West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

Archive for the ‘Quango’s’ Category

In place of Democracy

Posted by Ken on November 29, 2006

Shropshire County council officers have set up an online blog which allows Shropshire people to give their views on moves to create a new all-purpose council to run the county.The online diary has been launched on the county council’s website and so far has been visited more than 1,600 times, with 35 comments submitted.

The county council, together with the Oswestry Borough Council and South Shropshire District Council, have put forward a “One Council for Shropshire” proposal.

They claim services will be streamlined and money saved by having just one authority instead of the current two-tier set-up of the county and five district and borough councils.

Each week on the blog a new aspect of the proposal will be presented, and comments will be invited.

Councillor Mike Owen, county council cabinet member for well-being, said: “Over the last few months we have consulted with local people, service users, businesses and partners, and our case for One Council for Shropshire reflects their views and needs.

“But we want to continue to communicate openly and honestly with residents and listen to their comments.

“This blog is a new and exciting way of doing that, and we are pleased to see that people are already getting involved in the debate.”

The blog can be found at www.shropshire.gov.uk/blog/onecouncil.nsf

http://www.shropshirestar.co.uk/2006/11/bloggers-asked-for-opinions/

 
So far it seems most of the commenters are employed by the various councils, perhaps this will change as the general public become aware of the blog. It would seem that all of the councils have accepted the business plan for a unitary council except Bridgnorth District Council which has rejected the plan.

Hats off to Shrewsbury and Atcham council leader Peter Nutting who has said the decision to scrap Shropshire’s district councils should be made by the people following a public poll – not simply by council officials He said “all the councils should work together and ask the people of Shropshire the same question on the same day in a county-wide poll: should the authorities be united as one “super council” Also that the question should be put to the people by an independent body and not by council officials.

According to Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive, Shropshire County Council  the Secretary of State has made it very clear that one of her tests for any unitary case is to ask “does it have a broad, cross-section of support. Unfortunately this broad cross-section of support does not seem to include the council taxpayer this also from the Blog “When Ministers visited Shropshire in February this year to discuss local government structures, they met with service users and residents, business representatives, Councillors (County, District and Borough, Town and Parish levels), Chief Executives and our major partners (police, health, Learning and Skills Council, voluntary sector etc). They heard a strong response that unitary local government was change worth consideration.” “As a result, David Miliband, MP, wrote to all participants saying that we should not wait for the publication of the White Paper to take our work forward.

We therefore immediately considered how to ascertain and involve the views of local people in taking this work forward. Our legal advice is that neither we, nor any other local government partner in Shropshire, have the powers to undertake a referendum.”

The main argument against a referendum seems to fall into the same category as all other objections referenda, which boils down to the people are to stupid to understand the arguments.

“Consulting residents on such issues is immensely challenging. Residents generally know very little about the complexities of local government structure, nor do they normally see it as important as the quality of services.”

One thing which stands out is that the government have made it clear that the status quo is not an option. Which means that despite the rejection of the Regional assembly in the North East, despite the fact that the Government is to scared to ask the rest of us, despite all the polls which tell them we don’t want to divide England into EU recognised regions,  they are continuing with the process of Regionalisation.  

 

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

Anti-Regions Petition

Posted by wonkotsane on November 25, 2006

There is a petition on the Prime Minister’s website asking the Prime Minister to abolish the unelected regional assemblies in the UK:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to abolish the Regional Assemblies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We disagree with the imposition of an un-elected level on the citizens of the UK. The Regional Assemblies were brought about by the 1957 Treaty of Rome and do not have the support of the majority of British citizens. We disagree that council tax money is used to finance these un-elected bodies – there must be no taxation if there is no representation. These bodies are an attempt to destroy the UK and for the UK to be subsumed into a socialist federal state of Europe.

Posted in Quango’s | 2 Comments »

All about Saving Money

Posted by Ken on November 19, 2006

One of the major reasons stated for the creation of a Unitary Council is that by combining the services they will become more efficient and cost effective, so we can all look forward to reduction in our council taxes can’t we, well no! For some reason these saving are not actually going to mean lower taxes, strange that!

The Shropshire Star reports that the Chief Executive of Bridnorth District Council John Harmetson, is warning Bridnorth residents that they will face yearly increases to catch up with the rest of the country. Apparently Bridnorth at present has the lowest council tax rate in the county but if a unitary authority is formed council tax rates would be made equal across the county within three years. According the Mr Harmeston council tax payers in Oswestry and South Shropshire will have their taxes frozen whilst Bridgnorth residents pay extra. So where are all these savings?

As the reason for the government attempting to create these unitary councils is more to with fitting in with the EU Regionalisation Process it is not surprising that the outcome will not in fact save money or be more efficient, certainly not in the case in Bridgnorth.

As usual we get to same old government /EU spin: Harmetson said: “The White Paper heralds a new era for local government. As always, the devil will be in the detail as it emerges in legislation.

“Much debate will be had about the various proposals but the recurring theme of public services working together to improve services is one issue that should be supported.”

Something “New” got to be exiting! “working together” anyone who objects is obviously going to be a little Ludlovian or Oswestphobe!

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

AWM appoint new deputy chairman

Posted by wonkotsane on November 18, 2006

The unelected chairman of Advantage West Midlands (AWM), Nick Paul, has appointed Richard Hyde as the unelected deputy chairman of AWM.

AWM is the unelected, taxpayer-funded regional development agency for the West Midlands euroregion.

Richard Hyde is also the unelected chairman of the taxpayer-funded West Midlands Regional Observatory and unelected deputy leader of the Conservative group in the Local Government Association.

The Conservatives are opposed to regional government, I wonder what the party thinks of his appointment?

Posted in Quango’s | Leave a Comment »

Have your say on how cash is spent

Posted by wonkotsane on November 9, 2006

Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the unelected regional development agency, wants to know how the public want to spend £10 billion they have to boost the regional economy.

How in gods name does an unelected  quango get to spend £10 billion of taxpayers money? 

Here’s a suggestion on how the money should be spent – by elected councillors sitting on local councils, not by unelected, unaccountable “business leaders” and their hand picked cronies whose only qualifications for the job are the same regional “vision” that will see local authorities turned into ceremonial talking shops with all the major decisions made by unelected bureaucrats and our elected representives left with no more decision making powers than to choose which variety of biscuits to have at the next council meeting.

Posted in Quango’s | 1 Comment »

Who, what and how much … part 2

Posted by wonkotsane on November 3, 2006

On Tuesday we asked “who, what and how much?” in relation to West Midlands Centre of Excellence (WMCOE).

We emailed WMCOE to ask that question (and some others) and got a reply pointing us to their website …

Hi,

I’ve just read this: http://www.egovmonitor.com/node/8248

All I can gather from the press release is that £800k of taxpayers money has been handed over to some people I’ve never heard of for something I’ve never heard of by some people (your organisation) I’ve never heard of.

Who are you, what do you do, what is this money for and where did it come from? How much does your organisation cost the taxpayer and how much money do you channel through your organisation?


Thank you so much for showing interest in our organisation. I have forwarded to you the link from our website where I believe answers to all of your questions can be found. If I may draw your attention to the menu heading, ‘About Us’, I think you will find the answers to most of your questions here.If you find that there are still questions you would like us to answer then please don’t hesitate to contact us.

regards
Jane Daly

http://www.wmcoe.gov.uk

Jane Daly
West Midlands Centre of Excellence
Regional Partnership Centre
Albert House
Quay Place
Edward Street
Birmingham
B1 2RA
Tel: 0121 245 0225
http://www.wmcoe.gov.uk

I’ve looked at the website and it’s all very interesting.  They are apparently hosted by Worcester Council although their address, as you can see, is in Birmingham.  As best I can determine, they have a budget of £5.2m over 5 years provided by the taxpayer.  Their purpose is to save money for local authorities by improving efficiency.

WMCOE claim to be accountable because they are made up of representatives of local authorities.  Nobody is elected to WMCOE, they are appointed.  The boards of the rest of the unelected, unaccountable regional quango’s are made up exactly the same and they don’t even bother claiming to be accountable.

So, are my questions answered?  Kind of.  Budgets alone don’t tell you how much these quango’s cost.  It costs money for local authorities to send people to work on them.  It costs money to consult with them and to implement their policies.

Posted in Quango’s | 1 Comment »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Telford First gazumped

Posted by wonkotsane on September 30, 2006

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

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

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