Archives for posts with tag: English Regions

 “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.









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.