The formation of Greater Birmingham, ‘West Midlands Combined Authroity’,
-‘what’s it all about ?’
Well, a fair bit of it is ‘all about’… getting additional funding from the EU.
More money, more funds for ‘our region’. Great.
Except of course, firstly it’s money that we’ve handed over to the EU previously, and at best, only ever get back about a third
(approximately £5bn of our, £18 billion or so, ‘annual contribution’…)
Secondly, as with ‘all things EU’, any EU funds will come with strict controls and conditions on how it’s spent,
– and if those conditions aren’t met for any reason, expect fines, and additional directives/controls to be introduced from Brussels,
– for example, Congestion Zones/Charging, or taxation by mileage
( already actively being worked on
The EU hasn’t been able to take control of the UK ‘as a whole nation’ quite as rapidly as it would like
(although the Coalition has conceded our right to govern ourselves in quite a few more areas only recently)
– so ‘our friends in Brussels’ have hit upon the idea of taking us over in a piecemeal, ‘regional way’…
– by offering to give back a little more of our money, but only on the condition that we form new, very large ‘regional bodies’ (a case in point being ‘Greater Birmingham’)
(Our ‘membership fee’ is increased significantly each year, they can afford to do so)
These new bodies will soon become very dependent on the new EU funding stream, and Brussels bureaucrats will be able to exert almost complete control of them.
It’s no secret that Birmingham City Council is in severe financial difficulties, and is currently attempting to plug a funding gap of £822 million by 2018
( http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/12/council-cuts-statutory-services-sir-albert-bore-birmingham )
– so no surprise then that its leaders appear more than happy to accept pretty much any terms and conditions imposed by the EU in return for new funding
– and can on occasion be seen ‘dancing enthusiastically’ to EU tunes, over in Brussels.
Leaders of Sandwell MBC, similarly keen to access ‘the new EU money pot’, have already effectively agreed to join up with Birmingham City Council to enable them to do so,
– and are now very eager to play their part towards the creation of the required, huge, new, ‘EU regional body’ (name still to be confirmed)
– no doubt seeing it as hopefully providing them with an opportunity to fritter away even more money, on projects such as The (now closed) Public.
Again, not hugely surprising.
What is perhaps a little surprising, is that this has all been decided without consulting their electorate, the people whose lives will ultimately be greatly affected by it.
(The leader of Sandwell Council apparently is claiming that a ‘consultation process’ took place last year, unfortunately no one seems to have noticed it…)
One thing is guaranteed, the new regional body, ‘Greater Birmingham’, ‘West Midlands Combined Authority’, ‘The huge Brummy Quango’, or whatever it ends up being called (perhaps just ‘European Region G3’),
– will be totally unelected and unaccountable.
It will certainly not simply represent ‘an easy way of accessing lots of extra money’, without having to give up or change anything
(as some members of Sandwell MBC are keenly, if rather disingenuously, attempting to portray)