It is now looking increasingly likely that the West Midlands will be bidding adieu to its regional assembly after it seems that the power of the assemblies in the South West and North East could be handed back to elected councils as early as 2010.
Jon Walker comments in today’s Birmingham Post that the £2.4 million-per-year West Midlands Regional Assembly is also set to be axed, and so this over-funded ‘talking shop’ will at last cease to be a drain on the region’s taxpayers. The decision is likely to be a popular one with the many people who have opposed the assembly since its conception.
This is not to say we have seen the back of regionalisation of course. Advantage West Midlands (AWM) – The Regional Development Agency - will still be in place spending up to £400 million-per-year of taxpayers’ money, although now it will be accountable to local councils, who will now be responsible for planning. The West Midlands will also have their own Minister, Liam Byrne MP, representing the region in Westminster as well as monitoring AWM, effectively making the West Midlands Regional Assembly defunct. Of course, some would argue that it already was.
Walker points out that if this new system simply involves West Midlands MPs monitoring Mr Byrne’s work through question and answer sessions in the House of Commons and the creation of a West Midlands Select Committee, then in a sense this does just look like replacing one committee with another in Parliament…
The Review of Sub-national Economic Development and Regeneration is set to be published by the Treasury and the Department for Communities and Local Government next week, and even those who resent the fact that the euro-regions are being retained and question Mr. Byrne’s ability, as a Birmingham MP, to represent the entire West Midlands region must at least take some heart from this step towards scrapping one of Prescott’s most expensive and undemocratic legacies