West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

What’s it all about?

Posted by wonkotsane on July 20, 2006

Regional government and regional quangos are a cancer in England.

Originally conceived by the EU as a way of dividing not only England but the rest of Europe into easily controlled chunks, regional government has been adopted by the British government for the very same reasons.

 Rather than improve public services and democracy to the public as these regional quangos claim, they have pitted euroregion against euroregion in a battle for UK government funding and taken powers and responsibilites away from democratically elected representatives and given them to unelected regional yes-men.

The UK government prefers not to refer to the unelected regional assemblies, preferring instead to call them “indirectly elected” – a reference to the fact that some of the quangocrats are elected to local councils.  However, nobody is elected to a regional assembly or any of the associated quangos.

John Prescott, when he still had a real job in the UK government, was in charge of the euroregions and he hit on the idea of having elected regional assemblies in the 9 euroregions.  To this end, he announced a series of referenda in England starting with the North East euroregion which had the highest level of support for regional government.  The North East region, largely thanks to veteran campaigner Neil Herron, gave Labour the biggest referendum defeat any UK government has had in history with 78% of people rejected regional assemblies.  Following this defeat, the other 8 referenda were cancelled but – importantly – the regional structure remained in place and has been significantly extended and strengthened.

Labour have been forced to concede that the electorate do not want elected regional assemblies but, as they are obliged to implement regional government in England to satisfy the EU, they have had another cunning plan – City Regions.

In other European countries which, unlike England, have a national government, City Regions have been successful in growing their local economies.  The UK government have decided that what we need in England is City Regions.  The EU, Scottish and Welsh MP’s, European Federalists and quangocrats are all happy and the people will also be happy once they’ve been fed enough propoganda.  There is one important difference in the UK though – City Regions in England will be directly competing not only with each other but with the national governments in Scotland, Wales and (by the end of this year) Northern Ireland.  City Regions elsewhere in Europe and beyond do not have this same handicap and this is one major reason why City Regions will not work – a region cannot compete with a national government with the ability to pass primary legislation.

City Regions, as with the current network of regional government in England, will be paid for by the taxpayer.  However, unlike regional assemblies, the City Regions will be able to levy 5% on business rates.  Will businesses be attracted to a City Region where an unelected regional cabinet can make the arbitrary decision to increase business rates by 5% or to Scotland, for example, where the elected Scottish Executive can cut taxes as well as increase them?

The proposed West Midlands City Region will be centred on Birmingham and focussed on the metropolitan part of the West Midlands stretching from Birmingham to Wolverhampton leaving Telford and Coventry as little more than subservient satellites.  In fact, Telford is specifically mentioned in the proposals as a “stop tap” for developments in the City Region.  Developments that can’t be built in the metropolitan area of the West Midlands will instead be built on the green- and brownfield sites surrounding Telford.

If you are wondering why, if this is such a bad idea, councils in the West Midlands are so keen to get involved, you need look no further than the structure of the City Region cabinet.  The Leader and Chief Executive of each participating council will automatically take a place on the cabinet – the Leader on the decision-making part of the cabinet and the Chief Executive on the scrutiny panel.

The West Midlands City Region proposal has yet to be finalised and is kept in complete secrecy.  Freedom of Information Act requests for the proposals are refused by local councils on the basis that they will be published in the near future (when they are sent to the Local Government Minister to be rubber stamped and it is too late to object) and by the West Midlands Regional Assembly because they are immune from the Freedom of Information Act.  The Local Government Minister has already agreed to the West Midlands City Region despite not having seen the proposal!

In summary, regional government in general and city regions in particular, are expensive, undeomocratic, unaccountable and unwanted.  If you are interested in opposing regional government in the West Midlands, contact me.

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