Archives for category: Devolution

The rational case against metro mayors ably set out by local commentators, Richard Hatcher, George Morran and Steve Beauchampé, has been shattered for the writer by the media-feeding chaotic, emotion-led, vicious, counterproductive squabbling in the Labour & Conservative ranks.

Still, evidently, a tribal people, we appear to need the ‘high-profile leadership’ extolled by Andrew Carter, chief executive of the Centre for Cities , largest funders Gatsby Charitable Foundation (Lord Sainsbury) and  Catapult network, established by Innovate UK, a government agency. (see report cover right)

As yet, the announcements made by the West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street, respected even by most opponents of the post, with a business record seen as a guarantee of efficiency, are provoking little dissension.

Dan Jarvis, who is expected to win the Sheffield election becoming Britain’s seventh metro mayor, intends to continue to sit in the House of Commons to work for a better devolution deal and speak for the whole county. (map, regions in 2017)

His desire to stay in parliament while serving as a mayor is thought, by the author of FT View to reflect a recognition that the real authority and power of these positions is limited:

  • The six mayors have no say on how taxes are raised and spent.
  • Outside Greater Manchester, the mayors have little control over health policy.
  • Major spending decisions on transport policy are still taken by central government.

Days after taking office in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham’s announcement of a new fund to tackle the region’s homelessness problem was backed by ‘a chunk’ of his own mayoral salary.

Andrew Carter points out that England’s mayors are highly constrained in their control over local tax revenue and how it is spent, compared with their counterparts in other countries.

FT View describes this extra layer of government as yet merely creating cheerleaders, adding:

“Voices alone will not be enough to shift economic and political power to the regions. England’s mayors need more control. If the government is serious about devolution, the mayors need the powers to match that ambition”.

 

Could well-endowed, unsuborned metro mayors out-perform successive corporate-bound national governments?

 

 

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Planning for the Future: 1948 – Reflections on What Happened and Why is a paper written for the Black Countryman, the quarterly magazine of the Black Country Society.

*George Morran (right) has been reflecting on the Conurbation Report published in 1948 (Vol.51, No.1, 2017. His account is summarised below and published in full here.

The work on conurbation was supported financially and in kind by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, whose chair, Paul Cadbury, acted as Secretary. Conurbation was non-governmental and purely advisory.

It was produced by a group led by Dr. Raymond Priestley Vice Chancellor of Birmingham University, supported by a steering committee and advisory groups including businessmen, academics and local authority officials from across the West Midlands Region including the shires, Birmingham and the Black Country.

Thousands of new houses were built in the 50s and 60s. In the inner areas a large proportion of the new housing was built by the local district and borough councils for rent. They had the basic amenities which the older housing lacked. In the 60s a high proportion of this new-build was high rise especially around older town centres. The newer housing in the outer areas of the Black Country was in the main built by private developers at lower densities for sale with a greater emphasis on the visual appearance and environment. New single storey industrial estates appeared replacing older multi storey workshops. New industries anticipated by Conurbation did not materialise

1947: central government controls were introduced over new manufacturing development in the Black Country and other prosperous regions – repealed in 1984

They were intended to steer new development to the less well-developed areas. They discouraged new investment and modernisation of the existing industrial infrastructure and the replacement of obsolescent buildings; they hindered enterprise and strangled new ideas in red tape. The profitability of many companies was undermined leading to closures and takeovers.

David Smith – Something Will Turn Up: Britain’s Economy, Past, Present and Future (cover below)

During the 1950s and 60s the flight of residents, businesses, wealth and influence to the fringes and beyond from the inner areas continued. The owners of businesses who had previously lived locally no longer did so.

Conurbation had proposed that the railways be expanded but they were run down and lines closed. The proposed M6 and M5 motorways were well on the way to being built but little was done to improve regional and local roads. Much development along main roads had been blighted by the existence of improvement lines which would never be implemented.

By 1971 80% of the derelict land in the Black Country and most of the open space that existed in 1948 had been developed for housing and industry; the canals which were to have anchored much of the open space were closed, abandoned or left to decay, open to vandalism and abuse. Much of the traditional heavy industries had gone or were soon to close.

The so-called slums in and around the old townships had been cleared and replaced by new housing. Many historic cottages and other housing which were structurally sound or could have been upgraded were demolished because of their lack of modern amenities.

1948: The West Midlands Plan

The West Midlands Plan was produced by a team of town planners and academics led by Sir Patrick Abercrombie, Professor of Town and Country Planning at University College, London University. The political and business elites were directly or indirectly involved; residents were not. There was very little if any public involvement – and an absence of any regional or local civic forums and pressure groups to challenge the established way of doing business and to offer any alternatives. Although it related to the whole of the West Midlands conurbation, it focused on the Black Country which the Plan identified as having the most challenges. Central to its proposals for the Black Country were the maintenance and further intensification of industry in the inner areas; the location of new housing in the peripheral areas and beyond, outside a statutory Green Belt including towns and villages in South Staffordshire and North Worcestershire.

1955: the Birmingham and West Midlands Overspill Committee

In 1955 the shire and urban local authorities set up the Birmingham and West Midlands Overspill Committee to produce, deliver and keep up-to-date an agreed regional plan to manage overspill from the urban to shire areas consistent with approved Development Plans with formal agreements for overspill to particular locations within and beyond the Green Belt. The agreements focused on new housing to be allocated for occupation by families moving from the Black Country and Birmingham. The Shire Counties also argued for the relocation of industry from the conurbation to balance the increase in population in the shires. Pressure for the peripheral development of the urban areas onto Green Belt land continued into the 1960s

1965: The Government set up a West Midlands Regional Planning Council

The Regional Council was supported by a Regional Board of Civil Servants and representatives of central and local government and business to make recommendations to Government on the economic and physical development of the whole West Midlands Region including the shire and conurbation areas. It identified substantial economic and population growth that needed to be accommodated in the region and proposed that New Towns should be developed based on Redditch and Dawley and that New Town Commissions be established responsible to the Government for bringing forward and delivering detailed plans. The Government accepted these recommendations.

1962: report issued by the Royal Commission on Local Government in England

It made proposals for the future of local government in the West Midlands Region abolishing the system of boroughs, county and district authorities and replacing it with five all-purpose county boroughs. This new system came into force on the first April 1966. The Royal Commission and the government thought that the new arrangement would strengthen the Black Country’s ability to respond to the challenges it faced. Less importance was attached to the local community identity or the social and economic links which existed between the Black Country and the adjoining areas of Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

1966: a further Royal Commission was established to make recommendations on the future of local government across the West Midlands

It reported in 1969, proposing that a directly elected provincial council be established for the whole of the West Midlands Region to deal with strategic planning. In the Black Country the Commission proposed four all-purpose local authorities responsible for all planning matters together with responsibility for major services in particular education, and social services. The Commission also proposed that local community councils be established but district councils consistently blocked local campaigns for powers and representation to be made more local and took little or no action to encourage their establishment.

The Black Country Society responded to the Royal Commission

In its 1971 pamphlet it proposed that local government in the Black Country and the wider West Midlands region be built on directly elected community or town councils responsible for local services and providing a voice for local communities. It accepted that some public services needed to be provided across a larger area and proposed the establishment of a directly elected West Midlands Region body – a strong political voice which could engage with Westminster and Whitehall.

1974: The establishment of a West Midlands Metropolitan County Authority

In 1973 the Conservative Government agreed a new round of reorganisation which led in April 1974 to the establishment of a West Midlands Metropolitan County Authority stretching from Wolverhampton to Coventry and including seven all purpose District Councils for Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

In the last 50 years many new challenges and opportunities have come along which have shaped what has happened to the Black Country more recently and its future prospects. That is another story.

*George Morran: BCS Member 1968 to Present and Committee member 1968-76. Formerly Director the West Midlands Regional Forum of Local Authorities and Assistant Chief Executive, Dudley MBC.

 

 

 

 

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 “The West Midlands is beginning to get its act together under its new metro mayor”: Will Hutton Observer 18th February

George Morran, Director of the West Midlands Constitutional Convention and former Assistant Chief Executive of Dudley Metropolitan. Borough Council, comments: “Will Hutton’s praise for the West Midlands elected mayor and the Midlands Engine is misplaced”. He continues: “The mayor is constantly seeking publicity for policy developments for which he has no or limited responsibility. His budget proposals have not been supported and his capacity to make any real difference is compromised by the WM Combined Authority and District Councils”.

Deborah Cadman, the new Chief Executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority, appears to have similar misgivings “I can’t deliver the half a million new jobs we are trying to do and that massive investment. I can’t do that directly, I have to do that through local government.” (WMCA)

Morran points out that, despite so called devolution deals, the real power remains with Government Ministers and Whitehall:

“The Mayor’s democratic accountability is very questionable given that his election was based on a very low turnout, combined with the media and business support. The geographical focus of the West Midlands Mayor and Combined Authority is an area which divides the West Midlands Metro from the adjoining shires, urban and rural, town and country which together make up the West Midlands Economic Region.

“The “Midlands Engine” is as important a symbolic rallying cry as the “northern powerhouse” but it is a totally anonymous entity. It lacks any local or regional democratic accountability. It is totally dependent on Government, Whitehall and big business. It does not reflect the very different traditions, economic and political focus of the West and the East. Its focus does make life simpler for Whitehall than having to deal with two regions. What we need is a focus on the local and the region rather than what suits Whitehall. We need radical reform as part of a new constitutional settlement for the West Midlands and the other English regions. This settlement must focus on improving economic prosperity, the wellbeing of residents, business, civic society and democratic representative government in the West Midlands and the other Regions.

“This new settlement must include the transfer of real power and democratically accountable government from London to the local and the region; the downsizing and refocusing of Westminster and Whitehall. The new local has to be really local and not based on the existing large local authorities imposed on us in the past by Westminster and Whitehall.” 

Andrew Carter, Chief Executive, Centre for Cities, focuses on the limited powers and resources at the metro mayors’ disposal:

“As highlighted in the recent international mayoral summit organised by Centre for Cities (in partnership with Citi and Boston University’s Initiative on Cities), England’s mayors are highly constrained in their control over local tax revenue and how it is spent compared to their counterparts in other countries. They have also faced delays in gaining the powers already promised to them by the government in their initial devolution deals. For example, Street has criticised the Department for Education for postponing the devolution of the adult education budget to the mayors, a key policy area they need control of to improve the economic performance of their city regions”.

Richard Hatcher (BATC) is campaigning for the reform of the WMCA based on the following three principles:

  • A critical challenge to the claims for the economic strategy of the WMCA, and for an alternative primed by government investment and based on meeting social priorities and the promotion of the green economy.
  • Defence and improvement of public services, the protection and improvement of jobs and conditions and the involvement of workers and service users in policy decisions.
  • A radical democratisation of the WMCA with the full participation of citizens, communities and employees at every level of policy making and implementation so that it is genuinely democratically accountable.

As George Morran wrote last year: The needs of the West Midlands and the other English Regions will only be realised if there is a real transfer of power and elected representation from Westminster to the regions and a far more localised local government underpinned by a more proportional voting system to ensure cross party and geographical support.

 

 

 

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Peter Madeley (Express and Star) writes, On the face of it, £392 million sounds like a fair amount of money to fire up the Midlands Engine”. This is, however, covering four years’ expenditure spread thinly across the Government-defined Midlands area which takes in the entire middle of England, stretching from The Marches close to the Welsh border to East Lincolnshire on the North Sea coast.

Sajid Javid who will be overseeing the Midlands Engine

George Morran’s first comment on this article is that without the right investment the so-called Midland Engine will soon begin to stutter and run out of steam. He suspects that for the vast majority of people in the West Midlands it hasn’t even started. He continues:

The proposals announced last week which gave the chancellor some photos opportunities are tiny in relation to the region’s needs and the cuts in public expenditure already made since 2010 and more to come.

The measures are the creation of Whitehall and their business-led agents working behind closed doors. They have absolutely no local ownership outside the political and business elites. I suspect most local councillors haven’t a clue what’s going on so what chance have voters?

Whitehall’s support for a Midlands delivery agent for its ideas goes back to the 1990s as a counter to New Labour’s aim to establish eight Regional Assemblies and Development Agencies across England outside London including the West and East Midlands. Whitehall’s motive was and is to keep control and not to allow real power to be put in the hands of those it regards as unsafe.

The needs of the West Midlands and the other English Regions will only be realised if there is a real transfer of power and elected representation from Westminster to the regions and a far more localised local government underpinned by a more proportional voting system to ensure cross party and geographical support.

Voters in Scotland look likely to have another chance to go independent. A counter would be to offer the nations and the English Regions equal status in a new Federal UK

And a refocused and smaller Westminster.

A significant omission

This letter was published in the Express and Star but a key paragraph (above, in bold) was omitted. George wrote again:

These measures were edited out of my original text and may have implied taking government away from the local. My intention is that powers and representative Government have to be moved from London to the Region and the local as part of a new democratically accountable settlement replacing the increasingly opaque, distant and anonymous government taking decisions about our future.

I would be grateful if you would correct the impression that was given.

 

 

 

 

West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 23rd February 5-7 pm

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

bfoe-warehouse

What are the economic policies of the mayoral candidates for the West Midlands Combined Authority? – presented by Ann Wackett.

The election takes place on 4 May. Are the candidates promising anything different from the parties that they represent?

All welcome.  

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

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Received: news about an invitation to an open meeting on March 27th 5.30pm in Colmore Row. This updates information about the Attwood award on this site. The news included this dialogue box:

lwm-pound-text

Browsing the website as invited we learn that there will be ‘an opportunity to  collectively identify how to progress the Birmingham Pound after hearing about the inspiration for and potential of the project and the nuts and bolts of how the currency could be run’.

The meeting will then be opened to discussion, with questions, comments and hopefully agreement on whether the Birmingham Pound goes ahead.

This will involve agreeing on what model is used and who can commit to taking it forward. It will only go ahead if there is a robust way of making it self-sufficient and that it will be effective in its aims of making an inclusive, equitable and diverse Birmingham economy.

Book your place here.

 

 

 

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A Bournville resident draws attention to a research-based brief, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an independent organisation working to inspire social change through research, policy and practice, which is summarised here.

Setting the scene:

“The West Midlands faces significant challenges to creating an inclusive economy: just under 600,000 people are income deprived and three in ten children are growing up in poverty. A significant minority of businesses report vacancies they cannot fill due to skills shortages – ranging from 18% in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership area to 28% in the Black Country (across England it is 22%). The challenge is not simply to get more people into work: in the UK today 55% of people experiencing poverty live in working households. Creating more and better jobs and connecting people in poverty to opportunities are at the heart of an inclusive growth agenda . . . The West Midlands mayoral area has a low employment rate and high unemployment . . . Ultimately, poverty is harmful to those who experience it, scarring their prospects, worsening mental and physical health and shortening lives. Healthy life expectancy is seven years shorter in Wolverhampton compared to Solihull for men, and nine years shorter for women.”

Advantages of a more inclusive West Midlands economy

For inclusive growth, the quality of jobs created and the skills and capabilities of local residents to take them up is every bit as important as the number of jobs. More jobs with decent pay and prospects, bring economic benefits: each time an out-of-work benefit claimant moves into a job paying the voluntary Living Wage (which is set with regard to the cost of essentials) the local economy is boosted by £14,400 on average.

Inclusive growth that helps to deliver lower poverty would also release resources that could be put to more productive use. An estimated £1 in every £5 spent on public services is linked to poverty, with the costs falling heavily on the health service, education and the police and criminal justice system.  

Education and skills are vital for people to make the most of economic opportunities, but children from low-income backgrounds achieve worse results at every stage of their education compared to those from better-off homes. This deprives businesses of talent. It also reduces people’s earnings potential, reduces the tax take and increases the risk that poverty will be passed from one generation to the next. JRF’s team could with advantage read Hatcher on the relationship between schools and the labour market

JRF has examined the relationship between deprived areas and local labour markets

In the West Midlands mayoral area the proportion of working age adults who are economically inactive (not looking for work because they are studying, looking after family, disabled or sick – 30%) is eight percentage points higher than the national average, and higher than other areas electing mayors.

The vast majority of deprived areas are geographically well connected to local job opportunities particularly in Birmingham, where 99% of deprived neighbourhoods either contain more jobs than working age people or are well connected to other areas with many jobs. This analysis suggests that the primary challenges are barriers to work such as lack of skills, caring responsibilities, health and disability are, rather than access issues such as transport.

An agenda requiring use of the Mayor’s soft power

Inclusive growth is an agenda, not a new policy initiative – and it is an agenda that will require strong leadership from the Mayor, involving:

  • raising ambition,
  • shaping strategy,
  • inspiring action,
  • marshalling resources,
  • drawing in collaborators from the public, private and voluntary and community sectors,
  • holding central government to account for actions that impact on poverty and prosperity in the West Midlands Mayoral area
  • and continuing to fight for the devolution of powers and resources to enable the Mayor to solve poverty.

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The Mayor will have some powers over employment support for people with significant barriers to work (the Work and Health Programme, above, due to be launched in 2017), and more significant powers in relation to adult skills and training. This is an area where the Mayor can make a difference.

The Mayor should help to champion a direct role for citizens too. An inclusive growth strategy must draw on the ideas and direct experience of local people, communities and voluntary and community sector organisations. Inclusive growth is not just the job of the Mayor, but the whole city region – its businesses, employers, institutions, service providers and communities.

To read the 13 page briefing, click here

To discuss in more detail, please contact info@jrf.org.uk

There will be an international conference sharing innovative policies and practice on Tuesday 24 January 2017 – 09:30 to 16:30. Central London, UK – Read more here.

 

 

 

Seven Combined Authorities have already been established and a further seven proposed – read in detail here.

Why government – and employers – want a directly-elected mayor

A directly-elected mayor is a presidential form of local government, accountable only in direct elections every four years with no right of removal.  It means the government can deal with a single leader and one not tied to local political parties as a council leader is – an arrangement that suits the private sector too. Directly-elected mayors offer the possibility of a Tory mayor, or at least an independent, being elected in Labour-dominated urban areas. And they are ideally suited to the media’s fondness for reducing politics to personalities.

Democratise the Combined Authorities: London has an elected Assembly – why not the West Midlands?

 

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Richard Hatcher points out on BATC’s website that there is a precedent, the scrutiny arrangements in London: “There ongoing public accountability of the directly elected mayor and the Greater London Authority is ensured by a directly elected London Assembly.  The London Assembly has 25 elected members. They are not just existing councillors drafted onto a Scrutiny Committee, they are elected by citizens who vote for them specifically because they are going to fight for their interests. And they aren’t just reactive to policy, they act as champions for Londoners proactively investigating concerns through not just one but 15 issue-based committees and raising their findings and their policy demands with the Mayor and with the government itself”.

The Constitution of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) does not exclude the option of an elected Assembly, Hatcher asks “If it’s right for London why isn’t it right for the West Midlands?”. Three principles are laid down and seven positive steps – read on here.

Scrutiny?

His article written earlier this month describes the WMCA Scrutiny Committee as being ‘seriously incapable’ of carrying out that responsibility: “The Scrutiny Committee only has 12 councillor members. It is scheduled to have only four meetings during the year, for two hours each.  It is inconceivable that the Committee can engage with the huge range of activities of the WMCA, select issues to scrutinise and carry out a serious process of scrutiny in that time. (Each set of documentation for the monthly CA Board meetings typically amounts to a hundred pages or more, let alone those from the other dozen or more committees.)”

Be aware of conflicts of interest

The Scrutiny Committee allocates 3 places to representatives of the 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the employer-led bodies representing business interests. Hatcher comments: “This is an extraordinary decision which seems unique among Combined Authorities”. For example, there are no LEP representatives on the Greater Manchester CA Scrutiny Committee. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report into devolution and Combined Authorities, published in June 2016 said:

“It is alarming that LEPs are not meeting basic standards of governance and transparency, such as disclosing conflicts of interest to the public.

LEPs are led by the private sector, and stakeholders have raised concerns that they are dominated by vested interests that do not properly represent their business communities”.

So far two of the three LEP places have been taken up by named representatives. One is Sarah Windrum, founder and CEO of Warwickshire technology company The Emerald Group, on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. The other is Black Country LEP Board Member Paul Brown, Director of Government Services for Ernst & Young, a global accountancy company.

Ernst and Young serves as auditor and tax adviser to Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – the businesses which have come under the most fire for avoiding taxes. As its website says, it is closely involved in the formulation and delivery of policy “across a wide range of central Government departments”.  Given the controlling role of government in the WMCA, Hatcher thinks it inevitable that Paul Brown, as Director of Government Services, would be exercising scrutiny on behalf of the CA over policies which his employer, Ernst and Young, would have been involved in formulating and delivering.

Other members of the Black Country LEP have a direct interest in investment in land for construction. The Chair of the BC LEP is Simon Eastwood, Managing Director of Carillion Developments, Carillion Plc. Carillion plc is a British multinational facilities management and construction services company with its headquarters in Wolverhampton. It is one of the largest construction companies operating in the UK. Among its projects in the West Midlands is the redevelopment of Paradise Circus in Birmingham city centre. Read on here.

Hatcher concludes: “In the absence of an elected Assembly, the Scrutiny Committee is the only instrument of public accountability of the WMCA. Its credibility depends on there being no suspicion in the public mind that there are actual or potential conflicts of interest. For that reason we believe there should be no representatives of LEPs on the Scrutiny Committee”.

 

 

 

The small but vibrant suburb of Stirchley is being invaded by supermarkets in a manner reminiscent of the long-resisted Asda development in ‘supermarket capital’ Shirley, which has sadly failed to deliver its undertaking to regenerate the high street.

In Stirchley, already served by a large Co-operative store, Aldi has applied for permission to build on a site less than a mile away and a Tesco store is being built nearby.

Two weeks ago the council’s planning committee had sensibly voted to reject plans to knock down the Fitness First gym and bowling alley in Pershore Road in order to build a Lidl store.

Many councillors and residents argue that the site would add to traffic problems and that knocking down a popular gym, the only one in the area, for yet another foodstore, sends out the wrong message.

It is now reported that officials fear the council would be vulnerable to a costly legal appeal by the supermarket.

The majority of councillors have reversed their decision, agreeing with officials’ advice that a refusal would not stand up to a challenge and voted by six to three in favour of the Lidl plan.

Is the well-being and preference of local residents less important than building yet another supermarket?

Is devolution a hollow undemocratic sham and corporate rule a reality?

See pages about Stirchley on this site

First response by email: “But how else will the starving people of Stirchley eat without another supermarket in the area?”

 

 

In his paper, ‘The WM economy needs a public investment strategy for inclusive growth based on social priorities’, Richard Hatcher points out that the Resolution Foundation report. Midlands engine trouble: The challenges facing the West Midlands Combined Authority’, only tells half the story. It defines the problem of the WM economy in terms of the characteristics of the unemployed: low qualifications and skills, and demographic factors – age, ethnicity and gender – and says almost nothing about investment.

The report proposes three solutions:

  • Support groups with low employment rates, shaped to respond to their needs and to overcome the barriers they face, including racial and gender discrimination.
  • Develop an industrial strategy for the WMCA that acknowledges the importance of manufacturing but puts a new emphasis on high-end (defined as technically sophisticated) service jobs.
  • Third, and going hand-in-hand with priority two, the WMCA must seek to retain more of the city region’s graduates and improve skill development more generally.” (p 34)

The third point is based on the claim that there is a skills deficit. While it is true that there are skills shortages in some sectors, it is not true of much if not most of the WM economy.

ukces-coverIn Birmingham for example, according to the government’s UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ (UKCES) Employer Skills Survey, only some 7% of employers say they have hard to fill vacancies due to skills shortages while some 30% say they have staff whose skills are not fully utilised. In other words, under-utilisation of existing skills is a much bigger problem than skills shortages.

The reality is there is no industrial strategy for the WMCA, because that would require a government strategy for investment (a public investment bank, in John McDonnell’s terms), and there isn’t one. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, acknowledges in a recent speech that low public investment by government is one of the problem.

Paul Mason writes: “Carney’s solutions, though couched in language eviscerated in order to avoid offence, boil down as follows […] he says, we have to stimulate growth by relying less on creating money, and more by creating growth: governments have to start using taxpayers’ money to invest, and redesign the economy so that our dire productivity is reversed.“

The fundamental need for investment is almost entirely absent from the Resolution Foundation report’s 46 pages, which is why I say it only tells half the story

There is just one mention: “In recent years the wider West Midlands region and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP in particular have performed strongly on attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), with the third highest number of FDI projects after London and the South East. However, not enough of this has manifested itself in the overall growth figures or […] in employment.” (p14).

But that raises the question, why? Where has this investment gone? What is being invested in? How many good long-term jobs are being created? What social needs are being met? And how much is in prestigious property development for short-term profit?

The crucial issue of investment is ignored in the WMCA’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), published in June and written not by the CA itself but by the LEPs. In contrast to the prominence of the need for skills development in the SEP there is virtually no data or analysis at all of current investment in the West Midlands economy.

Yet without investment in new technology and new work processes increasing the qualifications and skills of the workforce only results in more over-qualified workers with under-utilised skills.

The task now for the WMCA should be to draft a completely revised Strategic Economic Plan, drawing on independent expertise, which provides an honest detailed analysis of the current situation of the WM economy, including its gross inequalities of geography, social class, age, gender and ethnicity, and realistic plans and strategies for inclusive growth, a sales pitch based on evidence-free aspirations.

Finally, Hatcher examines the ‘Mayoral WMCA Function’ – an important subject calling for a separate paper.

Read the whole paper here: https://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/the-wm-economy-needs-a-public-investment-strategy-for-inclusive-growth-based-on-social-priorities/

And here:

https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/papers/the-wm-economy-needs-a-public-investment-strategy-for-inclusive-growth-based-on-social-priorities/

Richard Hatcher

13 December 2016