Archives for posts with tag: Westminster

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.






paul daleYesterday, Paul Dale (left) parodied Corbyn’s policies, labelled ’hard left’, and produced an extremely limited explanation for his popularity:

“Anyone with experience of Labour conferences over the years, where the real membership emerge annually to demand a left wing agenda only to have their wishes denied by the party hierarchy, ought to have guessed that the one-member-one vote system (OMOV) would unleash decades of pent up anger . . .”

Boris Johnson did far better in the Sun.. Dale ends by predicting Labour will produce a moderate centre-left manifesto behind an electable leader by 2025.

A Guardian comment explains Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal to masses of people alienated by phoney, shifty, greedy politicians – Mr Dale please note:

jeremy corbyn“Corbyn has for many years been pursuing clear and coherent social, economic and political goals – read his Wikipedia page to see for how long and how consistently. He’s been doing this with courage and integrity and with very little publicity.

“This already distinguishes him from at least half the people in Westminster, whose strongest motivation seems to have been to get elected, whatever it takes.

“If (electability is) the main thing you’re thinking about, you’ll tailor your political ideals to fit, editing out the awkward bits”.

JC large rally

The writer’s 25-year-old daughter heard Corbyn speaking in Birmingham. Like thousands who attended similar meetings in several cities, she was electrified both by him and by the atmosphere in the hall.

He adds that younger voters didn’t show up at the ballot boxes in May and this is probably the first time that many of them have seen a British politician speaking without a carefully pored over PR briefing sheet, speaking with passion and confidence and courage from a set of deeply rooted beliefs and a great deal of personal experience.

adrian cadbury 2Reading several ‘devolutionary’ articles highlighted in the Brummie aggregator site has prompted a reader to recall a 2002 address at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, given by Sir Adrian Cadbury at the first meeting of the Thomas Attwood Group.

After saying that he shared Attwood’s belief that decisions need to be taken as near as possible to where their impact would be made, Adrian Cadbury recalled the findings of the Aston Democracy Commission, which he chaired.

The Aston Commission worked for two years seeking to find ways of promoting inner city regeneration in the ward – with consultation undertaken from the ‘bottom up’ rather than from the ‘top down’. It came to reflect Thomas Attwood’s belief that Birmingham people could manage the city’s affairs better than a London-based government.

attwood header

In an electorate generally perceived as being apathetic because of the low level of voting, a lively concern was expressed about the poor delivery of municipal services such as waste disposal, street cleaning and policing. The Commission found that the low voting rates reflect realistic attitudes rather than apathy. Voters believed that in all likelihood their vote would make no difference to the quality of the service they were getting.

Part of the remedy for this, Adrian Cadbury felt, would be to change the current situation in which central government has assumed control of 80% of the city’s budget, determining not only its size but the precise disposition of these funds, leaving little scope for local government.

He believes that Westminster ought to loosen its grip on spending and decision-making, and local government to devolve decision-making to those closest to the issues. Another important aspect of restoring an active democracy, he said, was to build up the capacities of local people to make decisions.

European precedents were touched on, including the devolutionary steps taken by the French thirty years ago. A passing reference was made to the extent of the responsibilities exercised by the mayors of Lille and Barcelona. Adrian Cadbury ended by saying that constitutional means must be found to reverse centralism – one being the move toward regional government: “We all have a responsibility to encourage this and say that we shall place our votes with those supporting such policies”.

Earlier this month, a poll commissioned by the BBC suggested some 80% of people in England supported having more powers devolved to local areas. Now, it is reported that the leaders of 119 English councils – 65 controlled by Labour, 40 by Conservatives and 10 by Liberal Democrats – have called on Chancellor Osborne, to use Wednesday’s Autumn Statement to outline a “new settlement for England” which devolves power from Westminster and shares tax and spending across the UK “on a fair basis”.

The most recent Brummie lead on devolution was to an article on the Chamberlain Forum website by Paul (Dale?), which warned:

“We need to agree whether we talking about devolution that will tip cities over into being almost entirely the agents of central government, or the kind of devolution that will reverse that trend and give rise to a new sort of accountable municipalism and vigour based on an increased proportion of the money which pays for government as a whole being collected locally”.

As the West Midlands Centre for Local Government closes, John Polychronakis (Chief Executive of Dudley MBC) announces that 14 councils have set up a new West Midlands Local Government Association (WMLGA), which will meet annually, Sir Albert Bore advocates city government and the Shadow Chancellor wants to see more devolution to the region.

Paul Dale reminds us that the council’s local revenue-raising powers, through the council tax, still contribute only 10% of total spending and the coalition government is moving very slowly towards “relinquishing tiny morsels of control by establishing City Deals and the Local Growth Fund through Local Enterprise Partnerships”. He adds:

“There is another driver behind the move to devolve. It is clearer than ever that the political process in this country is badly damaged. More and more people – particularly younger people – are disengaged, feel powerless to influence the decisions of government and local councils, and regard voting at elections as a waste of time”.

phil davisCllr Philip Davis (Campaign for the English Regions) notes that, ”London powers on as the only English region with regional government!”

He supports pragmatic “city-deals” and alliances of councils that agree to work closely on strategic planning and regeneration under a ‘combined authority’ badge, which are – at present – the only game in town, though ultimately a poor substitute for properly empowered regional councils.

CfER advocates a return to a full regional forum that could address the real economic and social needs of the region and speak to central government.

One of his colleagues, George Morran , was Director of the West Midlands Regional Forum of Local Authorities, which included responsibilities for regional planning, economic and environmental strategies for the region, the establishment of a West Midlands Regional Office in Brussels and the first UK regional link with Japan.

A distinctly West Midlands approach

George Morran -1Seeing local authorities as being too large to be local and too small to be regional, George came to the conclusion that developing the region’s voice and capacity to address regional challenges requires democratically elected regional government. He points out that city government will not be inclusive and deliver the synergies from linking urban and rural.

Later experience working as a regions consultant with Localise West Midlands and the Campaign for the English Regions convinced him that far more radical change and constitutional reform is needed if sub-national government in England is to deal effectively with regional issues and connect to the local. George warns:

“Without a downsizing and refocusing Westminster and moving local government far more closer to local communities we will continue to be governed by the political, business and media elite based in and around Westminster. This is well illustrated by responses to the recent and current flood emergencies being directed by COBRA! and a host of agencies”.

unlock democracy logoThe forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence and the 2015 General Election provides opportunities for CFER to develop a distinctly West Midlands approach, committed to seeking a new constitutional settlement for the West Midlands Region and working with the national and local arms of Unlock Democracy and Futures Network West Midlands to find a way forward.

futures network wm

George hopes that the Unlock Democracy/CfER event will look at the wider issue of genuine devolution to each appropriate level of government – from parish to region. This means Westminster and Whitehall have to change as well. He adds:

“The region needs a more strategic, coherent and inclusive approach to bringing political and economic power much closer to people in England and make the UK and all its constituent parts more inclusive and stronger”.

With the national constitutional campaign Unlock Democracy, George Morran and Phil Davis are organising an event which will draw attention to this democratic deficit – probably to be held in June/July