West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

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Posted by wonkotsane on January 8, 2007

West Midlands NO! has moved to dedicated hosting, provided by our sponsors Servtec and Telford First.

This dedicated hosting allows us far more flexibility and control over the site.

All existing posts and comments on this site have been migrated.

Please update your bookmarks to http://www.westmidlandsno.org.uk

Thank you for your continued interest in the West Midlands NO! campaign.

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Bridgnorth to have a poll on unitary council

Posted by Ken on January 5, 2007

The Shropshire Star reports that Bridgnorth district council is to hold a poll in order for the people across the Bridgnorth district to have their chance to have a say on plans for a single unitary council for Shropshire the poll will take place next week. Ballot papers for the unitary authority vote will be sent out to all eligible electors across the district and will be arriving through letter boxes on Monday and Tuesday.

The questions will be which of two options they prefer

continuing the current arrangements of county and district councils

or creating a single unitary council for Shropshire.

Voters are being urged to return their completed ballot paper immediately, in the pre-paid envelope provided, to the Independent Scrutineer at Electoral Reform Services.

The final date for receipt of ballot papers is noon on January 22.

Councillor Elizabeth Yeomans, leader of Bridgnorth District Council, said: “The implications of a major local government reorganisation for people who live and work in the district would be significant.

“Some of the concerns we have about One Council for Shropshire include the fact that local people need local services that are delivered and managed locally – the case produced by Shropshire County Council and its partners does not provide detailed evidence to show how services will get better.”

It is very nice to see that at least Bridgnorth council seems to belive in the democratic principal even as the rest of the Shropshire councils do not want the public to become involved in their plans.

I am however a little confused by the questions being asked, Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive, Shropshire County Council told me that the government had made it clear that the Status quo is not an option before when Christmas I asked why it was not an option this was her reply on the Council Blog:

Dear Ken Adams,

The Government has made it very clear that they expect cost-effective services for local people – and have asked shire councils across the country to look at three ways of doing this. The first one is creating new all-purpose unitary councils that would deliver all the services in their area. The second option is for councils to pioneer highly innovative approaches to working together, for example by pooling senior management and support staff or delivering individual services seamlessly. The third is to look for savings and improved services by the district councils and county council working more closely together in partnership. The government has also told us all that, whatever happens, we cannot stay as we are – councils will have to find better ways of working in order to release the savings and service benefits you can get from coming together as One Council. We believe that it will be impossible to find the equivalent level of financial efficiencies from closer partnership working that you can achieve with one council.

Retaining six councils retains six lots of bureaucracy and overheads, and whilst efficiencies could be found they will not be anywhere near the £7.8 million from a unitary council. We have already worked hard as councils in Shropshire to make services more seamless. For example, the county and four of the five districts/boroughs have let a contract which combines the waste collection and waste disposal services. This has taken 8 years to achieve and still 30% of the county’s population is omitted from the contract because one district has chosen not to participate.

The government in its White Paper says that over two, four and six years it will monitor councils in two tier areas that do not become unitaries, to ensure that similar levels of efficiency are delivered from enhancing two tiers. If these efficiencies are not delivered it follows that they will be taken from the financial settlement as the only way the government can enforce their ruling. This is too great a risk and would jeopardise services in the county and is the reason why Shropshire County Council, Oswestry Borough Council and South Shropshire District Council are supporting the move to One Council for Shropshire.

The other point at issue is the excuses offered by Shropshire County council for not offering a referendum to the rest of us. Also on the Council Blog

 

Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive, Shropshire County Council 27/11/2006 16:14:33

Dear Meole Man

Thank you for your contribution to the Blog regarding a referendum. Forgive me for giving such a detailed response, but it is important that people understand the advice the County Council has received on this matter.

When Ministers visited Shropshire in February this year to discuss local government structures, they met with service users and residents, business representatives, Councillors (County, District and Borough, Town and Parish levels), Chief Executives and our major partners (police, health, Learning and Skills Council, voluntary sector etc). They heard a strong response that unitary local government was change worth consideration. As a result, David Miliband, MP, wrote to all participants saying that we should not wait for the publication of the White Paper to take our work forward.

We therefore immediately considered how to ascertain and involve the views of local people in taking this work forward. Our legal advice is that neither we, nor any other local government partner in Shropshire, have the powers to undertake a referendum. We do, however, have the legal powers to undertake a postal survey/ballot regarding the services we provide.

Accordingly, we took advice from MORI who are advisors to the Local Government Association and conduct such work for many local authorities. The advice from MORI’s Chairman was:

Consulting residents on such issues is immensely challenging. Residents generally know very little about the complexities of local government structure, nor do they normally see it as important as the quality of services. Deliberative workshops allow residents to develop an informed view, by giving them time to debate the issues as they learn more about them, and seeing how informed views differ from less informed ones. They provide greater insight into residents’ views than a questionnaire based survey, and let you understand the arguments for and against a particular option.

Accordingly the County Council undertook a survey regarding customer satisfaction levels with our services with over 1,000 residents. From the 1,000 residents they invited a completely representative sample of 44 residents from all parts of the County to focus group discussions. This work is really research and not consultation, but is entirely informative and statistically valid. The full results – not selective quotes – are included in our business case at Appendix One, pages 57-99. They include some very different views, both for and against changes in local government structures, though overwhelmingly, as the report says, most people do not claim to know a great deal about local government at all and are hazy about who does what in two tier local government in Shropshire.

We have addressed the issues raised by residents in our business case which are:-

(1) what will it cost;

(2) will services improve;

(3) will rural areas have a voice;

(4) will my community be represented;

(5) what has been the experience elsewhere;

(6) will the boundaries make sense.

Nevertheless, if a ballot is undertaken with a question which conforms to the law and which presents an alternative to unitary local government (the status quo is not an option), then the County Council will provide the information to enable the public to make an informed decision.

Posted in Politicians, Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Charles Clarke: Give power to regions of England or UK will not be stable

Posted by wonkotsane on January 1, 2007

Missed this nugget from the Scotsman in November …

Give power to regions of England or UK will not be stable – Clarke

JAMES KIRKUP AND HAMISH MACDONELL
ENGLAND must be given more political representation or the United Kingdom will be at risk of “constitutional instability”, Charles Clarke, the former home secretary, will warn today.

In a speech in Edinburgh, Mr Clarke will become the most senior Labour figure so far to make the argument that constitutional change in Britain should not stop with devolution for Scotland and Wales.

While he stops short of supporting a full English parliament, Mr Clarke insists that the UK government and parliament must do much more to recognise England’s regions.

“I am not certain that this range of reforms has yet taken us to a new and stable constitutional equilibrium and it is even possible that some of the changes could lead to future instability unless the appropriate action is taken,” Mr Clarke will tell an audience at Edinburgh University.

He enters the constitutional debate on the day that Tony Blair is in Scotland hoping to regain ground being lost to the SNP.

Constitutional issues are rising up the agenda: polls show increasing support for Scottish independence, and more and more MPs detect a growing sense of English nationhood.

A cross-party English Constitutional Convention was also launched last month.

Mr Clarke, who left the Cabinet in May, will argue that to reflect England’s identity, government departments in London should be restructured “in a way which respects regional boundaries” south of the Border.

He will also call for the creation of select committees in the House of Commons reflecting English regions’ interests.

“I think the current situation does not give sufficient priority to the needs of the English regions and so is potentially unstable,” Mr Clarke will say. “It needs to be addressed.”

Mr Clarke’s analysis echoes that of the Labour-majority Scottish affairs committee of MPs, which warned in June that an English backlash against devolution could undermine Labour’s constitutional framework.

Mr Clarke’s speech sets out a broad vision of constitutional change, including more reform of the House of Lords, stripping prime ministers of their power to nominate peers.

Mr Blair himself is also focusing on constitutional issues this week, and the question of Scottish independence.

Speaking to the Scottish Labour conference in Oban today, Mr Blair will continue the economic offensive against the SNP he launched with an article in The Scotsman yesterday.

The Oban conference will be dominated behind the scenes by the SNP threat, particularly following First Minister Jack McConnell’s admission on Wednesday night that there is “a real possibility” that the nationalists could win in May and “take Scotland to the brink of independence”.

A YouGov poll, for the Daily Telegraph, shows Labour and the SNP almost neck-and-neck in the battle for Holyrood, with 32 per cent each on the constituency vote and only 1 per cent between them on the regional vote.

Posted in Politicians | Leave a Comment »

Jobs axe ‘could cost £20m’

Posted by Ken on December 30, 2006

Shropshire taxpayers could face a £20 million bill to pay off senior council staff if their jobs are axed, a top official warned today.

Robin Hooper, chief executive of Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council, says a massive sum would be needed to sort out redundancy packages and pensions.

It is thought that 182 senior administrative posts could be scrapped if a unitary authority is created, swallowing up Shropshire’s district and borough councils.

Full story in print Shropshire Star

Posted in Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Councillor Stephen Bentley on City Region

Posted by wonkotsane on December 28, 2006

Thanks to our friends at Telford Council Watch and their anonymous whistleblower, The Insider, we have a rare insight into the workings of Telford & Wrekin Council including a frank exchange of views on the City Region.

Councillor Stephen Bentley sent the following email to Councillor Keith Austin (Leader of the council) and other councillors:

Colleagues

May I first extend my thanks to San on her efforts in the Dawley Magna election. Unfortunately, despite the hard work, she was not successful.
The result, however, was not unexpected as we are no longer seen, either Nationally or locally, as the peoples representatives.

Nationally we have no control! Locally, however we do!

We now need to unify and collectively establish a NOW strategy and focus.

Our electorate are just not interested in the city and major Town Centre redevelopment propaganda. Although there are views that we should listen to, we are continually preaching to them and at this time, their interests are more personal and parochial.

This bigger agenda can be for the time being confined to Group and Cabinet discussions.

As the elected leaders we now must take the initiative away from our opponents and begin addressing the overall concerns of the electorate — those whose quality of life is governed by our decision making.

Let us begin within the council. Our many employees are also our electorate yet within them we have disillusionment they are not seeing us as affecting change, and those who either challenge or try to include silenced or moved away.

Olive branches and admissions of error can be a hugely acceptable way of restoring confidence and moral.

May07 will soon be upon us but we still have time to reestablish the credibility of our party before that date. Within our ranks there is much untapped potential. I believe that Richard needs to be included — the parliamentary link is vital.

Why not let Phil Homer be our spokesperson on the hospital, linking essentially with Ute, Dave Morgan and Liz.

We should be commenting more frequently on the proposed changes as a group.

Why are we not talking more about the rail freight and the potential this provides the town ?

Woodside is another opportunity we are missing lets use the changes, more beneficially to our advantage.

Let us admit to ourselves we were exposed as weak when we rescinded our car parking charges when we should have thought more about implementation across the Borough, spending the money directly in each area. This brought about tawpa. Then came HOOP which is centred around the Town Park issues.

Now we need strength — let us seize the moment and regain control in May07 in the past we have given a commitment to parish/ town councils more recently we have not used to our benefit their useful links to the communities as the grass roots of local government.

We should be listening to the people, and serving the people taking account of their concerns/ comments making sure we take them with us by proper, honest consultation.

Steve

Councillor Keith Austin replies:

Dear Steve,

Whilst you are entitled to your views and opinions-I really don’t think that airing them on the e-mail system is a very good idea. They (your views) would be welcome within a private Group meeting.

I have agreed with Douglas Bridger from Regionai Office that he will join us next Tuesday afternoon at Prlorslee (after our away day session) when we can start to discuss (in private) some of the issues around why it happened and the way forward as well as preparing the draft manifesto for wider Party consultation via the LGC process.

Shallow hasty analysis will only serve to hinder the corporately responsible action that is required for as a united Group. To that end we must all exercise self discipline and Party loyalty!

In the meantime it’s business as usual we are still the largest single Party within the Council and it would take all of the others to take/support a bid for the administration which would be extremely difficult for them to achieve.

Best Wshes.

Keith Austin
Leader
Borough of Telford and Wrekin

Interesting.  The council knows and acknowledges that the electorate don’t want the City Region but the answer is to pull together and remain loyal to the party.  The council knows and acknowledges that the electorate should be consulted on issues of concern but the answer is to remain loyal to the party.

Lets see the Labour Party propaganda machine put a positive spin on this!

Posted in Politicians, Telford | Leave a Comment »

Who is behind Unitary Authority plans?

Posted by wonkotsane on December 28, 2006

Shropshire County Council are pressing for a single Unitary Authority (UA) for the whole of Shropshire (excluding Telford & Wrekin).

Worcestershire Country Council is also now pressing for a single UA for the whole of Worcestershire.

The two main proponents of a UA for Shropshire are both members of the West Midlands Regional Assembly (WMRA) and interestingly, so is Councillor George Lord – the councillor proposing a UA for Worcestershire.

This begs the question, how much “encouragement” is being given from WMRA?  Abolishing district councils and replacing them with massive Unitary Authorities suits the regional assembly perfectly – less scrutiny, less people to lean on to get things done and the removal of the local tier of government goes some way to negating the argument that regional government is another wasteful, taxpayer-funded tier of government that we just don’t need.

Posted in Worcestershire | Leave a Comment »

Your taxes funding Port Vale FC

Posted by wonkotsane on December 28, 2006

Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the unelected regional development agency for the West Midlands euroregion, has given a grant of £2.2m to Port Vale Football Club via North Stafforshire Regeneration Zone.

The £2.2m (which comes from AWM’s multi-billion pound taxpayer-funded annual budget) has been given to them to develop an enterprise centre, childrens centre (crèche) and new 5-aside indoor football pitch.

State funding of private enterprise is already a sticking point with the EU clamping down on the practice which it claims gives companies unfair advantages.  How interesting that when the funding is allocated at a regional level by an EU puppet organisation such as AWM, it is perfectly acceptable but when it comes to our national post office network, the British government is prevented from giving adequate funding to keep post offices open.

Burslem has already lost its job centre and a lot of the post offices in the area are at risk of closure but I’m sure the locals will be more than happy for Port Vale FC to get the money instead of it being used to keep local services open.

Posted in AWM, Staffordshire | Leave a Comment »

Council masquerading as campaign group

Posted by wonkotsane on December 22, 2006

Today’s Shropshire Star carries a press release from “One Council for Shropshire” who describe themselves as a campaign group: “the group leading the campaign to create an all-powerful unitary authority in the county”.

This “campaign group” isn’t a campaign group at all, it is Shropshire County Council.

What is evident from the One Council for Shropshire blog is that regionalisation is one of the main excuses for establishing a Unitary Authority for Shropshire.  Is it a co-incidence that the main supporters of turning Shropshire into a sub-region of the West Midlands are also members of the West Midlands Regional Assembly?

Posted in Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Bridgnorth vote postponed

Posted by wonkotsane on December 22, 2006

The planned second vote in Bridgnorth on unitary authority status for Shropshire was postponed at a meeting of the council on Wednesday night.

The second vote which has been called because councillors came up with the wrong answer last time (no) will now take place in February.

Posted in Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Bridgnorth throws democracy out of the window

Posted by wonkotsane on December 20, 2006

Shropshire County Council is trying to replace local councils with a single unitary authority for the whole county (excluding Telford that is already a UA).

Salopians (people from Shropshire) are pretty opposed to the plans, as evidenced by independent polling commissioned by the council itself.

Some councils in the county are in favour, others are against.  One council – Bridgnorth District Council – has already rejected the proposal with the casting vote of the leader of the council being used.

That should be the end of the batter for Bridgnorth but no, the leader is on holiday over Christmas so the pro-UA councillors are calling a snap vote while she is away in the hope that they will get the right decision – ie., a vote for the UA.

Posted in Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

People should have a say on how they are governed

Posted by Ken on December 19, 2006

Ludlow MP Phillip Dunne is also a district councillor in South Shropshire, along with all other Conservative MPs in Shropshire he is calling for a referendum on the Governments pans for a Unitary Authority.

It has been made clear by the government that the present local government system is not an option, however exactly why this is the case has not been made clear. It certainly cannot be to save money or to make the services more efficient because that cannot be proven, and rate payers in some areas like Bridgnorth will have an above average increase. Although it has been suggested by some councillors that there will dramatic savings they do not seem to be prepared to put our money where there mouth is, otherwise they would also be predicting equally dramatic cuts in the rates.   

Below are a short article from Mr Dunne’s web site and two letters from the Shropshire Star      

Give people a vote on town hall shake-up

They want to sweep away the district and borough councils in favour of a unitary authority based in Shrewsbury to run all our local services.

As a district councillor in South Shropshire, I was one of the few sufficiently worried about this reduction in local democracy that I voted against this Labour-inspired shake-up.

I have three main anxieties: we don’t know enough about what this reorganisation will cost taxpayers; we don’t know if the claimed savings through reducing bureaucracy will be achieved; and we must not forget that losing 150 councillors will leave small towns and villages without a voice.

I believe strongly in local democracy. Decisions should be taken as close to the people as possible. Unitary is a move to more central control with less local accountability and more decisions devolved to remote bureaucrats.

In an area as big as Shropshire, decisions affecting the Bridgnorth and South Shropshire districts would be dominated by Shrewsbury. Those campaigning for Ludlow Hospital recall that no-one from South Shropshire was on the County committee that approved the closure of Whitcliffe Ward. I fear this is an omen of what may follow with Unitary.

I joined with all other Conservative MPs in Shropshire last week in calling for a referendum to allow local people to make this decision. There have been 36 such referenda across Britain in recent years. People should have a say on how they are governed.

 

  We should get a vote on plans

The current question of whether we should stay with our present system of local government, or change it drastically to one where our representation is by one big unitary council could require the most important decision of our time.

Yet we can see and hear some of those who want to bring in the unitary council idea wanting the change to be imposed by their own decision, without our wishes even being ascertained by a referendum.

It’s a very good thing that Philip Dunne MP is so disinclined to allow this proposed insult to democracy.

As a confirmed conspiracy theorist I look for the gleam in the eyes of those small-time politicians who think they would be in line for big and well-paid jobs in a unitary set-up.

No wonder the question of costs is being skated over. All our experience shows the difficulty of accurately costing something new and untried

The amalgamation of The Princess Royal at Telford with Shrewsbury Royal Hospital is something we know a bit about.

The new Telford hospital was run by top doctors who knew what they were doing, highly valued and brilliantly supported by the community.

Amalgamation was imposed by politicians who thought they were thinking big. We now have bankruptcy, threats of dismissals and closures, and all the nightmare resulting from thinking too big.

Let’s have a referendum. Let us be the ones that make the decision, and I’ll be voting to keep local control.

David Lake Bridgnorth

Shake-up costs more than £20m

The price tag for abolishing the six councils of Shropshire to create one new one, and maybe one for the town of Shrewsbury is not just the £20m one-off cost for local taxpayers, or the potential ongoing costs of the change for Shrewsbury and Atcham taxpayers of possibly up to 15.5 per cent, but also the loss of our identity.

Shrewsbury has a history extending 1,000 years. We have managed our town, and since 1974 our borough, providing cost-effective services.

The county council has likewise provided excellent services. Why abolish them?

Is it to satisfy the political ambition of central government or the ambition of a few at Shirehall?

That is not what the public wants. We in Shrewsbury and Atcham have a track record of listening and we will seek views on this change.

I do not agree with the change, which will be costly and have decisions on Shrewsbury made by councillors from Ludlow, Market Drayton and other parts of the county.

The borough council has a proud record of achievements. We have ambitions to do more.

So what is the choice? Expensive change with no improvements and more tax for other parts of the county or continue to improve? The answer to me is clear – no change! Now I am getting back to representing the wishes of the public.

Judith Williams Shrewsbury

 

Posted in Politicians, Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Poll on City Region

Posted by wonkotsane on December 16, 2006

Telford Council Watch have a poll on whether you know what the city region is and whether you know how it affects you.

If you live in Telford, take a look and cast your vote.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Keith Austin

Posted by Ken on December 13, 2006

Decisions not always supported

With borough elections due in May, I ask Councillor Keith Austin, the leader of the council, to kindly reflect on his inability to listen to the electorate.

It would appear that his ego trip to gain City Status for the borough of Telford is not welcomed by the electorate, at any cost – joining the West Midland’s Regional Assembly is also not welcome by the electorate.

Car parking charges, which he agreed to, cost the ratepayer some £500,000 simply because he would not listen – and his bailing out of a private football club and his council’s maintenance of the ground, free of charge, without consulting the public, is scandalous.

He has now installed his two “magic roundabouts” with numerous traffic lights, which has caused anger at a further cost of £700,000.

In order to get elected in May, he is now endeavouring to save face with the electorate by donating or loaning £20 million to the hospital – where is this money coming from?

Whichever way, the taxpayer is paying twice for hospital services.

T R Kiernan, Telford                                                

Posted in Politicians, Shropshire | 2 Comments »

Telford agrees to City Region funding

Posted by wonkotsane on December 12, 2006

Telford & Wrekin Council has agreed to spend £22.5k on funding the City Region.  This is the estimated annual contribution required as Telford’s “share” of the administration and management costs of the City Region.

The agreement came at yesterday’s cabinet meeting.

Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Keith Austin, who will automatically get a seat in the City Region cabinet (but can somehow vote on joining and financing the City Region without having a prejudicial interest) said the decision to join the city region was “singularly one of the most important propositions” for Telford & Wrekin.  So important, in fact, that they just couldn’t risk letting the people of Telford & Wrekin have a say in it.  He also said “There is no reason to believe that this authority would not benefit by being part of the city region”.  How does he know?  The proposal apparently hasn’t been finished yet so unless he and his fellow councillors has the gift of clairvoyancy, how can they possibly know whether the city region will benefit Telford?

Councillor Brenda Flowers said she thought the fees were “excellent value for money”.  Councillor Flowers has certainly warmed to the idea of the city region since we contacted her a couple of months ago.

Councillors Bill Tomlinson and Stephen Bentley also both heaped praise on the city region.

Interestingly, Bill Tomlinson is a Liberal Democrat and the other 3 are Labour councillors.  Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are pro-EU, pro-regional parties.

Posted in Telford | Leave a Comment »

Shropshire Star: MP calls for action on baby unit

Posted by wonkotsane on December 12, 2006

MP calls for action on baby unit

A Shropshire MP has urged regional health managers to intervene to prevent to closure of beds at Shropshire’s main maternity unit.

Daniel Kawczynski, pictured, said the planned closure of 16 of the 47 consultant obstetric beds at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital was a “big mistake”.

The Shrewsbury Tory MP voiced his concern over the cost-saving move during a meeting yesterday with the chairman and chief executive of the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority.

Mr Kawczynski said: “They have promised to look into it for me.”

Danie Kawczynski is opposed to regional government and the West Midlands NO! Campaign is featured on his website.

Posted in Press | Leave a Comment »

Worcester News: Why can Whitehall overrule council?

Posted by wonkotsane on December 11, 2006

Why can Whitehall overrule council?

SIR – In consideration of the proposals for the destruction of the environs of Bevere Green by industrial development.

Could I please be enlightened through your pages by a responsible member of Worcestershire County Council as to how in a liberal democracy an unelected and unwanted quango – the West Midlands Regional Assembly – can impose diktat from a New Labour politician in Whitehall so as to influence and indeed drastically alter the county structure plan as well as the democratically approved and tested policy and procedures of the involved planning authorities.

My concern is directed through knowledge of various other regional schemes dictated by the same Whitehall source that have patently failed and have ruined other beautiful areas together with considerable loss to the Department of Trade and Industry and ultimately the taxpayer.

Laurie Ward, Bevere, Worcester

(link)

Posted in Press, WMRA, Worcestershire | Leave a Comment »

Large town’s aren’t rural

Posted by wonkotsane on December 9, 2006

Advantage West Midlands, the unelected Regional Development Agency for the region, is spending £5.9m of taxpayers money a Rural Regeneration Zone Enterprise Centre Network.  In plain English – serviced offices.

The main “hubs” will be located in Rotherwas, Hereford and Shrewsbury, Shropshire.  “Spoke” sites will be located in Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, Bridgnorth and Market Drayton.

The key word here is “rural” and you may have noticed that none of these places is particularly rural.  Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire and the second largest town in the county.  Rotherwas is similarly a large and busy town in Herefordshire.  Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, Bridgnorth and Market Drayton are also major towns.

The problem with having a regional quango based in the centre of England’s second city is that to them, anywhere with less than a million people is rural.  It’s people living out in the sticks that need the help, not those living in major towns.

Posted in AWM, Health, Herefordshire, Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

WMRA sign climate change pact

Posted by wonkotsane on December 8, 2006

West Midlands Regional Assembly has signed the Nottingham Declaration, an environmental pact that means all the local authorities in the West Midlands euroregion are now obliged to put the environment at the top of their agenda.

What’s that you say?  What do our elected representatives think about it?  Doesn’t matter, the unelected Regional Assembly is in charge of the implementing the EU’s environmental policies.

Posted in WMRA | Leave a Comment »

The Shutters Come Down

Posted by wonkotsane on December 7, 2006

Telford & Wrekin Council are withdrawing what little co-operation they have so far extended on the subject of the city region.

Recent requests for information or comment have been met with increasing hostility and the only person at the council who knows anything about the council – Gerry Dawson – feels that answering questions on the city region is a poor use of his time.  His taxpayer-funded time to do his job as a public servant.

The City Region Growth and Prosperity Plan (the new name for the city region proposal) is apparently in draft form and won’t be published until after Christmas.  The city region is, of course, due to be brought into being early next year.  Will the plan be released in time for any objections to be lodged?  Doubtful.  And if the plan is still in draft form, why was it put before the cabinet – a fact that was deleted from the cabinet report we uploaded yesterday?  And how did the cabinet approve the city region project if the proposals for it are still in draft form months later?

Posted in Telford | Leave a Comment »

City Region report

Posted by wonkotsane on December 6, 2006

The author of the Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet report that gave rise to yesterday’s press release on the cost of the city region has today forwarded me a copy of the report.

The cost of the city region to Telford residents is estimated at £100k over the next 4 years but nowhere in the document is there an estimate of the financial benefits.  Is that because there aren’t any, because they don’t know or because they don’t want to say?  If it’s the latter then why not and if it’s the former then why are they joining if they don’t know whether it will benefit the town?

Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet approved Telford’s entry into the city region months ago before the final proposals had been drawn up and before a cost was put on membership.  How could they claim to know that it would be of benefit to the town at that time?

What is really interesting about the document, though, is what isn’t said.  Or rather, what has been deleted from the document before it was made public.  For instance, there was a paragraph in the report regarding the city regions ambitions regarding tax raising powers which has been deleted from the report.  There was also a large section on the structure of the city region board which has also been deleted – the board will be made up of the leaders and the chief executive of the councils involved.  How, therefore, can the leader of Telford & Wrekin Council recommend that the cabinet approve the proposal and vote in favour of the proposal himself when he has a prejudicial interest?  How can the chief executives of any of the councils involved claim impartiality when they all have to gain something from the city region?

There are so many questions to be answered, will anyone from the city region local authorities step up and answer them?

The report can be viewed here.

Posted in Propaganda | 2 Comments »

More city region lies from Telford

Posted by wonkotsane on December 5, 2006

On the front page of the Telford edition of today’s Shropshire Star is a story about the cost of the city region to the council taxpayers of Telford.

Taxpayers are likely to stump up more than £100,000 over the next few years to finance Telford’s new role in the West Midlands City Region, it was revealed today.

Borough councillors are being urged to spend £22,571 on “management and administration costs” in the current financial year. And this is likely to be an ongoing demand on the authority’s budget, says a report to Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet.

The decision to join forces with Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country in a new role on the West Midlands City Region was made by the cabinet in April.

Gerry Dawson, the man in charge of Telford & Wrekin’s city region project, has told the cabinet to set aside £100k to cover their share of the administrative and managerial costs of the city region for the next 4 years.

What is interesting isn’t the fact that all this taxpayers money is going to be spent on an unelected quango without the electorate getting a say in it but the fact that Telford & Wrekin Council still claim not to have any idea of how much the city region or any of the other quango’s cost the taxpayers of Telford.  In fact, just yesterday Gerry Dawson claimed not to know how much membership of the West Midlands Regional Assembly costs.  Where does the money come from?  How does anyone know if it is cost effective for Telford to be a member of any of these quango’s if they don’t even know how much it costs?

Telford Council Watch have this to say:

Telford and Wrekin Council have recently issued a press release with regards a 3% increase in Council Tax and openly stated that they

“Operate with tight Financial Constraints”

But are still able to juggle budgets to finance schemes THEY WANT.

Initially it was £1.3 million into a private venture that was known as Telford First – now known as “Transforming Telford”.

Now

The Council are prepared to pay huge sums of Tax Payers Money into an unelected quango that is not needed, cumbersome and ineffective. Again this is a venture that has been shrouded in Secrecy and AGAIN the Residents of Telford and Wrekin are being forced to Finance an expensive Political Mechanism and not allowed to have a say.

£100,000 will, without a doubt be a minimum figure. There will be a huge amount of other costs associated with the City Region that the Council will hide.

It is clear, that Council Chiefs operate a Policy of Secrecy and even avoid answering questions that are asked under The Freedom of Information.

It is about time that all who oppose these Dirty Tricks carried out by the Council Unite as one voice, they cannot turn our Democracy into an autocracy.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Posted in Press, Propaganda, Telford | Leave a Comment »

Birmingham Post

Posted by bigfred on December 4, 2006

From the Birmingham Post today:

West Midlands MEP Philip Bradbourn is adamant that one thing we don’t need is city regions.

The proposed Birmingham, Coventry and Black Country City Region is giving me a sense of deja vu.

I seem to recall a very similar plan to implement a “strategic overview body” ending disastrously in 1986, after just 12 years in existence. This, for anyone fortunate enough not to remember it, was the West Midlands County Council. I do not wish to see a repeat of this unpleasant chapter of local government in the West Midlands.

From talking to my constituents, I have come to the firm conclusion that most local people do not want this added layer of government, especially as they will ultimately have to foot the bill. If the current system is not working then the problem needs to be addressed directly, not added too.

Even the name, ‘The Birmingham, Coventry and Black Country City Region’ strikes me as ill-thought out and ridiculous.

If the aim of the Birmingham, Coventry and Black Country City Region is to re-brand the West Midlands as a national and global competitor for business and enterprise, we have failed at the starting block. How can people be expected to have faith in this idea if the people behind it cannot even get the name right?

One area of city regions of which many people are not aware is the change it could bring to how we operate within the EU. Essentially, city regions are another means of sneaking in the doomed EU Constitution by the back door. The EU Constitution proposed plans to bypass central Government and deal with member states through their regions, outlining a “Europe of the Regions”. Decisions would be made without the parliamentary scrutiny of Westminster when, for example, funds are distributed, opening the door to a further diminution of the nation state.

If the plan for the proposed city region in the West Midlands goes ahead, we will become one step closer to the break up of the United Kingdom into bite-sized chunks’. What, instead, is surely needed is for local government to be given back the powers and influence taken away from it by regional quangos and to focus on its core activity – that of providing services for people.

But the greatest worry with this proposal is what it does not reveal. It does not reveal the growing army of bureaucrats which recruited to staff the existing regional agencies…and for what purpose? n Philip Bradbourn is Conservative spokesman on local government in the European Parliament.

Posted in Politicians, Press | Leave a Comment »

Council Leader comments on City Region name

Posted by wonkotsane on December 4, 2006

The local authorities involved in the City Region project commissioned a company to come up with a name for their new quango.  The consultants came up with various names, all of which were rejected and the name “Birmingham, Black Country and Coventry City Region” was used instead.  The report cost £10k, was paid for by the taxpayer and then ignored.  The name was instantly set upon by business leaders in the West Midlands who claim that the name will be a liability for the city region as it is basically meaningless to people overseas.

We asked Telford & Wrekin Council what they thought and the Leader of the council, Councillor Keith Austin, has given us the following statement: 


Telford & Wrekin Council is proud to be part of the city region – we hope it will mean a great deal for the future of

Telford in terms of new investment and will give us an influential voice in the region.

 

The investment in the partnership’s name is an important step to creating a strong and cohesive brand which will help government to recognise the work of the partners, for local people to associate the work of all the council’s involved and to provide a distinct image for the partnership.

 

Behind every successful company and partnership is a strong brand – the investment in the branding was not a waste of money – it was an exercise in clearly identifying the Partnership and providing a channel to promote its aims and objectives.

Convinced?

Posted in Telford | Leave a Comment »

Blair supporting regional government

Posted by wonkotsane on November 29, 2006

Tony Blair has told the Yorkshire Post that if the people of England were asked if they wanted an English Parliament then they would vote for one.  He denied that they would vote for the breakup of the union despite a Sunday Telegraph poll showing that 48% of English people support independence.

This is the first time that he has publically admitted that English people want their own government so he’s going to let us have one right?  Wrong.  He’s putting all his support into the regionalisation project – in particular, city regions – which will break England up into artificial regions.

How can he get away with it?  He was (dubiously) elected to represent the interest and wishes of the electorate, not his own English-hating eurofederalist personal agenda.

Posted in Politicians | Leave a Comment »

In place of Democracy

Posted by Ken on November 29, 2006

Shropshire County council officers have set up an online blog which allows Shropshire people to give their views on moves to create a new all-purpose council to run the county.The online diary has been launched on the county council’s website and so far has been visited more than 1,600 times, with 35 comments submitted.

The county council, together with the Oswestry Borough Council and South Shropshire District Council, have put forward a “One Council for Shropshire” proposal.

They claim services will be streamlined and money saved by having just one authority instead of the current two-tier set-up of the county and five district and borough councils.

Each week on the blog a new aspect of the proposal will be presented, and comments will be invited.

Councillor Mike Owen, county council cabinet member for well-being, said: “Over the last few months we have consulted with local people, service users, businesses and partners, and our case for One Council for Shropshire reflects their views and needs.

“But we want to continue to communicate openly and honestly with residents and listen to their comments.

“This blog is a new and exciting way of doing that, and we are pleased to see that people are already getting involved in the debate.”

The blog can be found at www.shropshire.gov.uk/blog/onecouncil.nsf

http://www.shropshirestar.co.uk/2006/11/bloggers-asked-for-opinions/

 
So far it seems most of the commenters are employed by the various councils, perhaps this will change as the general public become aware of the blog. It would seem that all of the councils have accepted the business plan for a unitary council except Bridgnorth District Council which has rejected the plan.

Hats off to Shrewsbury and Atcham council leader Peter Nutting who has said the decision to scrap Shropshire’s district councils should be made by the people following a public poll – not simply by council officials He said “all the councils should work together and ask the people of Shropshire the same question on the same day in a county-wide poll: should the authorities be united as one “super council” Also that the question should be put to the people by an independent body and not by council officials.

According to Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive, Shropshire County Council  the Secretary of State has made it very clear that one of her tests for any unitary case is to ask “does it have a broad, cross-section of support. Unfortunately this broad cross-section of support does not seem to include the council taxpayer this also from the Blog “When Ministers visited Shropshire in February this year to discuss local government structures, they met with service users and residents, business representatives, Councillors (County, District and Borough, Town and Parish levels), Chief Executives and our major partners (police, health, Learning and Skills Council, voluntary sector etc). They heard a strong response that unitary local government was change worth consideration.” “As a result, David Miliband, MP, wrote to all participants saying that we should not wait for the publication of the White Paper to take our work forward.

We therefore immediately considered how to ascertain and involve the views of local people in taking this work forward. Our legal advice is that neither we, nor any other local government partner in Shropshire, have the powers to undertake a referendum.”

The main argument against a referendum seems to fall into the same category as all other objections referenda, which boils down to the people are to stupid to understand the arguments.

“Consulting residents on such issues is immensely challenging. Residents generally know very little about the complexities of local government structure, nor do they normally see it as important as the quality of services.”

One thing which stands out is that the government have made it clear that the status quo is not an option. Which means that despite the rejection of the Regional assembly in the North East, despite the fact that the Government is to scared to ask the rest of us, despite all the polls which tell them we don’t want to divide England into EU recognised regions,  they are continuing with the process of Regionalisation.  

 

Posted in Quango’s, Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Anti-Regions Petition

Posted by wonkotsane on November 25, 2006

There is a petition on the Prime Minister’s website asking the Prime Minister to abolish the unelected regional assemblies in the UK:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to abolish the Regional Assemblies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We disagree with the imposition of an un-elected level on the citizens of the UK. The Regional Assemblies were brought about by the 1957 Treaty of Rome and do not have the support of the majority of British citizens. We disagree that council tax money is used to finance these un-elected bodies – there must be no taxation if there is no representation. These bodies are an attempt to destroy the UK and for the UK to be subsumed into a socialist federal state of Europe.

Posted in Quango’s | 2 Comments »

Shropshire Star: Dragged into the pointless city region

Posted by wonkotsane on November 23, 2006

Dragged into the pointless city region

Telford & Wrekin Council are forging ahead with plans to be part of a city region despite public opposition.

How much support is there for the city region? There has only ever been one referendum on regional government in England and that resulted in the people of the North East – apparently the most pro-regional part of England – rejecting it with a 78 per cent no vote.

Telford & Wrekin Council refuses to hold any public consultation until Telford is well and truly tied into the city region.

David Wright knows how much support there is – over a year ago he wrote to me admitting that there is very little support for regional government in Telford. This didn’t stop him working with David Milliband on the city region project, though.

When West Midllands NO! was launched last month we wrote to all MPs in the West Midlands. To his credit, the Labour MPs, only David Wright chose to reply.

A number of Conservative MPs responded saying that they too opposed regional government but they all said that they would have to wait until the Conservatives were in power to do something about it. Whatever happened to HM Opposition?

When we launched our campaign we challenged Telford & Wrekin Council to justify its actions. It is yet to do so and we ask members again to stop taking decisions behind closed doors, stop ignoring what the people of Telford are telling you and tell us why you are taking us into a city region that won’t benefit us and that we don’t want.

Stuart Parr
West Midlands No!

Posted in Press | Leave a Comment »

Has Brown ordered a stop to the City Region?

Posted by wonkotsane on November 23, 2006

Prominent political blogger, Nigel Hastilow, appears to have information that Gordon Brown has ordered that efforts to establish the City Region be stopped.

The Chancellor is apparently keen to make sure there are no “unsellable” policies when he is installed as Tony Blair’s replacement.

Hastilow echoes the comments and opinions of most prominent business leaders in the euroregion over the naming of the Birmingham, Black Country and Coventry City Region.  The choice of name was immediately condemned by business leaders – and the West Midlands NO! Campaign – as wholly inappropriate.

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Regional Assembly Influence?

Posted by Ken on November 19, 2006

Some figures on those savings we council tax payers are not going to get from the Shropshire Unitary Council emerged after the vote at a special meeting of the Shropshire county council at the Shirehall, unanimously backed the business case for the setting up of a unitary authority. Nice that they asked us first isn’t it.

From the Shropshire Star Councillor Pate claimed a single authority would deliver a low, sustainable council tax level of between 0 per cent and a maximum of 3.5 per cent over the whole of the county – excluding Telford & Wrekin – for the first three years.

“And even in the fourth year, our planning assumption is for no more than four per cent,” he said. “This is the equivalent of giving back to the council taxpayers of Shropshire some £4.6 million each year. The total saving over the first four years will be £34 million at least.”

Councillor Pate said unitary status would allow the county to sit alongside the metropolitan authorities and “not under the table fighting for the crumbs”.

But whilst Councillor Pate is spinning the good news which oddly is not going to be that good, because all these do called savings will not in fact be passed on to the Tax payer,  Labour’s Alan Mosley goes onto the attack against what he described as the “scaremongering and negativity” of some people regarding a new authority.

Where have we seen and heard all this sort of thing before, yes in national politics in relation to our membership of the EU, and would you belive it both Malcolm Pate, and Alan Mosley are Members of  the West Midlands Regional Assembly, Funny that!  

Posted in EU/Europe, Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

All about Saving Money

Posted by Ken on November 19, 2006

One of the major reasons stated for the creation of a Unitary Council is that by combining the services they will become more efficient and cost effective, so we can all look forward to reduction in our council taxes can’t we, well no! For some reason these saving are not actually going to mean lower taxes, strange that!

The Shropshire Star reports that the Chief Executive of Bridnorth District Council John Harmetson, is warning Bridnorth residents that they will face yearly increases to catch up with the rest of the country. Apparently Bridnorth at present has the lowest council tax rate in the county but if a unitary authority is formed council tax rates would be made equal across the county within three years. According the Mr Harmeston council tax payers in Oswestry and South Shropshire will have their taxes frozen whilst Bridgnorth residents pay extra. So where are all these savings?

As the reason for the government attempting to create these unitary councils is more to with fitting in with the EU Regionalisation Process it is not surprising that the outcome will not in fact save money or be more efficient, certainly not in the case in Bridgnorth.

As usual we get to same old government /EU spin: Harmetson said: “The White Paper heralds a new era for local government. As always, the devil will be in the detail as it emerges in legislation.

“Much debate will be had about the various proposals but the recurring theme of public services working together to improve services is one issue that should be supported.”

Something “New” got to be exiting! “working together” anyone who objects is obviously going to be a little Ludlovian or Oswestphobe!

Posted in EU/Europe, Quango’s, Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

AWM appoint new deputy chairman

Posted by wonkotsane on November 18, 2006

The unelected chairman of Advantage West Midlands (AWM), Nick Paul, has appointed Richard Hyde as the unelected deputy chairman of AWM.

AWM is the unelected, taxpayer-funded regional development agency for the West Midlands euroregion.

Richard Hyde is also the unelected chairman of the taxpayer-funded West Midlands Regional Observatory and unelected deputy leader of the Conservative group in the Local Government Association.

The Conservatives are opposed to regional government, I wonder what the party thinks of his appointment?

Posted in Quango’s | Leave a Comment »

Posted by wonkotsane on November 17, 2006

The Campaign for an English Parliament brings us this story:

Kevan Jones MP (North Durham):

I supported regional government and a yes vote in the referendum, but the people of the north-east had their say and there is no role, either now or in future, for the unelected regional assembly. It should be done away with, and if the local government Bill can be used to do that, we should do it and replace the assembly with bodies that are accountable, such as the Association of North East Councils and the chamber of commerce. That would be more cost-effective and more representative than what we have now. We are spending almost £2 million a year on a talking shop that has little support outside those people who have the vested interest of sitting on the assembly.

Posted in Other Regions | Leave a Comment »

FOI: City Region

Posted by wonkotsane on November 16, 2006

Telford & Wrekin Council have responded to the following Freedom of Information Act request:

I would like to know the following in relation to the city region:

  1. How long has the borough been participating in the executive board of the city region?
  2. How much money has been spent on the city region?
  3. How many objections have been received to the city region and what were their nature?
  4. What promises or commitments have been made to the city region?
  5. What powers are expected to be delegated to the city region?
  6. What power will the council have to veto decisions made by the city region?

The response from Telford & Wrekin Council is below.  My comments are in red. 

I would respond to your six questions (received by the Council on 14th October), as follows:

  1. The City Region Board exists in shadow form only. It comprises the local authorities of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Telford, Walsall, Wolverhampton, the WM Regional Assembly, Advantage WM, the regional Learning & Skills Council and the business community. This will also be the composition of the Board when it moves out of its shadow form in April of next year.The role of the shadow Board is to create a draft Vision and an associated framework within which the Board proper will operate. Both the Vision and the associated framework will be subject to consultation before they are formally adopted.The Borough of Telford & Wrekin has participated in the Shadow Board since it was agreed that it should become a member of the partnership, in March 2006.
  2. To date, the Borough has made no monetary contribution to the City Region.  (The question was how much has been spent on the city region, not how much has been contributed –  what are the indirect costs?)
  3. I have written to BTW’s interim Chief Executive, the Leader of the Council, all Directors, Cabinet Members, Heads of Service and Business managers to ask them how many objections they have received to the city region.The answer is that (in addition to those received from you and recorded on the Telford Council Watch website which you are involved with), we have received three written objections and around three verbal ones (the latter is an estimate because one Cabinet Member told me that they had received one verbal enquiry. The other two ‘verbal objections’ arose from a debate between Shropshire Town and Parish Councillors attended by two Telford officers. I could record this ‘verbal objection’ as one or as four or so).The majority of comments received were based upon a simple misunderstanding of what the City Region is all about.

    Four of the six objectors expressed a concern that the City Region might dilute the Borough’s historic relationship with its Shropshire hinterland; one that it would lead to us creating a “Black Country within Shropshire”. None of these worries have any basis in reality. This was explained to the citizens we heard from, either in person or in writing.

    One person who wrote to us expressed the opinion that you have expressed, that the Council somehow requires a fresh democratic mandate before agreeing to become a member of the City Region. I have written to this citizen, explaining that this is not our view. However, the people of the Borough will have a chance to vote in the normal way in May, 2007.

    (Could this be as a result of the deliberate lack of publicity about the city region, what it will do and how much it will cost?)

  4. The draft City Region strategic framework has not yet been agreed. Nor has the precise nature of how we hope to work together. Any proposed specific commitments by the constituent Authorities to working through a City Region partnership will be clarified when these decisions have been taken.When a draft framework has been agreed, we will request comments from residents and businesses. The Shadow Board will consider these views before arriving at a final decision about the ‘rules’ that will govern the partnership.
  5. The City Region is envisaged to be a voluntary partnership. As such, it is not currently envisaged that powers will be delegated to it.(Powers are already delegated to the regional assembly and other regional quango’s and some of these powers are proposed to be transferred to the city region)
  6. The detailed ‘rules’ for decision-taking within the City Region Board have not yet been established. However, like all voluntary partnerships, it is anticipated that the vast majority of decisions will be arrived at through consensus. It is likely that a final agreement will include reference to the distribution of votes between partners on the Board. However, no draft decision has yet been taken about this, or about the power of veto.

I hope this is helpful.

Gerry Dawson
Head of Regeneration & Economic Development
Environment & Regeneration
Borough of Telford & Wrekin

Posted in FOI, Telford | Leave a Comment »

Regional Government not working

Posted by wonkotsane on November 16, 2006

A report called the Competitive Index has the West Midlands euroregion dropping to seventh out of the 12 euroregions in the UK.

Clearly the vast, unelected, taxpayer-funded regional bureaucracy isn’t working.  The economy of the West Midlands euroregion is obviously not in good hands.

Bizarrely, the author of the report believes the answer to this ineffective regional government is … more regional government!

You couldn’t make it up.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

EU Constitutional Convention

Posted by wonkotsane on November 11, 2006

RegionalAssemblies.co.uk shows us the price we pay for having unelected, ineffective regional government.

The EU is hosting a constitutional convention to decide the future of a European state.  Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been invited but there will be no English representation because England’s euroregions don’t have law-making powers.

The answer is simple.  Abolish regional government in England and tell the EU that if they must divide the UK into regions then there are 4 of them – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  If they don’t like it then it’s tough, they need us more than we need them.

Via Toque

Posted in EU/Europe | Leave a Comment »

Have your say on how cash is spent

Posted by wonkotsane on November 9, 2006

Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the unelected regional development agency, wants to know how the public want to spend £10 billion they have to boost the regional economy.

How in gods name does an unelected  quango get to spend £10 billion of taxpayers money? 

Here’s a suggestion on how the money should be spent – by elected councillors sitting on local councils, not by unelected, unaccountable “business leaders” and their hand picked cronies whose only qualifications for the job are the same regional “vision” that will see local authorities turned into ceremonial talking shops with all the major decisions made by unelected bureaucrats and our elected representives left with no more decision making powers than to choose which variety of biscuits to have at the next council meeting.

Posted in Quango’s | 1 Comment »

Councillor says people can’t be trusted to vote for mayor

Posted by wonkotsane on November 9, 2006

Sandwell Labour councillor, Bob Piper, explains why cities and regions shouldn’t have elected mayors:

My concern is much more that in some areas we will end up with media favourites or ‘celebrity’ candidates being elected, and we end up transferring all executive functions to a bloke in a monkey suit or a radio dj.

But that’s democracy Bob.  The people elect who they want to represent them, whether it’s a bloke in a money suit or another bloke in a monkey suit John Prescott.  Whether you or anyone else in local, regional or national government thinks the candidate is acceptable is irrelevant.

Posted in Sandwell | 4 Comments »

Fire Brigade say no to regional control centre

Posted by wonkotsane on November 8, 2006

Shropshire’s fire brigade has said no to the regional control centre the British government is trying to impose in the West Midlands.

The fire brigade refutes the British government’s claim that smaller control centres can’t cope with a major incident pointing out that they have dealt with a number of major incidents, sometimes more than one at a time, and have coped perfectly well.

They point out – quite rightly – that local knowledge is very important.  There are a number of towns and villages in Shropshire that share names – there are 7 villages in the county called Brockton for instance.  When you call 999 and ask for the fire service you are put through to a local control centre who are familiar with the area and can identify these places from experience.  Looking at the bigger picture, there are 7 fire brigades in the West Midlands and place names are duplicated across all 7 areas making it virtually impossible for someone in a regional control centre in Birmingham to gain that “local” knowledge for the whole region.

The motivation for this is nothing more than regionalisation for regionalistation’s sake and it should be strenuously resisted.

Posted in Shropshire | 1 Comment »

Blists Hill gets £10m regional grant: correction

Posted by wonkotsane on November 8, 2006

Yesterday we reported that the EU Regional Development Fund had contributed £6.5m toward the £10m grant given to Blists Hill.

It appears that the figures were incorrect in the press and it was, in fact, £3.5m which represents roughly half a percent of the cost to the West Midlands of being in the EU.

Posted in EU/Europe | Leave a Comment »

Blists Hill gets £10m regional grant

Posted by wonkotsane on November 6, 2006

Blists Hill museum, part of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, has been given a £10m grant by Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund to secure its future as a viable attraction.

This is good news for Blists Hill and I am personally very glad that the museum will continue to do the excellent work that it does and provide fantastic days out for families, my own included.

However, it is important to put this grant into perspective and to remember that the organisations controlling such vast sums of money are unelected and unaccountable to the public.  There are upwards of 5.3m people living in the West Midlands euroregion and the cost of EU membership is estimated at £873 for every man woman and child in the UK every year.  This means that the West Midlands alone has contributed in the region of £4.6bn to the EU which makes the £6.5m that the EU contributed via the West Midlands Government Office look positively puny in comparison (0.1% of our contribution to be exact).  The other £3.5m was donated by Advantage West Midlands.

So yes, it is fantastic that Blists Hill has been recognised as such a valuable site and been given a large grant but it isn’t new money, it is our taxes being handed over to unelected, unaccountable quango’s for distribution to whoever they decide is worthy.  The public aren’t involved in the decision making process, they are simply required to fund it.

Posted in EU/Europe, Press, Propaganda, Shropshire, Telford | Leave a Comment »

David Wright MP wants us to have say on local government

Posted by wonkotsane on November 6, 2006

Telford MP, David Wright, is urging his constituents to have their say on local government.

He can be contacted at info@davidwrightmp.org.uk

Might I suggest something like:

Dear David,

I saw your piece in the Shropshire Star inviting people to get in touch and have their say on local government. About time someone asked!

Giving more power to local authorities is a good idea. Great idea in fact. But it mustn’t be touted as the answer to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. Devolving power to local authorities isn’t the same as having a national government and there is no way a local authority could ever hope to compete with the power and influence the devolved governments in the rest of the UK have.

Also, regional government has to be swept away. Completely. Devolving power to local authorities and then leaving a vast, unelected, unaccountable regional bureaucracy poking its nose into local affairs completely defeats the object. There’s no point devolving transport, environment, etc. to local authorities and then having a city region, regional assembly, regional government office, etc. having their own policies on the same subject which may or may not be of benefit or fit in with the local policies.

Regards,

Stuart

Posted in Press, Telford | 1 Comment »

Reid still believes in city regions

Posted by bigfred on November 5, 2006

The Birmingham Post says:

“Midlands businessman Ben Reid yesterday insisted he still believed in the city region – and he denied his departure as business community member of the Birmingham, Black Country and Coventry City Region executive board was connected to the Government’s apparent loss of enthusiasm.

The Local Government White Paper last week favoured elected mayors but appeared to have abandoned radical plans for city regions. Mr Reid, chief executive of Midcounties Co-operative, the society formed a year ago when Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester Co-operative merged with West Midlands Co-operative, said the White Paper had been “disappointing” and “an opportunity missed”.”

I find it rather discomforting to see people of high position in companies turning over hundreds of millions of pounds have sufficient time to take further demanding duties in public life. Either they are extremely energetic and make us mere mortals appear like sloths on sleeping tablets and whisky, they are a simple expedient non-contributory figure head in their Companies and get easily bored or there is something it for them.

When these giants of trade take to vigourously promoting bigger and more controllable public bodies with bigger budgets and less accountability my inkling can be pursuades to veer toward the latter.

Now that Mr. Reid has left the Quango and it has been said that his ambition followed the rumoured demise of City Regionalisation. “If there ain’t going to be that big megalith then I don’t want to know.” “Disappointing & an opportunity missed,” He said. For who say I?

It could not have been the welfare and benefit of the people of the Midlands that he was interested in or he would have stayed on and ensured that they got the best he could help arrange.

Could it be a case of “If I don’t get what I want I am buggering off?”

It appears that every one with any enthusiasm for this whole regionalisation scheme has something to gain.

The politician sees it as an opportunity to tune boundaries in line with voting trends and a structure that he can use to fine tune infinate control over every aspect of of every individual’s life.

The public official sees the opportunity of bigger departments, bigger staff, bigger salaries and bigger pensions.

The business community see it as a less accountable, bigger organisation with bigger budgets and bigger requirements all organised into nice recognisable departments under the control of a few ambitious jobsworths. Conveniently negotiable.

The Party hacks and vested interests at Westminster, who certainly do not have the interests of England at heart, and their mates the europhiles see it as an opportunity to complete a process that they have jointly been working toward for decades. That ambition is to complete the fragmentation of England and finish her once and for all.

Left wing pressure groups see it as a big organisation that can more easily be infiltrated and educated to pursue the dreams of those who would apply the destructive dreams of the Liberal left.

The common man sees it a little differently:

He sees ever increasing rates and tax bills.

He sees a commitment not of his making to pay the inflated pensions of bureauracrats for decades to come.

He sees more bureaucracy, more regulation, lowering public service standards, the break up and obliteration of his country, culture, history and way of life.

He sees a heart and soulless organisation that will abandon local needs in favour of the current policy of harmonisation, integration and a conveyer belt to channel benefits to all and sundry regardless of need or common justice.

He sees channel of control for an ever more controlling political elite at Westminster.

And possibly considers it a vehicle of such awesome destruction that he will join the ever-increasing columns of native English that are seeking refuge in better parts of the World because they have lost all say in their own Country.

Mr. Reid’s departure may be one small ray of light that will yet illuminate the road back to common sense.

Posted in Birmingham, Press | Leave a Comment »

BBC regional government spin

Posted by wonkotsane on November 4, 2006

The BBC have carried out a poll in the North East euroregion on devolution and concluded that there is support for regional government because 69% want local control on issues such as transport.  The people questioned said they didn’t like unelected regional assemblies and only 20% of people think they do a worthwhile job.

The results of the survey do not indicate support for regional government.  The results say that the people of the North East want more control of local affairs.  The BBC doesn’t suggest that perhaps the desire to have more local control over transport is down to the fact that an MP elected in Scotland has control of England’s transport, something the people in the North East are particularly aware of and increasingly vocal about.

The answer to unaccountable central government is not regionalisation.  Regional government is not accountable, nor is it popular.  The British government is highly centralised as far as England is concerned but what people do not want is centralised regional government.  The euroregions, city regions and the new transnational regions aren’t local, they’re regional.  The West Midlands euroregion is a perfect example of how a single regional policy can’t be suitable for the whole region – it contains one of the largest urban sprawls in England at one extreme and the most rural county in England at the other.

It is clear that there is no real support for regional government in the North East or elsewhere in England which only leaves the question of why the BBC would choose to spin this story so outrageously to suggest that there is.  Could it be anything to do with the funding that the European Federation – the architects and chief supporters of the regions – give to the BBC to fund varied programming including news an education?

Posted in EU/Europe, Other Regions, Propaganda | 2 Comments »

Who, what and how much … part 2

Posted by wonkotsane on November 3, 2006

On Tuesday we asked “who, what and how much?” in relation to West Midlands Centre of Excellence (WMCOE).

We emailed WMCOE to ask that question (and some others) and got a reply pointing us to their website …

Hi,

I’ve just read this: http://www.egovmonitor.com/node/8248

All I can gather from the press release is that £800k of taxpayers money has been handed over to some people I’ve never heard of for something I’ve never heard of by some people (your organisation) I’ve never heard of.

Who are you, what do you do, what is this money for and where did it come from? How much does your organisation cost the taxpayer and how much money do you channel through your organisation?


Thank you so much for showing interest in our organisation. I have forwarded to you the link from our website where I believe answers to all of your questions can be found. If I may draw your attention to the menu heading, ‘About Us’, I think you will find the answers to most of your questions here.If you find that there are still questions you would like us to answer then please don’t hesitate to contact us.

regards
Jane Daly

http://www.wmcoe.gov.uk

Jane Daly
West Midlands Centre of Excellence
Regional Partnership Centre
Albert House
Quay Place
Edward Street
Birmingham
B1 2RA
Tel: 0121 245 0225
http://www.wmcoe.gov.uk

I’ve looked at the website and it’s all very interesting.  They are apparently hosted by Worcester Council although their address, as you can see, is in Birmingham.  As best I can determine, they have a budget of £5.2m over 5 years provided by the taxpayer.  Their purpose is to save money for local authorities by improving efficiency.

WMCOE claim to be accountable because they are made up of representatives of local authorities.  Nobody is elected to WMCOE, they are appointed.  The boards of the rest of the unelected, unaccountable regional quango’s are made up exactly the same and they don’t even bother claiming to be accountable.

So, are my questions answered?  Kind of.  Budgets alone don’t tell you how much these quango’s cost.  It costs money for local authorities to send people to work on them.  It costs money to consult with them and to implement their policies.

Posted in Quango’s | 1 Comment »

Telford First opposing regions

Posted by wonkotsane on November 2, 2006

Supporters of the West Midlands NO! Campaign, Telford First Limited, have appeared in the Shropshire Star again criticising the city region.

When only 29% of businesses think the city region will benefit their business, it’s good to see them actually speak out against it.

You can view a scan of the newspaper article here.

Posted in Press | Leave a Comment »

Electoral Commission goes regional

Posted by wonkotsane on November 1, 2006

The Electoral Commission, the supposedly independent organisation charged with protecting democracy and fair and unbiased elections, has gone regional.

They are advertising various taxpayer-funded posts under the banner “Reaching out the English Regions“.

Bit by bit, the governance of England is being regionalised.  It is being done stealthily and with no reference to the public.  This is not democracy.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Who, what and how much?

Posted by wonkotsane on October 31, 2006

eGov monitor has this, frankly, bizarre and unintelligible press release from two taxpayer-funded regional quango’s who appear to be one in the same and that we’ve not heard of before.

What the press release is actually talking about is a bit of a mystery because the only parts that appear to have been written in English are preceeded by pound signs.  All that is clear is that at least £800k of taxpayers money has been handed over by an unelected regional quango to “a small team of business process re-engineering experts” for something to do with the regional fire service and local authorities in the euroregion.

If anyone is proficient enough in eurobabble to figure out what our money is being spent on and by whom, please let us know.

Posted in Quango’s | 2 Comments »

Council Leaders Split on Unitary Council

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2006

The Shropshire Star carries a story that there is just 12 weeks to decide the fate of the county’s district authorities.

The Government announced yesterday that all shire areas will be asked if they want to to become unitary authorities, which would sound the death knell for English district councils.

In Shropshire it would mean the county council, Shrewsbury & Atcham and Oswestry borough councils and Bridgnorth, North Shropshire and South Shropshire district councils being swallowed up by a single all-powerful authority – like Telford & Wrekin.

The Star says there is a mixed reaction over the news from Council leaders across Shropshire

Councillor Heather Kidd,

Councillor Peter Nutting

Councillor David G Lloyd,

Were all in some respects for the move quoting various reasons saving money, Heather Kidd my own council leader thinks that “If we are going to have to share services anyway we might as well become a unitary authority and create something special for Shropshire.” Peter Nutting does have some reservation about the size of the unitary council.

 

Councillor Elizabeth Yeomans, Leader of Bridgnorth District Council, said: “It would be foolhardy to take such a decision prior to the publication of Sir Michael Lyons’s review of local government finance.

North Shropshire District Council leader David Minnery said the authority did not yet have an official view.

One point the Star did not mention was that Kidd, Nutting and Lloyd were all members of the Regional Assembly, I wonder which hat they will be wearing when they make their decisions will they be making those decisions in the best interest of the people of Shropshire or in the best interest of the EU. Isn’t there some sort of code of practice that precludes councillors from taking part in debates in which they have a vested interest?

Link

Posted in Quango’s, Shropshire | 1 Comment »

Birmingham Post calls for referendum on elected mayor

Posted by wonkotsane on October 27, 2006

The Birmingham Post has called for referenda to be held to directly elect mayors for city councils and for the city region.

Given the opposition within the city region project to any form of democracy or accountability to the electorate, the Birmingham Post are about as hopeful as we are:

“One of the most important aspects of the White Paper, indicative of whether the Government is serious about empowering local communities, will be the new guidelines for elected mayors – at both city, county and city region level. It is abundantly clear that all of the big metropolitan councils, Birmingham in particular, will do anything they can to prevent this matter from being discussed and certainly have no intention of asking people what they want.”

Posted in Press | 1 Comment »

icCoventry: Call for poll on regional assembly

Posted by wonkotsane on October 27, 2006

A little late in noticing this article on icCoventry covering our launch:

Call for poll on regional assembly
Oct 4 2006

A GROUP of people opposing plans for regional government in the West Midlands are calling for a referendum on the matter.

Members of the West Midlands NO campaign want local councils in Coventry, Birmingham and the Black Country to let people vote on whether or not to have a regional assembly similar to the one in Wales.

They are concerned the decision may be made behind closed doors.

Spokesman for the campaign Stuart Parr said: “The West Midlands No campaign is calling on local authorities involved in the proposed Birmingham, Coventry and Black Country City Region to hold binding referenda on whether to join the city region instead of making the decision privately and behind closed doors.”

Campaigners believe a referendum would show that most people in the West Midlands don’t want regional government.

Posted in Press | Leave a Comment »