Tipton, a short drive north of Birmingham, is considered “one of the poorest neighbourhoods” in the country with high levels of crime and parents struggling to feed their children.
Residents of the area told BirminghamLive that the place had been “left behind” by the rest of the country.
Children’s play areas have abandoned trollies where kids should be free to play, and litter strewn in the bushes and the remains of burnt-out vehicles are still visible in a nearby park.
Tipton was once at the heart of the nation’s industrial revolution and its people remain “proud and patriotic” of that fact.
But the Tipton of today ranks amongst the most deprived areas in the country according to the Government’s English indices of deprivation report.
The steel and manufacturing industries which once employed people closed down in the 70s, leading to unemployment.
Princes End is one of the worst affected areas and councillor Archar Williams believing Sandwell Council has “underinvested” in his ward.
As a result he says residents have suffered and fears the situation won’t change.
He said: “It is the most deprived ward in Sandwell but it is the proudest. It is the most patriotic ward in Sandwell by far.
“There are really amazing people living here. But they have been neglected by the council over the past 40 years.
“There is poverty here and people who struggle to feed their kids. It is a shame.”
He says crime in the area is high including “anti-social behaviour, drug-dealing, vandalism, car thefts, joy-riding and fly-tipping.’”
Near to Tipton’s Asda Superstore is a park known locally as ‘The Railer’ or ‘The Cracker’.
Here, cars have been left abandoned and set on fire.
It took the authorities at least six months to remove the charred remains of one vehicle, claims Cllr Williams – who grew up in nearby Tividale but has family living in Tipton, although he lived in the latter town for a short period.
Cllr Williams says the park is called The Railer because of rail tracks that once ran through the site, however the origins of the name The Cracker are less clear.
The councillor said the town is referred to as ‘The Forgotten Land’ and say residents sort each other’s problems out instead of going to the police.
Cllr Williams said: “The community here is very close with each other. This isn’t like other estates.
“Other estates that experience poverty, they get a reputation of being rough and tough. The poverty situation creates crime and anti-social-behaviour.
“In Princes End, the people are so proud, they care for each other. I would never call it rough.”
The residents help out those who are struggling with food and experiencing financial issues, he says.
Cllr Williams believes other wards in Sandwell have been favoured with investment over Princes End.
He says: “I have only been here for six months, but this is 40 years (of effort from the council). There hasn’t been the investment (in Princes End) that there has been in other parts of Sandwell. I would say it is one of the poorest places in England.
“It is that bad. You speak to people on the council. They will say ‘yes, it deserves better’. They agree, all the council officers say it, there is not even a debate.”
Along with tackling issues like poverty, residents have to deal with crime.
This can be stolen cars, muggings, robbery, drug dealings and taking.
“At night, it can be a different atmosphere,” he said.
“On the privates estates, they have told me they are having people looking at their cars, checking license plates and doors,” he said.
“These people are in hoods. I have heard that too many times.
“Crime and lack of funding are the largest issues in the ward.”
For resident James Marsh, 41, who lives on South Road, those are two big issues for him, too, along with fellow residents.
He knows families who have been helped by neighbours with food and others who won’t go out at night in fear of crime.
Mr Marsh is an active member of the community, who is involved with St Mark’s Church and its hall in Tipton, where he organises community events at the latter location.
Mr Marsh, a carpenter by trade, said: “There are a lot of burglaries at the moment. People have had a lot of things stolen out of their gardens and sheds are being broken into a lot.
“Vehicle theft is a big problem and joy-riding.
“Once it gets dark, people lock themselves in the house and won’t come out.
“I do see poverty here, most definitely. With the way things are at the moment, I can’t see it changing.
“There is a family up the road from me, I have been helping them and getting food from the church because they have got nothing.
“They have got five children and they say the benefits that they are getting is just not covering (their costs), they have got into a lot of rent arrears because of it.”
Among those who are facing financial worries is resident Stephen Davies, 57, from Churchill Walk, who said: “Moneywise, ( I worry) about the bills. I’m dreading the new bills in the New Year.”
Mr Davies has lived in Tipton for all his life, adding: “At one time, it was hard-working, working class.
“Factories, industry, people worked hard. In the 1970s, a lot of this stuff closed. They closed the factories, knocked the factories down, built the houses and new apartments for people without any jobs, or at least no jobs in this area.
“The jobs used to be here. Tipton is the capital of the Black Country. It was supposed to be the heart of the industrial revolution.
“You had an industry, it employed thousands in its heyday, that shuts down, they build apartments and everybody has to go out of the area for work.
“And the ones that work in Tipton, they are left with low paid, minimum wage jobs on industrial estates.
“And all the rest are unemployed, not doing nothing in the day, they are full of energy, and they are just mischievous at night, let’s put it that way.”
Cllr Williams said he would want to see The Railer developed into a green community space that people can safely enjoy.
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In response to the story, Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, Leader of Sandwell Council, said: “Tipton is a brilliant place to live and work and has a huge amount to offer.
“I don’t like to hear anyone talking down our neighbourhoods, much less elected councillors, and I want to reassure residents that we have dedicated teams who have helped with major investment that has improved facilities and services.
“We will keep doing that in the years to come to play our part in making sure that Tipton will always be somewhere you can be proud to call home.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.