West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

Archive for September, 2006

Telford First gazumped

Posted by wonkotsane on September 30, 2006

Telford & Wrekin Borough’s underhand and expensive joint venture with the unelected regional quango, Advantage West Midlands, has been dealt a blow.

The name Telford First has been registered as a private limited company ahead of Monday’s official launch of the company.  Unfortunately for Telford & Wrekin, the company has been registered by a private individual meaning that this £1.3m white elephant is going to need a rebrand quick sharp.

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A Quango is born

Posted by wonkotsane on September 29, 2006

A new quango will officially come into being on Monday by the name of Telford First.

Telford First is a joint venture between Telford & Wrekin Borough Council and Advantage West Midlands, the unelected regional quango responsible for millions of pounds worth of taxpayers money.

Telford First will take over land in the borough currently owned by English Partnerships and will take over the work fo the Telford Development Agency.

Despite Telford First not actually officially existing or, indeed, having any work to do whilst the Telford Development Agency is still doing its job, the quango has managed to appoint a Chief Executive and staff who have been receiving significant salaries courtesy of the taxpayer.

The Telford Development Agency cost taxpayers £96k to run last year, Telford First cost £1.3m.

Advantage West Midlands’ involvement in the new agency is likely to divert vital funding from rural services in Shropshire and Staffordshire to the Borough of Telford & Wrekin.

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Regional Health Funding

Posted by wonkotsane on September 22, 2006

Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much central Government funding was made available to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in (a) 2004 and (b) 2005. [72390]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Department does not allocate funding to national health service trusts. NHS trusts as providers of services receive the bulk of their revenue funding from commissioning by primary care trusts. They also receive revenue funding from the Department for research and development and from strategic health authorities for medical staff training and other teaching costs. In addition, trusts can charge staff, visitors or patients for services provided, such as catering or provision of private patient facilities.

Shropshire county primary care trust (PCT) will receive allocations of £331.2 million in 2006-07 and £363.3 million in 2007-08. These represent a cash increase of £59.9 million or 19.7 per cent. over the two years.

How likely is the West Midlands regional strategic health authority in Birmingham to hand over cash to a rural hospital serving a few thousand people when they can give it to somewhere like the Birmingham Childrens Hospital which is famous around the world and has a catchment of over a million people?  The answer is obvious – the funding and investment that the City Region is supposed to bring to the “region” will be focussed on Birmingham, getting less and less the further you get from the centre with those parts of the West Midlands euroregion that our outside of the City Region suffering the most.

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WMRA takes on affordable rural housing

Posted by wonkotsane on September 19, 2006

West Midlands Regional assembly (WMRA), the secretive unelected regional government already established in the West Midlands, has decided to tackle the problem of a lack of affordable housing in rural areas.

This is a real problem that needs addressing, I agree, but I question their judgement in appointing a Birmingham City Councillor to deal with rural affairs.  Rural communities differ wildly in their needs and you can’t offer a single one-size-fits-all solution.  This problem is best tackled by local authorities who understand the needs of their local rural communities, not by a city councillor trying to devise a regional strategy for something he can’t understand.

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More on that £5m grant to the “City Region”

Posted by wonkotsane on September 18, 2006

According to the Shropshire Star, the West Midlands City Region was awarded a £5m grant by central government.  Following some investigation, this was uncovered as a complete fabrication here on West Midlands NO! – the City Region doesn’t even exist, how can it receive a grant?

I was referred to the Learning & Skills Council who, it transpires, were the recipients of the money that was supposedly granted to the City Region and to the DWP who were the central government department that granted the money.

I emailed the DWP on Saturday as follows:

To: Welfarereform@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
Subject: Grant to West Midlands City Region

I am writing to ask for an explanation of the decision to grant £5m to the West Midlands City Region.

The City Region does not exist and is not expected to do so until early next year.  The reason why it doesn’t exist is that the final proposals haven’t been drawn up yet.

Firtly, how has the DWP managed to grant £5m of taxpayers money to a City Region that doesn’t exist and secondly, how can the DWP justify granting £5m of taxpayers money to a non-existent City Region without knowing whether the City Region will actually be fit for the purpose to which the money has been allocated.

To my surprise, I received the following email this morning:

Stuart,

Thanks for your message below, which has been forwarded to me as the lead official on the DWP city strategy initiative.

The background to this is that the welfare reform green paper back in January set out proposals for improving employment rates in the most disadvantaged parts of the UK by bringing together the public, private and voluntary sectors in a concerted local partnership – what we are calling a consortium – to improve the way support for individual jobless people is co-ordinated and delivered. The aim is that these local consortia provide drive and focus to cross-agency activity to help jobless residents move into and progress through work.

The green paper promised that there would be some seed-corn funding available to help kick-start the work of these consortia in the initial pilot phase. There was a selection exercise in the early summer which led to the announcement of fifteen pathfinder areas, one of which covers Birmingham and other parts of the West Midlands region (however, as with all the successful proposals, the West Midlands pathfinder will be targeting particular wards with high levels of worklessness, not the whole region).

The £5m pot you refer to below covers all the pathfinders, not just the West Midlands. The idea is that each area has a small amount of money to build partnership capacity and develop a detailed delivery plan which sets out their priorities and strategies for helping more people into work. To make use of its share of the seed-corn money, each pathfinder area will need to designate a lead body to which we can pay the money e.g. a local authority or another local statutory agency. They will also need to set out in a business case exactly how they propose to use the money and this will have to be endorsed by the Department before it can be released to them. They will also need to provide regular updates to the Department to demonstrate that it is being used in the way intended.

Regards

Simon Wood

So, not only was the money granted to the LSC and not the non-existent “City Region” as claimed, but the £5m for the “City Region” is actually a pot of money intended for the whole country.  As I have said before and will continue to say, if the City Region is such a good thing then why are the people affected by it kept in the dark and why the need for a tissue of lies to try and sell it?

The most important thing to come from this is that the local authorities in the West Midlands can apparently secure extra funding from central government by co-operating with other local authorities in the West Midlands without having to sign up to yet another expensive, taxpayer-funded regional government.  Voluntary co-operation means that the local authorities can co-operate on issues and projects that will be of benefit to their particular area rather than being forced to participate in projects that will be of no benefit.  The decisions made by the City Region will not be option, they will be compulsory and decisions that will be detrimental to one area will have to implemented.

There is nothing that the City Region can bring to the region that can’t be achieved by voluntary and selective co-operation and this whole sorry affair goes to prove that.

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Shropshire Star: New Map of Europe

Posted by wonkotsane on September 16, 2006

New map of Europe

eu-flag.jpgA few weeks ago one of the Labour councillors for Malinslee was singing the praises of the super city because Telford had been awarded £5,000 to be shared between Donnington and Malinslee for social improvements.

What he omitted to say was that the total amount available to all councils in the proposed super city region was £500,000. Put the £5,000 in perspective against this amount with Coventry, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley, Solihull, part of Staffordshire, north Worcestershire and Birmingham, with the share being divided out based upon the population for each council, and it is easy to see who takes the lion’s share.

If this super city is such a wonderful idea why was the West Midland County Council created in 1974 by the then Labour Government and disbanded by a later Labour Government as a failure?

In the Shropshire Star of September 5 there are the proposed new maps of Europe drawn up by German map makers on instructions of the EU showing the UK as part of Holland,Germany, France and Spain.

Has anyone in the UK other than Government officials been consulted over this? No. Has your local MP consulted you about this? No. The United Kingdom Independence Party has consistently told the truth about what EU membership means for the UK.

R Knight, Telford & Wrekin UKIP

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Remember that £5m grant to the “City Region”?

Posted by wonkotsane on September 16, 2006

On August 5th the Shropshire Star reported that the West Midlands City Region (as it was known then) had been granted £5m from central government to tackle poverty and unemployment.

Like a lot of people, I thought it a bit strange that central government could award such a vast sum of money to an organisation that doesn’t yet exist and with no guarantees that the organisation that finally comes into being will actually be fit for the purpose.

I can reveal that the £5m was not, contrary to press releases that asserted as such, awarded to the “City Region”.  The grant was, in fact, made to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), a part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

So who has been telling porkies?  I hope to find out very shortly.  In the meantime, here is the email conversation that uncovered this blatant piece of untrue propaganda.

Gerry,

I am writing to you as I am extremely concerned about a report in the Shropshire Star on August 5th regarding the Birmingham, Coventry and Black County City Region and you are, I am told by your colleagues, one of only two people in the council who are familiar with the City Region.

The report said that the City Region has been granted £5m from central government to boost unemployment and tackle poverty across the “region”.

The reason I am concerned is that the City Region doesn’t exist yet and you have told me that it won’t exist until early next year when the proposals will be finalised and made public. I don’t claim to be an expert in banking, financial or company law but I have worked in the finance sector and picked up enough basic knowledge to know that you cannot give money to a company or organisation that doesn’t exist – especially not £5m of public money! I was wondering if you could tell me who has accepted this £5m on behalf of the non-existent City Region and what is being done with it. I assume that the money is being held in escrow by a competent authority with a view to handing over the capital sum with interest to the City Region if and when it comes into being? I believe this is the norm in cases such as this. Is there perhaps a legal entity already set up that will be incorporated as the City Region in future that has the authority to act as if it were the City Region?

The other thing that concerns me is that this central government department has granted the money to the City Region despite not knowing whether the final organisation will actually be fit for the purpose to which this money has been allocated. As you assured me there is no firm proposal for the City Region when I asked for a copy of the proposals, it is impossible to tell whether the final organisation will actually be suitable for tackling poverty and unemployment throughout the whole “region” or whether that money would be better spent by elected councils who know their own town/city.

Could you please advise who this central government department is so that I can ask them about it too?

Thank you in advance,

Stuart Parr aka wonkotsane


Stuart,I attach a press statement from the regional LSC (click here). This was the statement that the Shropshire Star used as a basis for the report to which your email refers. I would also refer you to the Department for Work & Pensions’ press release on the same subject:http://www.dwp.gov.uk/mediacentre/pressreleases/2006/jul/fmc080-270706.asp.

Finally, you might try ‘googleing’ ‘dwp city strategy’ or ‘dwp city strategies’ for more comprehensive information.

I would confirm that no firm decisions have been taken about how the city region will operate or the nature of its responsibilities. However, the partnership will continue to operate in a transparent manner, issuing press statements as ideas are firmed up. We hope to be able to consult on these emerging ideas towards the end of the year.

Gerry Dawson

Head of Regeneration & Economic Development Borough of Telford & Wrekin


Thank you Gerry. So the money has not actually been given to the City Region, it’s been given to the local authorities that want to be in the city region?


Stuart.The City Strategy is complex. I would refer you to the comprehensive information that is available on the net and to which I have pointed you.This should answer all of your legitimate questions.

Gerry Dawson 


Gerry,I’ve followed that link for the DWP and read the press release. I’ve read as much about the City Region on the internet as I can find and I still don’t understand where this money went. It hasn’t gone to the City Region because it doesn’t exist so who did it go to? Has it been shared between the local authorities or is it being jointly administered or am I missing something here?Stuart


Stuart,The LSC is the Accountable Body. This means that money will be directed through it.May I respectfully suggest that you direct any further questions on this issue either to the LSC or DWP, via the web sites I have indicated.

Many thanks.

Gerry Dawson


Gerry,I will gladly speak to the LSC if it is they that have received the money.Can you just confirm that the £5m was given to the LSC and not the “City Region”?

Stuart 


Stuart,My last email made this abundantly clear.Enjoy the remainder of your weekend.

Gerry Dawson

Posted in Propaganda | 2 Comments »

Hospital Cuts

Posted by wonkotsane on September 6, 2006

The Princess Royal Hospital in Telford has been threatened with cuts to its A&E service as the NHS trust in Shropshire tries to cut its £31m debts.  The A&E service has supposedly been saved but at the expense of the consultant-led paediatrics unit meaning that any children taken seriously ill at night will have to be taken about 15 miles to the Royal shrewsbury Hospital instead.

Earlier this year the Shrewsbury & Telford NHS Trust was forced to hand over a chunk of this years budget to a regional NHS bank set up by the Department of Health.  They then had to borrow back that money – and more – in the form of a loan from that bank.  Shortly afterwards a West Midlands regional health authority was created and the NHS Trust subsumed into it.  The NHS Trust had no say in any of this and there was no public consultation.

The regional health authority put a stop to the plans that Shrewsbury & Telford had drawn up to deal with their debts on the basis that someone in Birmingham who has nothing to do with the hospitals is better placed to make a decision about those hospitals and it is the reigonal health authority who have made the decision to cut the level of care at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital.

The regionalisation of England continues unchecked, in secret and unopposed.  The Tories are opposed to it but where are they when services are regionalised and cut back?  Where is Telford’s Tory MP, Mark Pritchard, when these decisions are taken?

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Council Baiting

Posted by wonkotsane on September 1, 2006

I was a busy bee this afternoon trying to find out what work it is that the city region is going to be doing as nobody seems to have been able (or willing) to tell me before.  First stop Telford & Wrekin Council.

Called T&W Council and the switchboard operator put me through to a bewildered Leisure Services person who then referred me to the PR office.  The lady at the PR office told me that there are only two people at T&W Council that know enough about the city region to talk to me.  I asked her why it was that not even council employees knew anything about this and why, if it is such a good thing, it is all being kept secret.  She took offence at this and haughtily gave me her opinion that it wasn’t a secret at all.  I told her that I had been refused a copy of the proposal for the city region more than once, one occasion being a Freedom of Information Act request.  She took my name and number and left a message for the man in the know to ring me because he is conveniently unavailable today.

Next on my list was the Standards Board for England to ask them if the Leader of the Council, Keith Austin, had a predetermined opinion and/or prejudicial interest when he recommended the cabinet vote in favour of the city region when he gets a job with them and had been quoted more than once in the Shropshire Star beforehand saying what a wonderful idea it is.  They said there may be a case and invited me to submit a complaint.

The thought of this New Labour toad being hauled in front of the Standards Board kept me amused for all of 5 minutes so I decided to phone Birmingham City Council.  I spoke to a North British gentleman called Sandy who I spoke to once a few months ago.  He remembered who I was.  We had a heated discussion in which he failed to explain why the councils in the West Midlands euroregion can’t just co-operate without setting up yet another unelected regional government at the taxpayers expense, where and how the extra investment and benefits are coming from and why there is not going to be any referendum on the city region when even Telford’s europhile Labour MP said that the people of Telford don’t want regional government.  He also explained that the reason people in the North East euroregion rejected their regional assembly in a referendum was because they were unelected, couldn’t pass legislation and didn’t have much power whereas the city region … oh, there’s no difference.  He said that I should trust in the council leaders’ decisions as they were doing what is best for the region.  I suggested that they approved of it because it’s Labour Party policy and it’s a Labour council at which point he shouted that I couldn’t say that to which I replied “I can and I just did” and that the Chief Exec of T&W Council is a card carrying member of the Labour Party.  He got a bit wound up at this point and we weren’t getting anywhere so I made one final stab and getting him to contradict himself by asking him to confirm that we won’t be getting a say in the city region and that the consultation will be held once the decisions have all been made.  He said I couldn’t twist his words like that but confirmed that there wouldn’t be a referendum so … we aren’t going to have a say?

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MP in worry over jobs

Posted by wonkotsane on September 1, 2006

The following is an excerpt from the newly-redesigned (and frankly appaling) Shropshire Star website on the city region.

MP in worry over jobs

Telford will be losing out on jobs and investment because its name has been left off the newly-planned West Midlands city region, it has been claimed. It was announced today that the proposed new strategic policy-making body will be called The Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country City region. Telford and Solihull councils are the only two to be ignored by the new title.

Today Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard said leaving Telford out of the title would mean it would not benefit from the same opportunities as the named areas. But bosses at Telford & Wrekin Council said the work and decisions of the body was much more important than the name.

This is all well and good Mark but I warned you a while ago that Telford was going to be shafted and did you listen? No, you wanted to wait and see what happened before you did anything. Well, I told you so and even now that you can see that Telford really is getting taken for a ride I bet you still do nothing about it.

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City Region gets its name

Posted by wonkotsane on September 1, 2006

The West Midlands City Region have officially got its name.  It will be known as the Birmingham, Coverntry and Black Country City Region.

Where does this leave Telford and Solihul, the only two parts of the City Region that aren’t even mentioned in the name?  Exactly where I said we would be – left out in the cold, a suburb of Birmingham.

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