Information provided to the West Midlands NO! Campaign following a Freedom of Information Request has raised some serious questions about the City Region.
The City Region will not be funded on a pro-rata basis as previously thought, but by simply dividing the costs into 10 equal shares. This means, for example, Birmingham’s 1m residents will be collectively paying the same £37,062 contribution to the running costs of the City Region as the 160,000 residents of Telford or the 305,000 residents of Dudley.
This is hardly a fair distribution of the operating costs, especially when Birmingham City Council openly admits that Birmingham will benefit most from the City Region:
“The benefit to Birmingham will be that the city region partners all recognise the unique role of Birmingham at the heart of the city region. The partners have supported, for example, the investment in the redevelopment of New Street Station and the extension of the Midland Metro through the city centre. In the future, the partners can be expected to support investment in other projects that are vital to Birmingham’s continued development as the regional capital and as a successful international city. Birmingham can therefore expect to benefit significantly if powers and resources are devolved to the city region, because many of the projects that the city region gives priority to will be projects in Birmingham.”
Birmingham City Council claims that it will not spend more than the £37,062 contribution to the City Region’s budget but Telford & Wrekin Council is expecting to spend at least £77,000 monitoring and working with the City Region and has set aside another £100,000 for costs associated with membership. Is Telford wasting more taxpayers’ money than it’s already wasting by joining the City Region in the first place or is Birmingham hiding the true cost of the City Region?
The response also confirms that no cost/benefit analysis of City Region membership has been conducted meaning that hundreds of pounds of taxpayers money has been committed to funding a project when they don’t know how much it will cost or what, if any, they can expect to gain from it. If this decision had been made by a company, the shareholders would have been baying for blood by now!
Stuart Parr, founder of the West Midlands NO! Campaign, said: “This just confirms what we’ve been saying all along – the City Region will be run by Birmingham, for Birmingham and the rest of us will be paying for it”.
Andrew Bridgwater, West Midlands NO! Campaigner, said “If the City Region is going to turn a profit then surely it should be self-funding? Unless we’re being misled and the City Region is going to cost money for as long as it’s there, I see no reason why taxpayers’ money should change hands at all. In fact, if it is going to cost more money than it makes then all the more reason not to hand over any cash”.