Today’s Birmingham Post reports that the Government will pay consultants more than £210,000 for an ‘unprecedented’ second opinion document detailing how many homes should be built in the West Midlands.
This news has incited the anger of many West Midlands councillors who have blasted the whole exercise as a waste of money, and not just because this hefty sum amounts to an extortionate £750 per page, but also because the findings of the Nathaniel Litchfield report are ‘undeliverable’. The consultants are accused overestimating capacity and proposing to build on greenbelt land in Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire.
A previous report had already been compiled by the doomed West Midlands Regional Assembly who recommended a maximum of 365,000 homes to be built, compared to the 445,000 estimated by consultants. Nathaniel Litchfield, were appointed by Baroness Andrews, who now finds herself accused of trying to ‘bounce councils into planning for unacceptably high levels of housing growth’.
The words 'pot', 'kettle' and 'black' spring to mind, but the Regional Assembly chairman has reacted to these findings as "a total waste of taxpayers’ money", and with so many councillors echoing his sentiments and an undeniably large amount of money thrown at pursuing this issue, it’s hard to disagree.
Glyn Pitchford, who represents the business sector on the Assembly said:
“It would be all very well if the conclusions were sustainable, but this is a waste of the paper it is written on.
“It is totally wrong for London-based consultants to tell us where we should be building homes in the West Midlands. Of course we need more affordable homes, but we should be concentrating on developing brownfield sites in urban areas and not desecrating the green belt.”
And as if this costly and pointless document hadn’t already cost enough, the Government Office for the West Midlands have also warned that costs will rise as the consultants are still to be paid for briefing sessions with the media and local councils.
This seems like a deliberate move to undermine the findings of the original Regional Assembly report, despite the fact the Government are stressing that the work was commissioned to provide independent evidence for a public enquiry next year, but regardless of motive, this is a hugely costly exercise that appears to have thrown up unsustainable (if convenient) results and taxpayers have every right to look on it as a waste, especially after having now funded two such studies.