Archive for Regions

First day of the West Midlands NO! campaign

Had some success resulting from the official launch of the West Midlands NO! campaign today.

A local MP called and offered to meet me, a couple of people have offered some support and it got a decent sized story in the Shropshire Star.

The Shropshire Star used quotes I’d given to a reporter at the London office of their sister publication, the Express and Star, this morning.  I’m quite a way outside the catchment area for the Express and Star so I haven’t been able to check it today to see if it got a mention there too.

It would be nice to build up a group of people from across the euroregion who can put a local perspective to the campaign.  If anyone is interested, please contact me.

Shropshire Star: Campaigners bid to halt city region plan

Campaigners bid to halt city region plan

By Sunita Patel

A campaign to halt regional government plans that will see Telford swallowed up into a West Midlands-wide city region dominated by Birmingham was launched today.

The West Midlands “No!” campaign is calling for a referendum on the issue. It follows the proposal for a Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country City Region to boost skills, transport and the economy.

But those opposed to the change claim people do not want it. They say it will have a negative impact on trade and industry in fringe areas not included within the new boundaries, which will be forced to compete against the city region for national and European funds.

All the local authorities involved, including Telford & Wrekin Council, were today urged to hold “binding referenda” on whether to join the city region “instead of making the decision privately behind closed doors”.

One of the campaign leaders, Stuart Parr, of Telford, said: “Nobody in the West Midlands has been elected to office on a manifesto of regionalisation and therefore nobody has a mandate to make such fundamental changes to local government in the West Midlands without first gaining the consent of the electorate via a referendum.

“Democracy is not a spectators sport. We want local people to have their say. We really don’t think there is any support for a city region.
“It is going to be a detriment to the rural parts of the region.

“It will take skills and money away from the rural sections of the West Midlands in Shropshire and Staffordshire that are not included and will have to compete against the city region for funding – places like Shrewsbury and parts of the Welsh borders.

“The north-east is the only region to hold a referendum on this issue and rejected an elected assembly with a 78 per cent “no” vote.

This year, Local Government Minister Phil Woolas said the Government favoured city regions run by elected mayors.

** NEWS RELEASE **: West Midlands NO!

The first campaign group in the West Midlands opposing regional government is launched on Monday 2nd October 2006.

The West Midlands NO! campaign is calling on local authorities involved in the proposed Birmingham, Coventry and Black Country City Region to hold binding referenda on whether to join the City Region instead of making the decision privately and behind closed doors.  West Midlands NO! will also be urging local authorities throughout the West Midlands euroregion that are not involved in the City Region proposal to oppose the the City Region.

It is unclear exactly what powers will be handed from our elected representatives to the unelected City Region as very little information is being made public but it is clear that yet another expensive, taxpayer-funded regional government is not going to provide value for money.  The West Midlands has had regional government in the form of the unelected West Midlands City Region since 1999 which has not only failed to make any significant impact in the region but has singularly failed to engage the public, most of whom haven’t even heard of the Assembly despite it having extensive and far reaching powers.

West Midlands NO! contends that there is little or no support amonst the public for regional government.  In the only referendum on regional government in England, the people of the North East euroregion rejected an elected assembly with a 78% “no” vote two years ago.  The North East euroregion was considered by the British government to have the most support for regional government yet only 22% of people supported it [1].  It is therefore reasonable to assume that far less than 22% of people in the West Midlands support regional government and that the local authorities conspiring to impose yet more regional government in the West Midlands are doing so against the wishes of the people they are elected to represent.  Nobody in the West Midlands has been elected to office on a manifesto of regionalisation and therefore nobody has a mandate to make such fundamental changes to local government in the West Midlands without first gaining the consent of the electorate via a referendum.

West Midlands NO! will aim to provide the public with such information that is available on the City Region in a clear and honest way to enable them to make an informed decision on the City Region.  Local authorities involved in the project have shown themselves to be unwilling to do this by refusing to provide information on the proposals and producing press releases that mis-represent facts.  A press release on 5th August claimed that central government had granted £5m to the City Region to tackle poverty and unemployment.  The City Region does not exist and the money was actually granted to the Learning and Skills Council to be distributed around the whole country.  The architects of the City Region have already resorting to misleading statements, censorship and propaganda in order to sell their City Region and the proposals still haven’t been finalised yet! [2]

In addition to opposing the City Region, West Midlands NO! will be calling on local authorities to withdraw their support and co-operation with the unelected and undemocratic regional quango’s that have already been established.  Elections are held for a reason and we do not believe that people would be happy if they realised exactly how much power the unelected regional quoango’s have grabbed from their elected representatives.

Anyone wishing to find out more information on the City Region or to offer assistance to the campaign is invited to contact West Midlands NO! via our website ( or by telephone on 07973296118.

Stuart Parr
West Midlands NO![ENDS]

Note to editors:

  • The campaign is not affiliated to nor associated with any political party or campaign group.
  • Local authorities refuse to provide City region documents including proposals, even when requested under the Freedom of Information Act, on the basis that they will be published in the future (ie. when all the decisions have been made and there is no time to organise any effective opposition).
  • The blueprint for City Regions produced by the British government has them having the power to impose a levy on business rates.
  • The term “indirectly elected” used to argue that regional government is not “unelected” is simply smoke and mirrors and does not change the fact that nobody is elected to serve a regional quango, whether they are elected to a council that is signed up to it or not.
  • The current regional quango’s – West Midlands Regional Assembly, Advatage West Midlands, etc. – are all exempt from the Freedom of Information Act even though they are a public service funded by the taxpayer.
  • Information released early in the planning process of the City Region showed that scrutiny of the unelected City Region would be be provided by the unelected West Midlands Regional Assembly and that both the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council for each participating local authority would get a job in the City Region.



Remember that £5m grant to the “City Region”?

On August 5th the Shropshire Star reported that the West Midlands City Region (as it was known then) had been granted £5m from central government to tackle poverty and unemployment.

Like a lot of people, I thought it a bit strange that central government could award such a vast sum of money to an organisation that doesn’t yet exist and with no guarantees that the organisation that finally comes into being will actually be fit for the purpose.

I can reveal that the £5m was not, contrary to press releases that asserted as such, awarded to the “City Region”.  The grant was, in fact, made to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), a part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

So who has been telling porkies?  I hope to find out very shortly.  In the meantime, here is the email conversation that uncovered this blatant piece of untrue propaganda.


I am writing to you as I am extremely concerned about a report in the Shropshire Star on August 5th regarding the Birmingham, Coventry and Black County City Region and you are, I am told by your colleagues, one of only two people in the council who are familiar with the City Region.

The report said that the City Region has been granted £5m from central government to boost unemployment and tackle poverty across the “region”.

The reason I am concerned is that the City Region doesn’t exist yet and you have told me that it won’t exist until early next year when the proposals will be finalised and made public. I don’t claim to be an expert in banking, financial or company law but I have worked in the finance sector and picked up enough basic knowledge to know that you cannot give money to a company or organisation that doesn’t exist – especially not £5m of public money! I was wondering if you could tell me who has accepted this £5m on behalf of the non-existent City Region and what is being done with it. I assume that the money is being held in escrow by a competent authority with a view to handing over the capital sum with interest to the City Region if and when it comes into being? I believe this is the norm in cases such as this. Is there perhaps a legal entity already set up that will be incorporated as the City Region in future that has the authority to act as if it were the City Region?

The other thing that concerns me is that this central government department has granted the money to the City Region despite not knowing whether the final organisation will actually be fit for the purpose to which this money has been allocated. As you assured me there is no firm proposal for the City Region when I asked for a copy of the proposals, it is impossible to tell whether the final organisation will actually be suitable for tackling poverty and unemployment throughout the whole “region” or whether that money would be better spent by elected councils who know their own town/city.

Could you please advise who this central government department is so that I can ask them about it too?

Thank you in advance,

Stuart Parr aka wonkotsane




I attach a press statement from the regional LSC. This was the statement that the Shropshire Star used as a basis for the report to which your email refers. I would also refer you to the Department for Work & Pensions’ press release on the same subject:

Finally, you might try ‘googleing’ ‘dwp city strategy’ or ‘dwp city strategies’ for more comprehensive information.

I would confirm that no firm decisions have been taken about how the city region will operate or the nature of its responsibilities. However, the partnership will continue to operate in a transparent manner, issuing press statements as ideas are firmed up. We hope to be able to consult on these emerging ideas towards the end of the year.

Gerry Dawson

Head of Regeneration & Economic Development Borough of Telford & Wrekin



Thank you Gerry. So the money has not actually been given to the City Region, it’s been given to the local authorities that want to be in the city region?




The City Strategy is complex. I would refer you to the comprehensive information that is available on the net and to which I have pointed you. 


This should answer all of your legitimate questions.

Gerry Dawson 




I’ve followed that link for the DWP and read the press release. I’ve read as much about the City Region on the internet as I can find and I still don’t understand where this money went. It hasn’t gone to the City Region because it doesn’t exist so who did it go to? Has it been shared between the local authorities or is it being jointly administered or am I missing something here? 






The LSC is the Accountable Body. This means that money will be directed through it. 


May I respectfully suggest that you direct any further questions on this issue either to the LSC or DWP, via the web sites I have indicated.

Many thanks.

Gerry Dawson




I will gladly speak to the LSC if it is they that have received the money. 


Can you just confirm that the £5m was given to the LSC and not the “City Region”?





My last email made this abundantly clear. 


Enjoy the remainder of your weekend.

Gerry Dawson

Hospital Cuts

The Princess Royal Hospital in Telford has been threatened with cuts to its A&E service as the NHS trust in Shropshire tries to cut its £31m debts.  The A&E service has supposedly been saved but at the expense of the consultant-led paediatrics unit meaning that any children taken seriously ill at night will have to be taken about 15 miles to the Royal shrewsbury Hospital instead.

Earlier this year the Shrewsbury & Telford NHS Trust was forced to hand over a chunk of this years budget to a regional NHS bank set up by the Department of Health.  They then had to borrow back that money – and more – in the form of a loan from that bank.  Shortly afterwards a West Midlands regional health authority was created and the NHS Trust subsumed into it.  The NHS Trust had no say in any of this and there was no public consultation.

The regional health authority put a stop to the plans that Shrewsbury & Telford had drawn up to deal with their debts on the basis that someone in Birmingham who has nothing to do with the hospitals is better placed to make a decision about those hospitals and it is the reigonal health authority who have made the decision to cut the level of care at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital.

The regionalisation of England continues unchecked, in secret and unopposed.  The Tories are opposed to it but where are they when services are regionalised and cut back?  Where is Telford’s Tory MP, Mark Pritchard, when these decisions are taken?

Germany unveils “trans-national” regions

Germany has unveiled their planned “trans-national” regions which they will propose when they take over the EU presidency in January.  They have also promised to revive the EU Constitution which was rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands – both pro-EU countries.

The new euroregions will cross national boundaries in an attempt to destroy the borders between member states and foster a European national identity.  A German minister called Wolfgang Tiefensee is quoted as saying “There is the great hope underlying the goal of a United Europe that we can overcome old borders.”  The best map I’ve seen today is, I’m afraid, in the Sun.  Apologies in advance for linking to the gutter press but needs must – The EU’s Mad Map.

Wolfgang, Schieben Sie Ihre Karte auf Ihren Arsch.

EU Constitution poll

A man from Patriotic Poll has contacted me about a poll they have on the EU Constitution.  The question is simple – Should the UK ratify the treaty establishing an EU constitution?  This is the question the British government said they were going to ask us but, as early indications showed the constitution stood about as much chance as a ghost’s fart in a force 10 gale of getting approved, they predictably cancelled the vote.

It’s the wrong type of patriotism for me – British rather than English – but I’m happy to work for the common good.  Click here to vote.

Practice what you preach

Telford & Wrekin Council send a “free” newspaper round to houses and businesses in the borough eight times a year.  It’s an opportunity for the council to tell us all how fabulous they are and to splash the EU flag around on every other page while they tell us about the tiny percentage of our forced EU contributions we have been given back in the form of grants to the borough.

The August edition has an absolutely priceless article written by someone at Telford & Wrekin Council which has recently signed the borough up to the West Midlands city region (now known as the Birmingham, Coventry and Black Country City Region) without any public consultation or a referendum – both of which they have actively refused to provide.

LOCAL Democracy Week, running from Monday 16th October until Friday 20th October, is a very special time both nationally and locally as it’s during this week that democracy, participation and active involvement is celebrated.

What is democracy?
A democracy is when people are able to play a part in decision making and vote for people to represent their views and opinions. In a democracy there is debate and discussion before decisions are made and people are encouraged to be actively involved in their community.

Since Local Democracy Week started in 1997, councils in England and Wales have held over 2,000 events ranging from Question Time to Mayor for the Day, I’m a Councillor Get Me Out Of Here and Political Speed Dating. Last year more than 300 councils took part in Local Democracy Week.

The Local Democracy Campaign 2006 aims to:

  • make councils more relevant and useful to young people
  • encourage young people to ‘take part: take power’
  • make Local Democracy Week bigger and better than before
  • increase councillor involvement in citizenship teaching in schools
  • get councils to devolve power, wherever appropriate, to local people

The theme for this year is “Take Part:Take Power!” and we are inviting young people from across the borough to “Take Part!” in lots of fun events during this week to celebrate their active involvement within the local area.

Young people will also be encouraged to “Take Power!” by sharing their thoughts and feelings about issues that affect them with local decision makers from across the borough. LDW 2006 is being jointly organised by the Borough’s Children & Young People’s Active Involvement Service and Legal and Democratic Services.

For the record, I phoned Legal and Democratic Services at Telford & Wrekin Council after reading this and asked if this applied to the city region. It doesn’t.

Council Baiting

I was a busy bee this afternoon trying to find out what work it is that the city region is going to be doing as nobody seems to have been able (or willing) to tell me before.  First stop Telford & Wrekin Council.

Called T&W Council and the switchboard operator put me through to a bewildered Leisure Services person who then referred me to the PR office.  The lady at the PR office told me that there are only two people at T&W Council that know enough about the city region to talk to me.  I asked her why it was that not even council employees knew anything about this and why, if it is such a good thing, it is all being kept secret.  She took offence at this and haughtily gave me her opinion that it wasn’t a secret at all.  I told her that I had been refused a copy of the proposal for the city region more than once, one occasion being a Freedom of Information Act request.  She took my name and number and left a message for the man in the know to ring me because he is conveniently unavailable today.

Next on my list was the Standards Board for England to ask them if the Leader of the Council, Keith Austin, had a predetermined opinion and/or prejudicial interest when he recommended the cabinet vote in favour of the city region when he gets a job with them and had been quoted more than once in the Shropshire Star beforehand saying what a wonderful idea it is.  They said there may be a case and invited me to submit a complaint.

The thought of this New Labour toad being hauled in front of the Standards Board kept me amused for all of 5 minutes so I decided to phone Birmingham City Council.  I spoke to a North British gentleman called Sandy who I spoke to once a few months ago.  He remembered who I was.  We had a heated discussion in which he failed to explain why the councils in the West Midlands euroregion can’t just co-operate without setting up yet another unelected regional government at the taxpayers expense, where and how the extra investment and benefits are coming from and why there is not going to be any referendum on the city region when even Telford’s europhile Labour MP said that the people of Telford don’t want regional government.  He also explained that the reason people in the North East euroregion rejected their regional assembly in a referendum was because they were unelected, couldn’t pass legislation and didn’t have much power whereas the city region … oh, there’s no difference.  He said that I should trust in the council leaders’ decisions as they were doing what is best for the region.  I suggested that they approved of it because it’s Labour Party policy and it’s a Labour council at which point he shouted that I couldn’t say that to which I replied “I can and I just did” and that the Chief Exec of T&W Council is a card carrying member of the Labour Party.  He got a bit wound up at this point and we weren’t getting anywhere so I made one final stab and getting him to contradict himself by asking him to confirm that we won’t be getting a say in the city region and that the consultation will be held once the decisions have all been made.  He said I couldn’t twist his words like that but confirmed that there wouldn’t be a referendum so … we aren’t going to have a say?

MP in worry over jobs

The following is an excerpt from the newly-redesigned (and frankly appaling) Shropshire Star website on the city region.

MP in worry over jobs

Telford will be losing out on jobs and investment because its name has been left off the newly-planned West Midlands city region, it has been claimed. It was announced today that the proposed new strategic policy-making body will be called The Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country City region. Telford and Solihull councils are the only two to be ignored by the new title.

Today Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard said leaving Telford out of the title would mean it would not benefit from the same opportunities as the named areas. But bosses at Telford & Wrekin Council said the work and decisions of the body was much more important than the name.

This is all well and good Mark but I warned you a while ago that Telford was going to be shafted and did you listen? No, you wanted to wait and see what happened before you did anything. Well, I told you so and even now that you can see that Telford really is getting taken for a ride I bet you still do nothing about it.

City Region gets its name

The West Midlands City Region have officially got its name.  It will be known as the Birmingham, Coverntry and Black Country City Region.

Where does this leave Telford and Solihul, the only two parts of the City Region that aren’t even mentioned in the name?  Exactly where I said we would be – left out in the cold, a suburb of Birmingham.

Volunteers Wanted

Volunteers needed in the West Midlands euroregion to join a campaign against the West Midlands City Region and the rest of the unelected regional bureaucracy.

For more information, contact me.