Have you ever heard of RegenWM? Well you’re paying for them so pay attention. Here’s their mission:
The mission of RegenWM is to promote and develop regeneration excellence in the West Midlands. Our objectives are:
• To improve the skills, capacities and competencies of those working in the sector, in particular cross-occupational working.
• To provide information and intelligence to encourage the pursuit of excellence through the uptake of good practice.
• To influence policy and decision making networks regionally and nationally.
• To secure a sustainable future for RegenWM and its mission.
You can bet the last one is the biggest priority of them all! Sustaining and justifying their existence is the full time job of a quango.
So what do they actually do? Well looking at their website it’s all pretty vague but they primarily seem to ‘provide information’. They run seminars, ‘connect’ people, approach graduates to get involved with regeneration, run Design Environment West Midlands (?!), hold lots of conferences and seemingly give out prizes.
All in all it seems as though they orbit various regeneration projects fairly aimlessly, providing information that would no doubt be freely available to those who seek it without the existence of RegenWM. But then it's likely they’d insist that their function is far too complex for us mere cash cows to comprehend…
In their ‘hot news’ it states that they recently planted 56 trees, ‘one for each of the RegenWM 2007 Prize entries’. Apparently this was to offset the paper used for the prizes catalogue produced. But how are they going to make-up for the money they blew on the same brochures?
Here’s the board (prepare for a little deja vous, they’re an ‘operating unit’ of AWM):
Gerard Coyne - RegenWM Chair
AWM Board Member
Sue Davis CBE - RegenWM Vice-Chair
Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust
Professor Gerald Bennett
West Midlands Higher Education Association
Walsall Regeneration Company
Economic Development Director, Learning and Skills Council
Government Office West Midlands
Accord Housing Association
RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors)
BURA (British Urban Regeneration Association)
Advantage West Midlands
Community First - Herefordshire & Worcestershire
Greets Green Partnership
Our Board is known legally as a 'second tier board' which means that it is an advisory group who advise a first tier publically-appointed organisation (that's AWM and its Board). In practice we have a strong and mature relationship with the Development Agency, with them being represented on the Board whilst happy to have all authority over the work programme delegated to that Board group. In practice, therefore, RegenWM enjoys an independence of operation and delivery and is able to guide its own affairs in consultation with appropriate partners and stakeholders.
They refer to AWM as ‘publically appointed’ as though in deference to their superior mandate, despite the fact the RDA is completely unelected and unaccountable to the public.
The very existence of a first and second tier board system really just says it all. With yet another money-draining layer in this complex unwieldy set-up we can see exactly how our money is being eaten up and yet experience few tangible benefits.
These are the people who hold the purse strings and exercise power using our money. We, on the other hand, are completely powerless to eject them.