West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

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:


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.


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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