West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

Archive for the ‘Propaganda’ Category

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.

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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”.

Now

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 »

Blists Hill gets £10m regional grant

Posted by wonkotsane on November 6, 2006

Blists Hill museum, part of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, has been given a £10m grant by Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund to secure its future as a viable attraction.

This is good news for Blists Hill and I am personally very glad that the museum will continue to do the excellent work that it does and provide fantastic days out for families, my own included.

However, it is important to put this grant into perspective and to remember that the organisations controlling such vast sums of money are unelected and unaccountable to the public.  There are upwards of 5.3m people living in the West Midlands euroregion and the cost of EU membership is estimated at £873 for every man woman and child in the UK every year.  This means that the West Midlands alone has contributed in the region of £4.6bn to the EU which makes the £6.5m that the EU contributed via the West Midlands Government Office look positively puny in comparison (0.1% of our contribution to be exact).  The other £3.5m was donated by Advantage West Midlands.

So yes, it is fantastic that Blists Hill has been recognised as such a valuable site and been given a large grant but it isn’t new money, it is our taxes being handed over to unelected, unaccountable quango’s for distribution to whoever they decide is worthy.  The public aren’t involved in the decision making process, they are simply required to fund it.

Posted in EU/Europe, Press, Propaganda, Shropshire, Telford | Leave a Comment »

BBC regional government spin

Posted by wonkotsane on November 4, 2006

The BBC have carried out a poll in the North East euroregion on devolution and concluded that there is support for regional government because 69% want local control on issues such as transport.  The people questioned said they didn’t like unelected regional assemblies and only 20% of people think they do a worthwhile job.

The results of the survey do not indicate support for regional government.  The results say that the people of the North East want more control of local affairs.  The BBC doesn’t suggest that perhaps the desire to have more local control over transport is down to the fact that an MP elected in Scotland has control of England’s transport, something the people in the North East are particularly aware of and increasingly vocal about.

The answer to unaccountable central government is not regionalisation.  Regional government is not accountable, nor is it popular.  The British government is highly centralised as far as England is concerned but what people do not want is centralised regional government.  The euroregions, city regions and the new transnational regions aren’t local, they’re regional.  The West Midlands euroregion is a perfect example of how a single regional policy can’t be suitable for the whole region – it contains one of the largest urban sprawls in England at one extreme and the most rural county in England at the other.

It is clear that there is no real support for regional government in the North East or elsewhere in England which only leaves the question of why the BBC would choose to spin this story so outrageously to suggest that there is.  Could it be anything to do with the funding that the European Federation – the architects and chief supporters of the regions – give to the BBC to fund varied programming including news an education?

Posted in EU/Europe, Other Regions, Propaganda | 2 Comments »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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

Posted by wonkotsane on September 18, 2006

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

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

I emailed the DWP on Saturday as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Stuart,

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

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

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

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

Regards

Simon Wood

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

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

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

Posted in Press, Propaganda | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by wonkotsane on September 16, 2006

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

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

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

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

Gerry,

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you in advance,

Stuart Parr aka wonkotsane


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

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

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

Gerry Dawson

Head of Regeneration & Economic Development Borough of Telford & Wrekin


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


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

Gerry Dawson 


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


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

Many thanks.

Gerry Dawson


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

Stuart 


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

Gerry Dawson

Posted in Propaganda | 2 Comments »