all the worse off for losing probably their most active and dedicated Councillor for someone who I’d have a good bet will do sod all for the area.

The one I missed was Pleck. This was the only loss by Labour to the Tories in Walsall and in some respects needs a little more explanation.

The Labour candidate was new in that the sitting Labour Councillor was stepping down. That sitting Labour Councillor was the Muslim Councillor who after winning in 2004 crossed the floor from the Tories. He’d got there on a communal vote as a Muslim and simply the Tories put up another Muslim and pulled in enough of that communal vote again to take the seat back. I won’t complain because we won the Palfrey Ward last year from the Tories on pretty much the same basis but from my own personal perspective, I’m not a lover of communal politics and although I could write a dissertation on the subject I’ll just note that I recognise that in so far as building strong local democracy, I believe that communal politics has the potential to do more harm than good.

So there you go, apart from that my predictions were pretty much on the money. It was particularly nice to see the LibDem Nadia Fazel get completely shafted in my own ward even if it was by a much higher margin than even I’d dare to commit to. All in all not really a lot changed in Walsall, we’re still in opposition, we stand next to no chance of winning the council back any soon and despite what a complete and utter shambles the Tories are making of the place they can sit pretty for a fair while yet.

I am thinking of another post regarding this issue, concentrating more on the broader view of strategy and interpretation of how the political dynamics are working in Walsall but I shall desist for now as I’ve been to two counts in the last 24 hours, not slept much, am overly tired to concentrate to the extent that the subject matter requires and simply can’t be bother right now, I’d rather do something not remotely linked to politics for the next few hours.

Walsall Borough election result before the votes have been counted

I’m going to stick my neck out here and do a bit of election result prediction. Feel free to shoot me down should I get things spectacularly wrong but give me credit that at least I’ve got the bottle to put myself up for a potential right drumming.

Just for information I penned this article on April 28th 2007 in the early hours of the morning. I’ll be releasing it around about the close of polls on election day. There may be an hours discrepancy in terms of the time stamp as I can’t be bothered to adjust my sites times to BST but you’ll see it definitely went up before the votes were counted and feel free to save it but I promise not to try and pull a fast one by retro-editing it simply to make myself look good or get out of the shit if I get it spectacularly wrong.

So here’s how I think the make-up of Walsall will look come next Friday.

Tories 32
Labour 21
Independent 1
LibDems 6

Which is actually how it stood before the election.

In fairness it could be anything between:

Tories 34
Labour 18
Independent 2
LibDems 6

and:

Tories 30
Labour 22
Independent 1
LibDems 6

So anyway, for you delectation I give you a quick run down on what’s going to happen in Walsall. It’s by no means exhaustive and of course there’s things I know and factors at work in some cases that I have no wish to put into the public domain for use by other parties against us but just for a bit of fun and for Paul Macmanomy to take the piss out of me when I get it spectacularly wrong here we go:

Birchills Leamore: Lab Hold

This on paper should be one of the safest Labour seats in the borough yet last year the majority over the Tories got down to 80 something (can’t be bothered to look it up). The reason for this was that the Labour Councillor at the time Carol Rose defected to the Tories, strangely enough she did this a week or so after she failed to get selected to stand for Stourbridge in the 2005 General election after she was flaunting her wares as a committed Labour person so she obviously thought the Tories were a better prospect for her future. She’s standing again but against Tim Oliver the current leader of the Labour group she doesn’t stand much of a chance.

Blakenall: Lab Hold

Again another seat that should be one of Labour’s safest in the borough. Complicated by a very active Democratic Labour Party candidate but despite that Labour should hold it. If we don’t then there should be some very serious questions asked.

Bloxwich East: Tory Hold

Labour held this seat last year by seven votes if memory serves me correctly, anyway not more than ten. That was with a local candidate who’s well known. This year, not a chance of picking up this seat, Tories will walk it.

Bloxwich West: Tory Hold

Labour have an excellent local candidate here and former Councillor who works hard in the area. Despite that the Tories have a far superior organisational structure in terms of campaigning in Bloxwich which accounts for them holding five out of the six seats in a town that on paper should be completely Labour and as above, our one seat is very tenuous.

Short Heath: LibDem Hold

I’m going to really stick my neck out here and give the positions of the parties.

1.LibDem
2.BNP
3.Tory
4.Labour

I’m not going to go into the reasons but Labour will get slaughtered in this ward and the BNP will pick up a considerable amount of votes and clearly be second.

Willenhall North: LibDem Hold

Change of candidate for the LibDems here. They’ve put up the bloke who stood in Willenhall South last year who was so committed to us, so much so that he’s buggered off to a nice cushy safe LibDem seat.

Willenhall South: Lab Hold

Much to the contrary of Colin Ross and Paul Macmanomy saying this one’s too close to call I’ll go into numbers and predict at least a 200 Labour majority over the LibDems, Tories coming third and the Democratic Labour Party struggling to get over 100 votes if that. Simple analysis, Labour has the strong local candidate who lives in the ward, works very much on local issues and getting things done for people round here. The LibDems have put up that woman who used to be a member of the Labour Party, then joined Respect and has now ended up with them. Scraping the bottom of the barrel for candidates is putting it mildly.

Aldridge Central South, Aldridge North and Walsall Wood, Streetly, Rushall Shelfield and Pelsall: Tory Hold.

I’ve done these wards together because they make up the constituency of Aldridge Brownhills. It’s plain and simple, the Labour Party is next to non-existent in this bit of the world, we stand no chance of winning anything however you’ll note I left the Brownhills ward out which I’ll do next. The only ward to watch would be Rushall Shelfield, one of the BNP’s two target wards in Walsall. They’ll do well here, almost certainly come second but overturn the Tories? Almost certainly not.

Brownhills: Lab Hold

This one’s very tricky. If I was to play it safe I’d say Tory gain but I think Labour might just hold on. Electorally Brownhills is a funny ward. In the all-up election in 2004 it returned two Tories and one Labour although it was narrow between the second Labour candidate and the second Tory. Labour failed to gain it last year by a very narrow margin despite having an excellent campaign and a hard working candidate. It is also complicated by being one of the two focus wards for the BNP in Walsall that has almost turned it into a three way tie between Tory, Labour and the BNP. The BNP might pick it up but I think that the combination of a well known local Labour candidate who works hard in the ward may just see her through with those extra few ‘personal’ votes that such candidates get.

Pheasey Park Farm: Tory Hold

Nothing much to say, the Tories will win.

Bentley Darlaston North: Lab Hold

A presumed safe Labour seat and with the candidate who both works and campaigns hard in the area there shouldn’t be a problem in winning it.

Darlaston South: Lab Hold

Another ward with a hard working Labour Councillor up for re-election. Probably has the best run campaign of any in the borough. There’s a threat from an Independent, the wife of the current Independent councillor for the ward who won last year for very special reasons but against the Labour candidate combined with her formidable campaigning approach (at least compared to the rest of the Labour campaign in Walsall) this should hopefully be a Labour Hold.

Paddock: Tory Hold

Not much to say. The Tories will hold it.

Palfrey: Tory Hold

Another funny ward. A lot of Muslim community politics goes down in this neck of the woods. Last year it was a Labour gain and potentially could be a gain this year but I doubt it.

Pleck: Labour Hold

Again a bit funny due to some Muslim politics which saw a Muslim Tory elected in the all-up election of 2005 who then defected to Labour and decided not to stand this year so it’s a fresh Labour candidate but someone who’s known very well locally and works hard so he’ll probably get through.

St. Matthews: Tory Hold

I’m biased on this one as the candidate is the one who stood last year in Brownhills. He’s an excellent campaigner and was prior to the 2005 all-up election, the Councillor for this ward. Following the boundary changes this ward changed considerably. To the cries of gerrymandering and such, a large area with a good thousand or so Tory voters got shifted into this ward and effectively wiped Labour out. Is it possible to regain the ward? Sadly probably not and the Labour Group would be all the worse for the lack of the presence of it’s candidate in this ward sitting on the benches.

So there you go. My prediction for Walsall despite all the bad press, investigations, auditors reports (nicely delayed until after the elections), referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service, the background of what amounts to a completely crap Tory run council and I doubt they’ll be any change whatsoever and if anything maybe a Tory gain of one or two.

feel free to take the piss out of me if I get it completely wrong though.

[Update] As it’s polling day I’m going to stick pretty much with the predictions above but with some rather dodgy feelings regarding the Blakenall, Brownhills and Darlaston South wards.