West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

Archive for October, 2006

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 »

Birmingham Post Survey shows little support for regional quango’s

Posted by wonkotsane on October 27, 2006

The Birmingham Post published the results of a survey yesterday on the performance of the myriad unelected (mostly regional) quango’s that have been set up to “support” them.  The results make interesting reading.

The regional quango with most support in West Midlands businesses was West Midlands Business Link – set up and funded at the taxpayers expense by Advantage West Midlands (AWM) – with 36% of business thinking it benefited them.  Ironically, it is to be disbanded and replaced with another quango by AWM.

West Midlands Institute of Directors is bottom of the list with 17% of businesses believing that they get anything positive from them.

Interestingly, when asked for an opinion on the city region, only 29% of business feel that the city region will bring them any benefits.  When the purpose of the city region is suppoed to be to attract investment and promote business in the region, this must be a serious blow to the city region project.

Once again we have to point out that there is very little support for the city region and question why local authorities continue to press ahead with the project when they have no mandate to do so.

Posted in Press | Leave a Comment »

Regional Ambassadors

Posted by wonkotsane on October 26, 2006

The West Midlands has ambassadors.  No, this isn’t a joke – the unelected regional quango, Advantage West Midlands, appoints a group of ambassadors to promote the West Midlands euroregion.

There seem to be an awful lot of people “representing” us at a regional level but none of us have ever asked them to.

Posted in Quango’s | Leave a Comment »

Nice work if you can get it

Posted by wonkotsane on October 26, 2006

West Midlands in Europe – “representing the heart of England at the heart of Europe” – is advertising two new taxpayer funded posts.

They require a European Policy Manager and European Policy Assistant with salaries of £50k and £28k respectively.

What do West Midlands in Europe do?  They represent the region in Europe.  How do they do this?  That’s a secret.  How much money do they cost and what have they spent it one?  That’s a secret too.  Who elected them to represent the West Midlands in Europe?  That one’s not a secret, the answer is nobody.

Posted in Quango’s | Leave a Comment »

Regional Congestion Charge plans at risk

Posted by wonkotsane on October 25, 2006

A plan for a region-wide congestion charge is in doubt because the region is demanding too much money from the British government in return.

Was anyone asked if they wanted congestion charges?

Posted in Press | Leave a Comment »

Shropshire Star: £200,000 for new housing

Posted by wonkotsane on October 24, 2006

 The following story was on the front page of the Shropshire Star tonight:

£200,000 for new housing 

Telford & Wrekin has received a £200,000 cash boost to help build an extra 13,000 homes and create new jobs in the borough over the next 10 years. A further £200,000 has been put aside to help build 3,500 homes in Shrewsbury and Atcham. The government windfall has been hailed a “lifeline” by Telford & Wrekin Council’s leader, who said it would save Telford from having to fend for itself as a “half finished town” in the future. The funding is a share of a £40 million cashpot.

Councillor Keith Austin said councillors had been concerned that after 2011, current regional plans for Telford propose a decrease in housing and employment growth.

But the new plans, earmarked as part of a £40 million government initiative, mean that Telford can continue to develop for at least a further 15 years.

Telford has been unveiled as one of 45 New Growth Points – towns and cities across the country with the potential to deliver new housing and jobs.

The money will act as start-up funding to support infrastructure, unlock sites for new housing and to assess and mitigate the impact of proposed projects on the environment.

The Government hopes the moves in Telford and Shrewsbury will help attract business investment to the areas, and assist first-time buyers eager to get on to the property ladder.

Councillor Austin said the council hoped to create a master plan in the coming year and that councillors and officers would be working hard over the coming months to put together a project plan and timetable that would include a public consultation.

He said: “We are very pleased to be working with the Government on this initiative. It recognises that Telford – as part of the Birmingham, Coventry and Black Country City Region – has an important role to play in accommodating growth in the West Midlands region.

“The council has been promised funding which will enable us to carry out studies to determine what level of housing and employment growth is right for Telford.

“We will also be able to get a clearer picture of the economic benefits and the infrastructure and inward investment required to support a sustainable and prosperous community.”

The first thing that springs to mind is “Wow!  £200,000!  That’ll pay for what, 2 houses?”.  The second thing that springs to mind is “what has this got to do with the city region?”

Of course, there is a regional element to this.  West Midlands Regional Assembly currently has a regional policy that states how many houses will be built in different parts of the euroregion.  The City Region has its own ideas of course and Telford has been described as a “stop tap for developments” which means that if targets aren’t being met elsewhere, they’ll be built in Telford which is surrounded by prime green field development sites.

Telford & Wrekin Council has a plan to turn Telford into a “green city” by 2026.  The plan involves building thousands of houses on green field sites such as the town park which attracts visitors from all over the West Midlands (I know this from personal experience).  The City Region government has a plan to grow the urban areas of the West Midlands euroregion that makes up the City Region without a thought for what will happen to the rest of the euroregion as the divide between the urban and rural economy grows.

One of the most interesting things that Keith Austin says is that a public consultation will take place but what will be the point?  The City Region will decide how much housing is built, when and where.

Posted in Press, Propaganda, Telford | 2 Comments »

Press Release re: EU cash aid of £460m for region

Posted by wonkotsane on October 23, 2006

The following press release has been sent to local and national press today.

The West Midlands euroregion has been allocated £460m from a total EU grant of £6.4bn to the UK to improve skills and employment.

The cost of EU membership is estimated to be £873 for every man woman and child per year. There are 5.27m people living in the West Midlands euroregion. This puts a financial cost of EU membership for the West Midlands euroregion alone at £4.6bn. How generous of the EU to give us back some of our own money! The grant represents only 10% of the money that has been handed over to the EU from the West Midlands and is £73m short of an equal share of the money were the total amount to be divided equally amongst the 12 “regions” of the UK – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the 9 English euroregions.

Businesses and organisations wishing to bid for a share of this money – an average of just £87 per person living in the euroregion – will have to make their bids to the unelected, unaccountable regional quangos that distribute EU funding in England. These quango’s such as the West Midlands Regional Assembly, Advantage West Midlands and the West Midlands Regional Development Agency all operate in virtual secrecy, immune from the Freedom of Information Act and unaccountable to any voter. Their decisions will be made in secret by the unelected quangocrats who control hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers money in the West Midlands from their taxpayer-funded bases in Birmingham.

It is simply wrong for unelected, unaccountable and secretive regional quango’s to make these decisions. This money should be allocated through elected representitives at a local level, not through the unaccountable regional quango’s. Taxpayers have paid for this grant and it is only right that people elected by those same taxpayers should be the ones who decide how to spend it.

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

Trans-national regional assemblies

Posted by wonkotsane on October 22, 2006

It is common knowledge that the current English regions were drawn up by the EU.  The reasons are many and varied but there are two main ones:

  1. Member states are easier to control from Brussels if they are divided up into smaller regions
  2. National identities are a barrier to a federal Europe so they are being replaced with regional identities

The EU has updated its regional agenda with “trans-national regions” – euroregions that cross national boundaries.  How this will impact on the existing regional assemblies and associated quango’s is a mystery but the Arc Manche Assembly, incorporating parts of the South-East of England and France, has already been formed using taxpayers money.

The new assembly is, of course, unelected and has a French chairman.  The Conservatives have condemned the transnational regions but the Tory-controlled West Sussex County Council is taking part in it and even hosted its conference less than a week ago.

Posted in EU/Europe, Other Regions | 3 Comments »

Farmers in region selling up

Posted by wonkotsane on October 21, 2006

On the front page of today’s Shropshire Star is a story about farmers in the West Midlands euroregion selling up.

Shropshire is the most rural county in England and the farming is a big part of the local economy yet over 2,000 farmers have folded or sold up in the last 10 years.

It looks like the West Midlands Regional Assembly’s decision to appoint a Birmingham City councillor as its rural affairs portfolio-holder hasn’t been the roaring success you would expect from appointing a city councillor to look after rural affairs.*

* Apologies for the sarcasm, I couldn’t help myself

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

Your taxes spent on putting local companies out of business

Posted by wonkotsane on October 21, 2006

Advantage West Midlands (AWM) is spending taxpayers money funding an IT venture at Wolverhampton University to provide websites and other IT solutions to small to medium enterprises (SME’s).

The service – IT Futures – is deliberately pitched to compete against the smallest and most vulnerable IT companies in the West Midlands, offering IT work at a subsidised cost with 5 days free consultancy and free equipment loans.

The AWM logo at the bottom of the IT Futures website claims that they are “the regional leader for developing economic prosperity”.  How does using taxpayers money to put small companies out of business develop economic prosperity?  By engineering the market so that only big multinationals can afford to operate in the area?  The money these large corporations make doesn’t stay in the area – they pay peanuts and their profits usually go straight out of the country to a foreign-owned parent company.

Posted in Quango’s | 1 Comment »

Who pays for this?

Posted by wonkotsane on October 21, 2006

So who pays for West Midlands in Europe to take part in this European regional quango?  The partner organisations of this unelected regional quango are Advantage West Midlands, West Midlands Regional Development Agency and West Midlands Local Government Association – all taxpayer-funded, unelected regional quangos.

ERRIN re-launches with high hopes and expectations

[Date: 2006-10-20]

The European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN) announced its official re-launch for 2007 and beyond at its seminar ‘Towards Regional Innovation: the Role of European Regions’ on 19 October 2006 in Brussels.

ERRIN is a Brussels-based network designed to help representations involved in research and innovation to engage with the evolving European Research Area (ERA).

By improving coordination and communication between regional representations in Brussels, ERRIN strengthens cooperation and synergies between regions across Europe and reinforces the research and innovation agenda in line with the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy.

According to Pascal Goergen, Representative of the Brussels-Capital region and Member of the ERRIN Management Board, ‘ERRIN is a network created by regions for regions. This is a network based in Brussels which screens, informs and analyses all that is related to the research and innovation European agenda from the regional perspective. Dealing with the Seventh Framework Programme from a national or federal point of view is totally different from looking at it from a regional perspective, or even a local perspective. So ERRIN’s objective is to bring added value to our regional authorities, firms, SMEs [small and medium sized enterprises], development agencies, universities and research institutes.’

ERRIN has gone from strength to strength. From an informal Brussels-based platform set up in 2002 with 190 regional representations interested in the ERA, it won a contract for a two-year Commission-funded pilot-project within the ‘Regions of Knowledge’ framework in 2003.

Four years since its inception, and with its Commission funding coming to an end in 2006, ERRIN has gone through a period of re-thinking and soul searching.

It came to the conclusion that it had to take the bold evolutionary step of becoming an autonomous and sustainable network based on the financial and dynamic contribution of its members if it was to continue its work supporting Europe’s regions and regional actors.

ERRIN has already managed to get 12 regional representations on board: West Midlands in Europe, City & Region of Eindhoven, Brussels Capital Region, Helsinki Region, South Denmark, South Sweden, Stuttgart, Unioncamere Lombardia, Unioncamere Piemonte, Valencia Region, Veneto Region, and Yorkshire & Humber Region, and it is confident that more members will sign up based on ERRIN’s 2007 policy and project objectives.

These include:
– contributing its views on the European Commission’s 10 point action plan for a broad based innovation strategy for the EU;
– presenting its views on the rules of participation for the Seventh Framework Programme to the European Commission;
– contributing to the 2007 Spring Council with a regional perspective on Innovation and contributing to achieving the goals of the Lisbon Strategy;
– informing members of upcoming developments in relevant policy areas, and, through small scale dedicated working groups, aim to achieve rapid responses to policy initiatives and European Commission consultative processes via a policy alerts system;
– organising briefing sessions on topical policy issues;
– coordinating policy activities with a view to ensuring the quality of the Network’s output;
– supporting members through activities that facilitate the development of European cooperation projects;
– Developing an ‘ERRIN Project Vademecum’.

The question on everyone’s mind is, will more members give ERRIN a chance to meet these targets?

Actually, the question on my mind is who pays for this, who asked for it and who do they answer to?

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

Value for money?

Posted by wonkotsane on October 20, 2006

Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the taxpayer-funded unelected regional quango, is advertising a position – taxpayer funded of course – for a student to:

  1. Identify and explain the operational dynamics and economic geographies of the business and professional services (BPS) economy that is developing in the West Midlands region (essentially the Birmingham city-region).
  2. Identify and explore the factors that contribute to the competitiveness of BPS firms located in the West Midlands. The key to this is identifying and understanding the unique selling points (USP) of BPS firms located in this region.
  3. Investigate the mechanisms by which BPS firms in the West Midlands are competing with BPS providers located in London and the South East.
  4. Generate outputs that will inform policy interventions that will protect and enhance the national and international competitiveness of BPS firms located in the Birmingham city-region/West Midlands.

The cost to the taxpayer? Around £14k per annum for a 3 year period. £42k would pay for a policeman for 2 years, surely a better use of funds than employing a pro-EU, pro-regionalisation politics student to “prove” that the regions are a good thing?

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

West Midland RDA Wasting Public Money?

Posted by Ken on October 20, 2006

This week the Telegraph reported that an internet accommodation service set up by British tourism chiefs at a cost of £10 million had produced only 428 booking for the season. VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, confirmed that millions of pounds of public money had been spent developing a new internet tool to boost online bookings for English hotels and B&Bs

Advantage West Midlands has been involved with this program called the England Net initiative.

Ms Henriette Lyttle-Breukelaar

Head of Tourism Policy

Advantage West Midlands

3 Priestley Wharf

Holt Street

Aston Science Park

Birmingham B7 4BN

Re. EnglandNet

Dear Ms Lyttle

I note from a report in the Telegraph that in its first summer of operation England Net has created a total of only 428 bookings for the whole of Great Britain, considering the massive amounts of public money that has been spent on this organisation I find these results alarming. To put this into a context I see that my own little web site which cost around £50 and a small amount of my time brought in 157 bookings in its first year.

I understand that England Net is not a booking agency but a national distribution system for tourism product and information. That it is funded in a number of ways:

-government grants

– from investment made by the English Tourism Council, British Tourist Authority and VisitBritain

– from investment and contributions by Regional Development Agencies RDA

 That some of the funding from Visit Britian is taken directly from the RDA allocation.

Which seems to indicate that the RDA`s have two separate funding streams to England Net.

  1. the RDA allocation from Visit Britian
  2. direct investment and contribution from the RDA`s 

As I understand the situation, England Net was forecast in 2005/06 to bring in some 25,000 online bookings, this figure to grow in 2007/08 to 30,250. As the forecast for this year was nothing like the reality, what hope is there that the second and third year will bring about a sudden improvement?

At the outset when setting up the Destination Management Partnerships (DMP) in the Shropshire and Telford sub region. There were some concerns expressed, about local authority domination of the DMP and loss of independence, accountability and effectiveness.

That the DMP would shift funding from successful marketing activities to fund an additional layer of bureaucracy, take a top down approach and change priorities, reduce or cut local member support and services. If the England Net episode is anything to go by I would have thought that those fears have been realised.

Will you please arrange to let me have the following information?

Out of the 428 bookings for the whole of Great Britian, how many were to the Advantage West Midlands region?

What is the total cost of setting up England Net to the Advantage West Midlands Region?

What are the estimated total ongoing costs on a yearly basis to the Advantage West Midlands Region of England Net, Including the expenditure by Heart of England Tourism, including Advantage West Midlands allocation from Visit Britian?

I note that VisitBritain is placing online activity at the heart of everything it does through EnglandNet and other web-based marketing work. In what way is this policy being revised in the Advantage West Midlands region in realisation of the very poor performance by the England Net initiative?

What, if any are the steps being undertaken by Advantage West Midlands to ensure that this apparent waste of public money is rectified?

Your Sincerely

Ken Adams

Copy to The Chairman of the West Midlands Assembly Councillor David Smith

Posted in Quango’s | 2 Comments »

No Mayor for City Region

Posted by wonkotsane on October 18, 2006

As mentioned way back when this blog was first started, the sole concession to democracy in the City Region plans was the possibility of an elected mayor.

Now even this nominal token of democracy has been nipped in the bud with Birmingham City Council and others deciding to veto plans by the British government to insist on elected mayors instead of unelected executive boards.

Paul Tilsley MBE, a councillor for the pro-regions Liberal Demcorats, said “Ministers have rejected the idea of any compulsive element to elected mayors, and that’s a good step because there’s been no support at all for this in Birmingham or any of the ‘core cities’.”

What Councillor Tilsley fails to point out is that there is no support at all for the whole city region idea period, not just the elected mayor bit.  I defy anyone to claim that this expensive, unelected regional white elephant will ever attempt to make itself accountable or democratic.

Full Story: icBirmingham

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

A Regional View Part I

Posted by Ken on October 17, 2006

On April 30th 1952 Monnet travelled to The United states of America to tell the world about the dream for a United States of Europe, in his speech to the National Press Club Washington. Monnet clearly set out the principle milestones for the road along which we are now moving.

“The establishment of common institutions and common rules, merging national sovereignties, will unite the people of Europe under a single system of laws and remove the basic causes of conflict. In the new European Community such problems as that of the Saar will not simply become soluble, but will cease to exist as grounds for international rivalry, because the premises on which the problems were based will be obsolete.

” It is of universal importance that Europe should be self-reliant, secure, peaceful, and capable of continuing to make her great contribution to civilization. The way to all of these objectives is through unification.”

 “We are not making a coalition of States, but are uniting people.”

When Europhiles argue that this is not the case and that the EU of today does not characterize A United States of Europe, because we can still make our own decisions in certain areas of competence, Tax etc. All they will be pointing to is the scaffolding surrounding the edifice of the USE, scaffolding moreover which is piece by piece being removed.

We need to view the Regionalisation Process in that light, we must never forget the eventual aim, the only direction of travel is toward Monnet`s Dream.

In order to merge National Sovereignties it proved necessary to begin to demolish the existing nation states by inserting a new political order, one that could operate around the nation states and commune explicitly with the centre.

Indeed the Treaty of Rome 1957 the commision claims, gives it authority on regions.

 The Council and the Commission shall be assisted by an Economic and Social Committee and a Committee of the Regions acting in an advisory capacity.

In order to assist the development of the regions the Commision set up a centralised financial backing flow that encouraged member states to set up their own regional networks to gain access to development grants.

Thus in Britain our own moves towards devolution were directed into European Community Regions in the costume of Regional Development Agencies these were become the nucleus of regional parliaments, they were the regional equivalent of Whitehall’s civil service. The overseeing regional agencies, destined to become the regional parliament were set up as Regional Assemblies, these assemblies are supposed to be the democratically elected arm of regional government. The Government intended to create a rolling series of referenda throughout each of the regions, first went Scotland then Wales then London and then it was on to the region thought most likely to vote for an elected Regional Parliament.

Unfortunately at this point the plan was met with very strong resistance from the locals, the Referendum results for the North East were a compleate shock for the regionalists and has created an impasse. The EU says the overseeing Assembly must be elected, but the government dare not proceed with the referendum process for fear of further heavy defeats.

So in England we are left with appointed Regional Development Agencies overseen by appointed Regional Assemblies.

Democracy has no place in the formation of the United States of Europe.

Posted in Quango’s | Leave a Comment »

Calls for EMDA to be scrapped

Posted by wonkotsane on October 15, 2006

The leader of Broxtowe Council, Milan Radulovic, has called for the abolition of the unelected East Midlands Development Agency.

A spokesperson for EMDA said that it was a problem with accountability because the Agency answers directly to the British government and went on to claim that the Agency had saved or created over 8,000 jobs.  Mr Radulovic said he didn’t want the Agency to be legitimised, he wanted it abolished.

Why stop there though?  The Regional Development Agencies are only one of many regional quango’s that cost the taxpayer millions of pounds but answer directly to government ministers.  Slowly but surely, the regional house of cards is falling.

Posted in Other Regions | 1 Comment »

Contact Us Anonymously

Posted by wonkotsane on October 15, 2006

Thanks to the boffins at meebo.com, you can now contact us (instantly if we are online) and anonymously using the meebo plugin at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar.

Meebo Screenshot

You don’t have to register or give you real name, just type in a message and press enter to send your message.  If you want a reply, don’t forget to give some contact details!

Please don’t abuse this messaging system – we don’t need viagra, cialis, xanax, hard core pornography or advice on small cap stocks.

Posted in Announcements | Leave a Comment »

Regional Identity

Posted by wonkotsane on October 15, 2006

With all this regional government doing such wonderful work in the “region” for so many years, you’d think that there would be a pretty strong West Midlands regional identity.

I think local radio is a good indication of identity.  There are quite a few West Midlands radio stations – BBC Radio WM, BRMB, Heart FM, etc.  But what about Shropshire?  In a “region” comprising mostly of urban sprawl including England’s second city, who do Salopians identify with?

Whilst driving across Telford the other day I scanned through the available FM radio stations in search of a break from the irritating American DJ on my station of choice, Kerrang.  I picked up no less than 4 Welsh radio stations, 4 Shropshire radio stations and probably the same number of region-wide radio stations.

This is surely another example of the falicy of the “one size fits all” regional mentality?

Posted in General, Shropshire, Telford | Leave a Comment »

BBC Politics Show

Posted by wonkotsane on October 15, 2006

The BBC Politics Show has been running pieces on the regional quango’s in the various “regions” of England.  Strangely, the “regions” that have an anti-regional campaign group active – the North East and the West Midlands – have different subjects.

Co-incidence?

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Letter to David Wright

Posted by wonkotsane on October 12, 2006

I wrote to David Wright MP (Labour, Telford) a few days ago and asked him to support the West Midlands NO! campaign.

Rather disappointingly he has written back declining to support the campaign because, despite admitting that his constituents don’t want regional government, he believes that Telford will be better off in the City Region.

It’s a good job we have people like David to save us from ourselves isn’t it?  Who knows what trouble we would get ourselves into if we were allowed to make our decisions.

The following is my response:

Dear David,

Thank you for your letter of 10th October, you have the privelege of being the only Labour MP in the West Midlands who even acknowledged any of my emails about the regions.

I must say I am disappointed that you are supporting the City Region, not only because of your enviable knack of getting your face in the papers on an almost daily basis but because you know that your constituents don’t want it.

Do you remember the following letter you sent to me over a year ago?

Dear Mr Parr

Thank you for your recent email relating to an English Parliament.

I have to say that I have little more to add to my previous comments. I do not think there is any desire at present for either a parliament for England or indeed regional assemblies.

Our country does extremely well within the United Kingdom and direct political representation is provided by MPs. I would have no problem passing powers to elected members of a regional assembly.

With best wishes

Yours sincerely

David Wright

Do you think there is now a desire for regional government in your constituency? I have asked you about this conflict of interests before but you never seem to give me a direct answer on it. The situation is that your constituents don’t want regional government, you know they don’t want regional government but you still support it. Did you stand for election as an MP to serve your constituents or the Labour Party, the EU and Birmingham City Council? I think it should be the former but perhaps not.

Investment in transport will be improved links to the rest of the West Midlands. The small problem of Staffordshire being in the way aside, this will only bring limited benefits as most of the traffic between Telford and the West Midlands is passing through. In terms of regeneration, the City Region is to have Pathfinder status – a project that has decimated parts of the North East with perfectly servicable housing compulsary purchased (ie. stolen by the state) and replaced with rows of identical “social” housing. And economic development – there will be lots of that but how much will Telford get?

If the City Region is so great for Telford why was it done in secret, why has there been no public consultation and why will there be no referendum? You and I both know that there is no support for regional government in Telford and that, if asked, your constituents would reject yet another tier of unelected, unaccountable and undemocratic regional government. This is why there has been no consultation or referendum yet you stand idly by and actually endorse this undemocratic, secretive project to go ahead knowing that you are acting against the wishes of your constituents.

I am very, very disappointed and I hope that in time you will see the folly of your decision and do what your constituents want you to do rather than what your party tells you to do.

Stuart

Posted in Politicians, Telford | Leave a Comment »

UKIP conference

Posted by wonkotsane on October 12, 2006

Last sunday I paid a visit to the UKIP conference in Telford to meet their “regions expert”, John Kelly.

John is very knowledgeable on the subject or the euroregions and is actively taking fighting his local regional assembly.  He has been refusing to pay part of his council tax until the council proves that they have a legal right to give that money to an unelected regional government – the law says “no taxation without representation”.  This is, sadly, in stark contrast with the Conservative MP’s in the West Midlands who have all offered words of support to the West Midlands NO! campaign and stated their objections to regional government but want to wait until they are in government before they actually do anything.  It’s disappointing but that’s another story.

When John asked me what I thought UKIP might be able to do to help the campaign I asked him what UKIP were actually doing to oppose regional government.  His answer was “not enough”.  He then introduced me to Mike Natrass, the UKIP MEP for the West Midlands.  John and Mike had a chat about the regions and decided that UKIP would get together a committee and construct a policy for opposing the regions.

West Midlands NO! is awaiting the details of UKIP’s anti-regional policy with baited breath and is proud to have influenced their direction in a small way.

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

Why involve AWM?

Posted by wonkotsane on October 10, 2006

If the purpose of this “Telford First” organisation is to promote Telford & Wrekin borough and bring in funding and investment then why involve the unelected regional quango, Advantage West Midlands? And if the purpose of the Birmingham, Black Country and Coventry City Region is to bring investment and funding into Telford, why does “Telford First” need to be set up to do the same thing at a cost to Telford taxpayers of over £1.3m?

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, and unwanted.

Town in new jobs drive bid

Telford’s business leaders hope to create more than 6,000 jobs over the next decade, attracting £884 million of new investment to the borough, it was revealed today. The hope is part of a grand plan which would see the public and private sectors working together in a drive to make Telford borough the economic powerhouse of the Midlands.

Borough council leader Keith Austin said he was confident that the go-ahead “city of the 21st century” would have all the attributes to make the ambition a reality.

He said he believed Telford would be able to create 1,000 jobs a year, helping the town bounce back from its latest round of job losses.

The proposals are outlined in a progress report on the Local Area Agreement, a national pilot scheme by the Borough of Telford & Wrekin to use Government funding in a flexible way, designed to meet the needs of the community.

This includes the setting up of Telford First, a stand-alone company founded by the borough council, Advantage West Midlands and English Partnerships to attract new investment.

Its 10-year programme estimates the public sector will stump up £172 million in “pump priming investment” for Telford, triggering a further £711 million investment by private companies.

The transformation of Telford’s lacklustre town centre into a vibrant shopping, leisure and cultural area is a priority as is the regeneration of older housing and industrial estates.

Added attractions will be the Donnington Rail Freight Terminal, the World Heritage Site at Ironbridge, Telford Sports and Enterprise Learning Village and revitalised district centres, the report says.

The aim is to create up to 6,600 new jobs and the creation of more than 165,000 sq ft of new employment floor space.

Councillor Austin said: “We are talking about creating 1,000 jobs a year to strengthen our economy and can ill afford to stand still. We have to spend in order to attract entrepreneurs here to Telford.”

The report also highlights the huge financial burden of unstable land in the Ironbridge Gorge which is at risk of a devastating landslide unless work costing at least £25 million is carried out.

Posted in Propaganda, Quango’s, Telford | 1 Comment »

Letter to Ruth Kelly MP

Posted by wonkotsane on October 9, 2006

As promised, we have sent a letter to Ruth Kelly, Minister for Communities and Local Government, regarding the unaccountability of the city region.

Dear Ms Kelly,

On 31st July 2006 you wrote to Councillor Ted Richards asking for information regarding the city region.

In this letter you expressed some concern regarding the accountability of the board to the public. In his response to your letter on 15th September 2006, Dr Simon Murphy, addressed this concern with the following statement:

We are currently developing proposals for scrutiny and accountability of our city region policies and interventions. A number of key principles underlie this work.

First, scrutiny and accountability would respect the provisions and requirements of the Access to Information Act, especially for meetings to be held in public. For example, it would be possible for a city region annual report to be presented to the press and public at “question time” style hearings, and as part of any scrutiny process submitted to the West Midlands Regional Assembly.

Second, the West Midlands Regional Assembly will be responsible for a scrutiny function in respect of our city region policies and interventions, especially where these involve the delivery of existing regional strategies

Third, we will engage in regular consultation with our parliamentarians, with young people (a first consultation has been arranged for 7th October through the good offices of the Young People’s Parliament), regional partners, principally via the West Midlands Regional Assembly, and with other community and business based interest groups. This will be in addition to the enhancement of the work of an existing shadow Partner Board comprised of a range of West Midland local authorities and major organisations with an interest in the city region, which has been meeting regularly for several months.

As was discussed with you at the meeting on 23rd May, and also with your predecessor on 23rd March, current decision making in key areas such as transport and skills is opaque and at times totally removed from any connection with the public or other interests such as the business community. Our city region approach will be visible and transparent, and will provide identifiable and accountable leadership.

Did this address your concerns because it certainly doesn’t address mine, nor has it addressed the concerns of anybody I have shown this to.

The West Midlands Regional Assembly is unelected, undemocratic and unaccountable. The public are unable to scrutinise the work of the Regional Assembly, nor are they able to obtain information from it. They are immune from the Freedom of Information Act and follow an agenda that has never been subject to scrutiny by the public.

This is not public scrutiny and neither is a “question time” style meeting in which they will be able to choose whether or not they answer a question or provide information requested.

The only way to make the city region accountable or democratic is to hold a binding referendum following a period of public consultation and only then, assuming the public endorse the proposal, direct elections should be held for the executive board and the scrutiny board of the city region.

Will your department be instructing the local authorities involved to desist their underhand, undemocratic tactics and seek a mandate from the public before they continue on their regional agenda? If not, please advise why your department is prepared to allow local authorities to impose unaccountable regional government against the wishes of the electorate.

Posted in Quango’s | Leave a Comment »

Letter to Patricia Hewitt MP

Posted by wonkotsane on October 9, 2006

West Midlands NO! has written to the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt MP, regarding the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority and the West Midlands NHS Bank – both of which were secretly planned and introduced by the Department of Health.

We will cover the Strategic Health Authority and NHS Bank in the next day or two, so much to do and so little time!  In the meantime, you can get the basic gist of it from the letter …

Dear Ms Hewitt,

Earlier this year your department introduced a West Midlands regional NHS bank and compelled the local NHS trusts in the West Midlands to contribute towards it.  My own local NHS, Telford & Shrewsbury, are suffering heavily from debts and a budget deficit yet they were still required to find the money in their already overstretched budget to contribute

Shortly after this your department introduced a West Midlands regional Strategic Health Authority and my local NHS trust now has to report to a regional body that, based in Birmingham, little understands the needs or problems of a rural health service.  There was no public consultation on this and the first we knew about this was when the local newspaper reported, on the day it actually happened, that you had ordered the creation of the regional Strategic Health Authority

My local hospital, the Princess Royal in Telford, has had to make cutbacks in services so they can meet the British government’s targets on budget deficits and debt repayments that have been accrued as a result of the massive underfunding of the English NHS coupled with increased performance targets.  They have had to make some difficult decisions that have now been put to public consultation.  The most unpopular decision is to remove the provision of consultant-led paediatric care at the Princess Royal meaning seriously ill children will need to be taken by ambulance to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, some 20 minutes drive away.

However, despite the large-scale objections from the public aimed at the Princess Royal they are effectively powerless to change the proposed cuts because the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority makes the final decision.

The regionalisation of the NHS service is clearly another step towards the cementing of unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted regional government on England.  Important decisions such as this should be taken locally by people who understand the area and who can be held accountable by the people affected.  They shouldn’t be taken by unaccountable distant quango’s who simply cannot give the necessary amount of attention to individual issues that local NHS trusts can.

I urge you most strongly to disband this regional quango and to return decision making back to the local NHS trusts.  One way or another, regional government will be dismantled in this country.  The British government has the choice of doing it voluntarily or waiting for people power to force the issue.  Which do you choose Ms Hewitt?

Posted in Health | Leave a Comment »

Telford Council Bullying Staff?

Posted by wonkotsane on October 7, 2006

A bit of background on this because it’s a bit of a saga.

Firstly, Telford & Wrekin Council have been running a “shadow company” for about two years now, secretly building up brand awareness within their sphere of influence and spending in excess of £1.3m of taxpayers money.  The company was supposed to be called “Telford First” but they were pipped to the post by a couple of enterprising gentlemen who have come to be known as “the two John’s” who registered the name Telford First Ltd the weekend before the hastily arranged official launch of the company.

One of the John’s is the owner of the Telford Council Watch forum and the other John is a moderator there and a local charity worker who has been on the receiving end of the council’s unscrupulous tactics when he was running a charity.  Because of the Telford First fiasco, staff have allegedly been sent an email from someone very high up in the council warning them not to visit or participate in the forum either at work or at home and that the forum will be monitored and anyone that can be identified will be “dealt with”.

To fund Telford First’s unexplained multi-million pound drain on Telford council tax payers, the council have been cutting budgets and staff.  Employees being transferred to Telford First or whatever it ends up being called are being forced to transfer out of the public sector.

There are some serious questions that need to be asked of the people at Telford & Wrekin Council who are either elected or employed to serve the public.  It simply isn’t acceptable to spend vast sums of taxpayers money on pet projects that deliver little or no benefit to the public and bullying their own employees into silence is not only wrong but illegal.

Telford & Wrekin Council have a duty to spend taxpayers money wisely and for the benefit of the public.  Telford First has already cost taxpayers over £1.3m and hasn’t actually achieved anything yet.  The City Region has cost tens of thousands of pounds at the very least and doesn’t exist yet.  The public have not only been kept out of the decision making process but they have been deliberately kept in the dark until the very last moment.

It’s time for a regime change at Telford & Wrekin Council.

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Welcome Ken

Posted by wonkotsane on October 6, 2006

West Midlands NO! would like to welcome Ken Adams, owner of the well known eurosceptic blog Eurealist.

Ken will be contributing to the West Midlands NO! website with a particular emphasis on regional matters in South Shropshire.

Posted in Announcements | Leave a Comment »

Bodies Without a Democratic Mandate

Posted by Ken on October 5, 2006

 

Hilary Kitchin from LGIU says that the upcoming local government white paper should adhere to the principles of European Charter of Local Self-Government, which the government signed in 1997.

 

 

Sounds like more from the EU, but this time is not! Proponents of the European Union do not help matters when they constantly refer to the European Union as Europe, hence we get the term anti-European, of course no one is anti- European, but I digress; the European Charter of Local Self-Government is part of the other European movement, the one Winston Churchill was keen on, and that is the “Council of Europe” not to be confused with the “Council of the European Union”.

The Council of Europe was created in 1949, it is a European organisation devoted to the protection and promotion of human rights, to the rule of law and to pluralist democracy, presently comprising 40 member countries. Sounds quite nice, no wonder Churchill approved.

Setting aside for the moment that any external body influencing our elected governments policy is a strike against the democratic principle.

1. What is local self-government?

It is the ability of local authorities to regulate and manage, themselves, a substantial share of public affairs in the interests of the local population.

This right is exercised by democratically elected councils which may possess executive organs responsible to them.

This right shall be exercised by councils or assemblies composed of members freely elected by secret ballot on the basis of direct, equal, universal suffrage, and which may possess executive organs responsible to them. This provision shall in no way affect recourse to assemblies of citizens, referendums or any other form of direct citizen participation where it is permitted by statute.

European Charter of Local Self-Government (Article 3).

Hilary Kitchin explains “The Charter was signed on behalf of the UK on the election of the new Labour government in 1997, and ratification followed quickly, in 1998, creating a legitimate expectation that the government will adhere to its provisions when considering reform.

In brief, the Charter stresses the right of local authorities to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs in the interests of local people, and enshrines the concept of subsidiarity. The Charter is also clear that local authorities must be able to exercise discretion over adequate, diverse and buoyant resources.

The Charter provides a litmus test for considering the appropriate level at which decisions are made. For central government, formal recognition of these principles would involve all service departments with local responsibilities, such as health, recognising the role of local decision making and being prepared to relax centralised constraints.”

Because of this Ms Kitchen says: Subsidiarity also calls into question the role of quangos, and the implications of public responsibilities being heavily influenced or discharged by bodies without a democratic mandate.

Regional Assembly members please take note, you are not a democratically elected body.

The regional development boards/ assemblies are government quangos, originally set up in principal by the Conservative party as a response to the European Union regional development funds rules, which required a body in each EU recognised Region to be the direct recipient of EU Funds (let us not here get into the fact that it is our money in the first place) the EU Commission has now said that these assemblies must be elected, but after the NE debacle this is not a likely prospect any time soon.

So it would appear that Tony Blair signed up to Council of Europe’s European Charter of Local Self-Government, but has seemingly ignored that commitment to pursue an EU regionalisation policy adding into the mix a separate layer of government in the form of Regional Assemblies.

It might be argued that if the Regional Assemblies were elected they would conform to the CofC Charter of Local Self-Government, but as we have seen that is not possible at the moment.

The government would appear to be stuck in a cleft stick; the EU only wants to give money to EU recognised Regional Assemblies, which it says must be elected and the Government have signed up to the European Charter of Local Self-Government which also says that local government must be elected, The present local councils are elected but much of their power has been passed to the unelected Regional Assemblies and the government dare not hold more referenda because they got burned last time out.

The government’s local government white paper will make interesting reading.

Posted in Quango’s | Leave a Comment »

Evidence of unaccountability in City Region

Posted by wonkotsane on October 5, 2006

Dr Simon Murphy, the Director of the unelected City Region Partnership, has forwarded two letters on to West Midlands NO! regarding the City Region.

The letters are in response to our question as to whether the Borough of Telford & Wrekin considered that spending £10,000 on consultants to choose a name for the City Region and then ignoring that advice to choose a name that was immediately criticised was value for money.    They don’t answer the question in the slightest but they are certainly interesting letters.

The first letter is from Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, asking for more information on the City Region.  One question related to accountability of the executive board of the City Region, one of the major concerns of West Midlands NO!

The second letter is from Dr Simon Murphy to Ruth Kelly answering her questions, including the one of accountability.  In this letter, Dr Murphy explains that the executive board of the City Region will be held accountable to the unelected West Midlands Regional Assembly.  He goes on to explain that the City Region may hold “question time” type public meetings where information will be given to the public.

This is totally unacceptable and does not hold the City Region accountable at all.  The unelected City Region will be held accountable to the unelected Regional Assembly who answer directly to government ministers and the unelected EU Committee of Regions.  Members of the public will not be able to get information from the City Region or to hold them to account for anything they do.  One of our biggest concerns is that of accountability and it is evident that we are right to be concerned.

We will, of course, be writing to Ruth Kelly to ask her whether she considers the level of accountability planned by the City Region to be acceptable and why she has failed to mention the lack of a referendum or public consultation.

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

John Maples MP opposes regional government

Posted by wonkotsane on October 4, 2006

As promised, we contacted all the Conservative MP’s in the West Midlands yesterday to ask them if they will be opposing the West Midlands Regional Assembly following David Cameron’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference.

With it being the conference week we didn’t really expect a very quick response but all credit to Alcester MP, John Maples who managed to fire off a quick reply to us early this afternoon.

I have consistently opposed Regional Assemblies, but they are government policy and I do not see how we could change the situation in the West Midlands.

If you have any specific ideas on how we might achieve this, please let me know as I might well be happy to support them. I fear that we shall have to await a Conservative Government.

We have responded to Mr Maples with some ideas, if you live in his constituency perhaps you might like to speak to him and see what you can come up with between you.

It appears that at least two West Midlands MP’s – John Maples and Daniel Kawczynski – are willing to make a stand against regional government.  As and when we hear from other MP’s we’ll keep you posted.

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Cameron pledges to dismantle unelected regional quango’s

Posted by wonkotsane on October 3, 2006

The Tory leader, David Cameron, has pledged to abolish the unelected regional assemblies and regional development agencies if that is what people want.

Conservative policy is broadly opposed to regional government but David Cameron’s speech does indicate a softening of their policy.  Previously the Tories have pledged to dismantle the regional quango’s when they get into power but Cameron’s stance now is that regional assemblies will be abolished but regional development agencies will be allowed to stay if that is what people want.

Cameron’s vision for England is that instead of unelected regional bodies like the West Midlands Regional Assembly and it’s various appendages such as Advantage West Midlands and the West Midlands Regional Development Agency making regional policies in secret and issuing instructions to local authorities, local authorities would co-operate with each other to secure funding and to develope policies that benefit them.

Funnily enough, I made this exact same suggestion to Gerry Dawson, Telford & Wrekin’s representative on the city region project.  I suggested that instead of being tied into a city region being forced to comply with policies that Telford & Wrekin don’t agree with or won’t benefit from, that Telford & Wrekin could co-operate on individual issues that are of benefit to the borough and save money in the process by not setting up another expensive taxpayer-funded tier of regional government.  Needless to say, our leaders are not open to suggestions that don’t involve high profile empire building and my suggestion fell on deaf ears.

This is positive stuff from the Conservatives and we will be asking the Conservative MP’s in the West Midlands if they will be following David Cameron’s lead and working to dismantle the regional quango’s now rather than giving them another few years to steal more powers away from local authorities.

Posted in Quango’s | 2 Comments »

Official launch brings some success

Posted by wonkotsane on October 2, 2006

Today’s official launch of West Midlands NO! has brought some success for the campaign.

As well as another offer of assistance from a member of the public, we have been mentioned in the local press and I have been offered a meeting with an MP.

Launching on the first day of the Conservative Party conference was never going to grab the headlines but it’s an encouraging start.

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Shropshire Star: Campaigners bid to halt city region plan

Posted by wonkotsane on October 2, 2006

Campaigners bid to halt city region plan

By Sunita Patel

A campaign to halt regional government plans that will see Telford swallowed up into a West Midlands-wide city region dominated by Birmingham was launched today.

The West Midlands “No!” campaign is calling for a referendum on the issue. It follows the proposal for a Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country City Region to boost skills, transport and the economy.

But those opposed to the change claim people do not want it. They say it will have a negative impact on trade and industry in fringe areas not included within the new boundaries, which will be forced to compete against the city region for national and European funds.

All the local authorities involved, including Telford & Wrekin Council, were today urged to hold “binding referenda” on whether to join the city region “instead of making the decision privately behind closed doors”.

Support
One of the campaign leaders, Stuart Parr, of Telford, said: “Nobody in the West Midlands has been elected to office on a manifesto of regionalisation and therefore nobody has a mandate to make such fundamental changes to local government in the West Midlands without first gaining the consent of the electorate via a referendum.

“Democracy is not a spectators sport. We want local people to have their say. We really don’t think there is any support for a city region.
“It is going to be a detriment to the rural parts of the region.

“It will take skills and money away from the rural sections of the West Midlands in Shropshire and Staffordshire that are not included and will have to compete against the city region for funding – places like Shrewsbury and parts of the Welsh borders.

“The north-east is the only region to hold a referendum on this issue and rejected an elected assembly with a 78 per cent “no” vote.

This year, Local Government Minister Phil Woolas said the Government favoured city regions run by elected mayors.

Posted in Press | 3 Comments »

Who is Dr Simon Murphy?

Posted by wonkotsane on October 2, 2006

Dr Simon Murphy is the director of the City Region Partnership and a driving force behind the city region project but who is he?

Unsurprisingly, he isn’t elected to this or any other position.  Dr Simon Murphy is a former MEP who resigned his position as leader of Labour’s MEP’s because of the stresses on his family life of flying to Strasbourg but bravely soldiered on as an MEP for another 2 years (flying to Strasbourg for 6 months of the year and Brussells for the other 6).  It has been suggested that this was to guarantee his taxpayer-funded gold-plated EU pension although we wouldn’t like to speculate.

In 2003 he was appointed as a “Trade Champion” for the unelected quango, Advantage West Midlands, where his priority was to get the EU working for the West Midlands.  This taxpayer-funded position was, naturally, unelected.  He has also served as a board member for the West Midland Development Agency, another unelected taxpayer-funded quango.

Dr Simon Murphy is a keen European Federalist and was heavily involved in the UK’s preparation for the Euro.

This information is all readily available on the internet, what qualifies him for this particular project has yet to be discovered.

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City Region Pathfinder Status

Posted by wonkotsane on October 2, 2006

The unelected city region, before the final plans have been drawn up or the organisation created, has been given Pathfinder Status by the British government.

The Pathfinder Project was set up by John Prescott and has proven to be one of the most controversial Labour policies since they first came to power in 1997.

In a nutshell, authorities with Pathfinder Status can – in the name of “regeneration” – compulsary purchase entire housing estates and demolish them to build new houses.  This is a simplistic view of course and houses cannot simply be compulsary purhcased on a whim but to my knowledge there have been no refusals for Pathfidner Projects elsewhere in the country and it is a flagship Labour policy.

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Official Launch

Posted by wonkotsane on October 2, 2006

Today sees the official launch of the West Midlands NO! campaign.

We have been contacted by local press and an MP today so hopefully this will give vital publicity to the campaign.

Today is probably the best day to re-iterate what the campaign is about and why the regional government already in place and planned for the future is so bad.

The West Midlands NO! campaign is opposed to the unelected, undemocratic regional government in place in the West Midlands.

Regional government has been with us here in the West Midlands for quite a few years now and despite having wide-ranging powers which should rightly be held be elected representatives, no effort has been made to raise the profile of any of the regional bodies or to engage or involve the public in their work.  About the only regional quango that makes any effort to publicise its existence is Advantage West Midlands (AWM).

AWM is an unelected regional quango responsible for distributing funding in the West Midlands euroregion.  As possibly the only quango that gives away more money than it costs to run it is hardly surprising that it is the only one publicised!

Funding from the EU is distributed on a regional basis via these regional quango’s, as is an increasing amount of UK government funding.  The quango’s responsible for this funding are unelected and unaccountable to taxpayers.

Regional quango’s such as the West Midlands Regional Assembly (WMRA) make decisions affecting the daily lives of over a million people yet they are unelected and immune from the Freedom of Information Act meaning they are not obliged to provide information to the public.

The West Midlands NO! campaign was prompted by the City Region proposal which is simply a step too far.

There is little or no support for regional government in England and the West Midlands is no exception.  Based on the referendum result for the North East Regional Assembly which had the strongest support for regional government in England, less than a fifth of the people in the West Midlands are in favour of regional government.  We believe this figure would be less if any effort were made by those concerned to find out.

The City Region will comprise most of the urban areas of the West Midlands euroregion and will take over much of the responsibility of WMRA.  Local authorities and elected councillors involved in the City Region will become subservient to an unelected regional government based in Birmingham.  Important decisions will be taken by unelected representatives on the executive of the City Region who have no experience of local or regional government or any knowledge of the region.

Despite being such a major change to local government, no consultations or referenda have been organised to find out if this is what the people of the West Midlands want.  There is nothing stopping local authorities from holding referenda – there is even a precedent as seen in the North East euroregion – but the local authorities, knowing that there is very little chance that they would get a “yes” vote, refuse to engage the public.

We believe that this is wrong.  Important decisions should be made with the consent and approval of the electorate, not behind closed doors. in secret committees.  We demand that a referendum be held in each local authority involved before any more decisions are made or – most importantly – before any more taxpayers money is spent on this project.

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Exclusive Statement from director of Telford First Ltd

Posted by wonkotsane on October 1, 2006

One of the two directors of the newly registered Telford First Ltd has given us the following statement:

I have read through mounds of reports and was able to track back the initial mention of “TelfordFirst” to early 2004. I was not able to find any public mention until the dispute about the Town Park boundaries and that was by accident, discovered by HOOP.

Various documentation about “TelfordFirst” was found and placed on www.telfordcouncilwatch.org.uk, some members of the Borough of Telford & Wrekin Council requested that the information be removed. I became concerned at the millions of £’s  passing through the company from the Council of which almost £1million was a direct saving from salaries.

£10 – £15 million coming from Advantage West Midlands.

I went to “TelfordFirst” offices and saw expensive directors desks being moved in, every domain name for “TelfordFirst” registered, but nobody wanted to give the public any information.  They appeared to operating covertly as phones, faxes and emails were inoperable.

Jobs were being advertised with salaries at £75k, yet the people who live in Telford new nothing of them, so how could the council call this company “TELFORDFIRST” when in truth Telford was far from being first?

 If you want to be known as “TelfordFirst”, put Telford First – operating behind closed doors is not the way forward. I will be prepared to meet anyone to to discuss this further.

This is an attempt to put forward a voice from those that have not been listened to or even consulted.

This is a clear message to all of the local authorities in the West Midlands euroregion – no more interference from unelected regional quango’s.

When people tell you that one or two people by themselves can’t make a difference, don’t believe them.  All you need is a bit of effort and you can make a difference.

Posted in Quango’s | Leave a Comment »

Unelected Business Leaders on City Region Executive Board

Posted by wonkotsane on October 1, 2006

A group consisting of business leaders in Birmingham and the Chambers of Commerce for the West Midlands euroregion has been offered a place on the executive board of the city region.

These business leaders have never been elected to a local authority and are not subject to scrutiny by any electorate yet they will be able to make or affect decisions on such important policy areas as planning, environment and health in the city region.

The whole board of the city region will be undemocratic and unrepresentative with members insulated from the responsibility that an elected representative has to serve their constituents.

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£10k spent on consultants to decide City Region name

Posted by wonkotsane on October 1, 2006

The local authorities involved in the Birmingham, Black Country & Coventry City Region spent £10,000 on consultants to come up with a name and then ignored the recommendations of the consultants and chose their own name.

What a complete waste of taxpayers money.  The £10,000 could have paid half the salary of a nurse, police officer, fireman or teacher but instead it was wasted on consultants to decide a name for a city region that nobody wants and whose advice was ignored.

The name of the city region has been criticised by business leaders with the Chairman of the West Midlands branch of the Institute of Directors saying “This is a decision of mind-blowing stupidity. The name has no merit and is totally unacceptable. It is the worst of all possible compromises and will not sell the region abroad.”

The city region is supposed to be raising the profile of the region and attracting investment and funding yet even in choosing the name, the local authorities have shown themselves to be incapable of making the city region concept work.

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