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Regional Minimum Wage

Gordon Brown is planning to introduce a regional minimum wage which will see people in the South East earning a much higher minimum than people in the Midlands.

Whilst there is a certain logic to the idea – living costs are considerably higher as you get closer to London – the system will be open to abuse and is evidence of a concerted effort to strengthen the regions.

Since coming to power, Gordon Brown has pledged to abolish the unelected Regional Assemblies but has handed over most of their powers – and more – to the unelected Regional Development Agencies. He has also appointed Regional Ministers and pledged his support for regional government in England.

We spoke with an expert mortgage advisor at getmemymortgage.co.uk who told us ‘ this is great news for the public, living in london is costly and increasing the minimum wage for this location is only right, young people are the future and if they cannot afford to live in the capital we will not be able to keep growing.

Setting aside the fact that as he was elected in Scotland nobody has given him a mandate to interfere in local government in England (he cannot do so in his own constituency as it is a matter for the Scottish Parliament), the future for local government under Gordon Brown is obvious. He was a great supporter of John Prescott’s Regional Assemblies and has remained committed to breaking England up into regions despite the continued rejection of regionalisation by the electorate. His support for City Regions, Regional Development Agencies and Unitary Authorities and the appointment of a Regional Minister, establishment of a Regional minimum wage and other region-based changes that he is making points towards another attempt to impose elected regional government on England.

A couple of years ago we were promised referenda on regional government but only the North East euroregion got one. They gave the wrong answer (78% of people said no despite it being the euroregion the British government said had most support for regional government) so the rest were cancelled. However, Gordon Brown’s regime has as much respect for the democratic process as Tony Blair’s did. The promised referendum on the EU not-a-Constitution is no longer going to happen even though the new treaty is 96% identical to the EU Constitution that was rejected by the French and Dutch and which Tony Blair pronounced dead. The three referenda held in Shropshire which all returned “no” votes for the unitary authority the county council proposed have been ignored and Shropshire’s district councils are being abolished in favour of a sub-regional unitary authority.

The British government has shown sustained contempt for public opinion (I could spend hours writing about different examples and still not mention them all) and there is very little possibility of a referendum on regional government. There is a very real danger that within the next 12 months England will finally have been wiped off the map and replaced with 9 euroregions, each with a gutless regional parliament. England will no longer exist except as a name in the history books. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with their national governments will flourish, whilst the ineffective English regions will be competing with each other for a bigger share of the same pot of money, too busy fighting one another to challenge the dominance of the devolved national governments in the other three home nations.

On that apocalyptic note, back to the regional minimum wage and my assertion that it will be open to abuse. Unless regional government is established in England before the next general election, Labour is likely to lose control of the country. It no longer has a majority in Scotland or Wales and doesn’t even stand candidates in Northern Ireland. It has a slim majority in England because of the “reformed” electoral boundaries that allowed them to poll 60,000 votes less than the Conservatives during the last election but still win more seats. If recent local election results are an indication of public opinion, Labour will be devestated at the next general election despite the “Brown Bounce”. However, regional elections are another matter entirely and with the right voting system, Labour stand a very good chance of holding on to a majority of regions and regional minimum wage rates will be an excellent tool to entice voters. Regional funding, regeneration projects and hospital closures have been used to great effect by Labour over the past few years to help secure marginal constituencies and to punish non-Labour areas. There is very little doubt in my mind that a regional minimum wage will be used for the same political purposes.

Press Release: AWM

Words are small comfort when there is very little to back them up

The West Midlands NO! Campaign is urging people not to be taken in by Advantage West Midlands’ self-congratulations over its response to the recent floods.

The £2m which AWM is claiming to be giving out in flood relief is money that, until recently, would have been in the hands of elected local authorities, not an unelected regional quango that is scrutinised by another unelected regional quango.

£250,000 of the £2m allocated is actually for a new attraction at the Severn Valley Railway and not flood relief, how much of the £2m will actually be spent on flood relief?

AWM claims to be offering practical assistance for businesses through its Business Link service and promoting tourism.

However, AWM recently withdrew its funding for the Heart of England Tourist Board which will cease trading at the end of the financial year as a result and they recently regionalised the local Business Link service resulting in such a poor service that the regional Business Link only receives as many phone calls as a single office used to.

Words are small comfort when there is very little to back them up.

Regional Representatives not interested in UA

A few weeks ago, following the announcement that the British government has allowed the Shropshire Unitary Authority to go ahead despite an overwhelming majority rejecting it in three referenda, we wrote to the West Midlands Tory MEP’s group and the West Midlands regional minister, Liam Byrne MP.

We asked the Tory MEP’s group what they were planning to do to protect the interests of their “regional constituents” in Shropshire who were having a Unitary Authority imposed on them against their will and to bring the Conservative-controlled Shropshire County Council into line as the regionalisation of the county is against Tory policy.

The Tory MEP’s group said … nothing – they didn’t even bother to reply to the email and wouldn’t discuss it over the phone.

We asked Liam Byrne MP what he would be doing to protect the interests of his “regional constituents” in Shropshire, Liam Byrne said … nothing – he didn’t bother to reply to the email and his office wouldn’t discuss it over the phone either.

Luckily for the people of Shropshire, the Conservative Shropshire MP’s are still fighting to protect the interests of their constituents.

Someone from the Tory MEP’s group called this morning to say that the email address on their website is wrong and the original may have fallen foul of their spam filters. Liam Byrne’s office is still silent …

What have AWM been spending our money on?

It’s been a busy few weeks and we’ve fallen a bit behind with picking over AWM’s spending so here’s a list of what they’ve been spending our taxes on. Remember, we have no say whatsoever on how they spend our money.

  • A £450m privately-owned business park in Birmingham
  • A 12-acre site, formerly the home of a supermarket in Birmingham (they don’t know what they’re going to do with it other than “regeneration”)
  • Sign-writing black cabs to say “Welcome to the West Midlands” in Birmingham
  • A £2m loan fund for businesses that have paid asked West Midlands Business Link (a poorly performing AWM quango) to come up with a recovery plan for them
  • Converting a Victorian cottage hospital into apartments and work units in Herefordshire
  • £600k in flood relief for Evesham householders
  • The Festival of Xtreme Building in Birmingham
  • £240k to pilot a scheme giving privately-owned firms vouchers for £3k of higher education
  • £81k grant to a privately-owned machine cutting company in Coventry
  • The Midlands Niche Vehicle Network
  • £63k to companies who used to supply MG Rover
  • “Healthy” vending machines in schools
  • Is all of this a good use of taxpayers money? Who knows? We aren’t allowed an opinion, we are just required to fill their very deep pockets.

The PR Manager of Business Link West Midlands has emailed us to advise that BLWM is giving the recovery plans to businesses for free.

Relating to the Public

HCL Marketing Solutions is the PR company for the unelected regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands, and its various associated unelected quangos. HCL is based at the Innovation Centre at Keele University – a complex funded by … Advantage West Midlands.

In this post on recent AWM spending, Russ Cockburn, the PR Manager for West Midlands Business Link posted a very unprofessional, negative comment under a fake name. Unfortunately for Mr Cockburn it is relatively simple to match up the source of his comment and the “official” email he sent at around the same time/.

This behaviour leads to a number of questions:

  • Was this done whilst the taxpayer was paying for Mr Cockburn’s time?
  • Is this type of behaviour official policy?
  • Have AWM told HCL to target anyone criticising them in this way?

Now, I’m not an expert in PR – we don’t have a bottomless pit of taxpayers money for propaganda at West Midlands NO! – but I’m pretty sure that the whole point of PR is to promote an organisation positively, not with negativity. Rather than commenting under a pseudonym (and getting caught) in an entirely negative and disparaging manner, shouldn’t HCL be spelling out the benefits of an unelected, unaccountable regional quango spending millions of pounds of taxpayers money?

Or perhaps there are some things that even the mighty marketing industry can’t spin positively?