West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

Archive for December, 2006

Jobs axe ‘could cost £20m’

Posted by Ken on December 30, 2006

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

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

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

Full story in print Shropshire Star


Posted in Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Councillor Stephen Bentley on City Region

Posted by wonkotsane on December 28, 2006

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Councillor Keith Austin replies:

Dear Steve,

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

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

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

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

Best Wshes.

Keith Austin
Borough of Telford and Wrekin

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

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

Posted in Politicians, Telford | Leave a Comment »

Who is behind Unitary Authority plans?

Posted by wonkotsane on December 28, 2006

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

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

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

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

Posted in Worcestershire | Leave a Comment »

Your taxes funding Port Vale FC

Posted by wonkotsane on December 28, 2006

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

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

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

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

Posted in AWM, Staffordshire | Leave a Comment »

Council masquerading as campaign group

Posted by wonkotsane on December 22, 2006

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

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

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

Posted in Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Bridgnorth vote postponed

Posted by wonkotsane on December 22, 2006

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

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

Posted in Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Bridgnorth throws democracy out of the window

Posted by wonkotsane on December 20, 2006

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

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

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

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

Posted in Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

People should have a say on how they are governed

Posted by Ken on December 19, 2006

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

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

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

Give people a vote on town hall shake-up

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

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

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

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

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

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


  We should get a vote on plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Lake Bridgnorth

Shake-up costs more than £20m

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judith Williams Shrewsbury


Posted in Politicians, Shropshire | Leave a Comment »

Poll on City Region

Posted by wonkotsane on December 16, 2006

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

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

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Keith Austin

Posted by Ken on December 13, 2006

Decisions not always supported

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

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

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

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

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

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

T R Kiernan, Telford                                                

Posted in Politicians, Shropshire | 2 Comments »

Telford agrees to City Region funding

Posted by wonkotsane on December 12, 2006

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

The agreement came at yesterday’s cabinet meeting.

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

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

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

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

Posted in Telford | Leave a Comment »

Shropshire Star: MP calls for action on baby unit

Posted by wonkotsane on December 12, 2006

MP calls for action on baby unit

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Press | Leave a Comment »

Worcester News: Why can Whitehall overrule council?

Posted by wonkotsane on December 11, 2006

Why can Whitehall overrule council?

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

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

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

Laurie Ward, Bevere, Worcester


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

Large town’s aren’t rural

Posted by wonkotsane on December 9, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

WMRA sign climate change pact

Posted by wonkotsane on December 8, 2006

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

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

Posted in WMRA | Leave a Comment »

The Shutters Come Down

Posted by wonkotsane on December 7, 2006

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

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

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

Posted in Telford | Leave a Comment »

City Region report

Posted by wonkotsane on December 6, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

The report can be viewed here.

Posted in Propaganda | 2 Comments »

More city region lies from Telford

Posted by wonkotsane on December 5, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telford Council Watch have this to say:

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

“Operate with tight Financial Constraints”

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

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


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

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

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

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

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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

Birmingham Post

Posted by bigfred on December 4, 2006

From the Birmingham Post today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Politicians, Press | Leave a Comment »

Council Leader comments on City Region name

Posted by wonkotsane on December 4, 2006

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

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

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

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


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


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


Posted in Telford | Leave a Comment »