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Events Calendar

Meetings for 2004

May 1st - Management Committee (10.45 pm) & Convention Hearing (12.30-2.30) Birmingham and Midland Insitute, Margaret Street, Birmingham

The Convention Hearing will consider views from groups currently excluded or marginalised by the existing Governance of the West Midlands Region. The focus will be on women, young people and black ethnic minorities. The results of the hearing will inform the Convention's proposals about the future Governance of the Region. Non members wishing to attend should read the note on the right.

The Management Committee meeting is brought forward from May 8th - please amend your diary.

July 3rd - Members Meeting

October 16th - Management Committee-All Directors



Please note: Non members of WMCC can, by prior agreement of the management committee attend members meetings and hearings , but cannot vote. Attendance at meetings is open to anyone who supports action in favour of democratically accountable regional government for the official government region of the West Midlands. Please register in advance with the Convention Office - debbie.steventon@telford.gov.uk

Priorities for 2004

"to influence proposed legislation on regional assemblies"

The AGM of 2003 set a number of priorites to be adrressed this year. They include:

  • Finalising the Our Region-Our Choice - Making a Difference report by end of May 2003.
  • Influencing the content of the legislation about the powers and constitution of elected Regional Assemblies due for publication in draft in Jun/July in advance of the referendums in the three northern regions.
  • Establishing Campaign for a Referendum in 2006 about establishing an elected Regional Assembly

Directors were re-elected as follows:

For 1 year - Sue Davis, Les Lawrence, William Lawrence, John Mawson and Sam Margrave.

For 2 years - Phil Davis, Colin Beardwood, Paul Tilsey, John Cooper, Felicity Norman and John Cooper for 2 years.

Phil Davis was appointed Chairman.

More about WMCC

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New Research Commissioned

"the engagement of women in regional government, rural affairs"

Two new research projects have recently been commisioned by WMCC. The first of these will take the form of action research and will look into the role of Women in Regional Government. The second  is concerned with devolution and rural affairs following on from the recent Haskins Report.

Full Story

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Northern Review of Sustainable Communities

"a similar Midlands study is planned"

RDA's in the three northern regions are to lead a review of how Government activity can be better co-ordinated to deliver its
Sustainable Communities Plan. A similar Midlands study is proposed for later in the year.

The Northern study will concentrate on three areas:

  • Analysis of the print activities of bodies such as regional housing boards and regional economic strategies
  • Examination of how individual projects and strategies could be linked across urban regeneration companies and housing market renewal pathfinders
  • Identification of actions to be taken.

Full Story

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WM Labour Conference to follow Referendums

"a major conference to decide policy on West Midlands devolution"

It now seems likely a major conference may take place in autumn 2004 to decide what is to be the policy of the Labour Party in the Region about the establishment of a directly elected West Midlands Regional Assembly. This will follow the referendums in the northern regions.



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Transport Regionalisation Review Announced

"to consider how we can devolve more decisions on public transport "

A major review of transport policy is expected to "open the door for rail regionalisation.... and consider how to devolve more decisions on public transport". WMCC's view is that "The statement is a little ambiguous and falls short of the stronger references to regionalisation than the media had trailered in advance of the statement"

Full Story

 

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Haskin's Report Welcomed

"Rural delivery recommendations could boost regional powers"

The Haskin's report on rural delivery recommends that the current regional social and economic responsibilities of the Countryside Agency are transferred to the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). The RDAs are set to become the cornerstone function of the new elected assemblies.

Full Story

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Rural Needs Report Backs Local Democracy

"stronger local and regional government is needed to meet rural needs."

A Countryside Agency Board visit to study proposed changes in local and regional government in the North East has concluded that rural needs will be better served with greater local government 'capacity', including parish councils, and greater capacity within the voluntary and community sectors and also within the North East Regional Rural Affairs Forum.

Full Story

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Consultation on Campaign Spending Limits

"permitted participants in all regions should have their expenditure uniformly capped at £100,000."

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has recently published a consultation document - 'Registration and spending limits for those wishing to campaign in referendums'

The document argues that,' In UK referendums, the spending limit for other permitted participants (i.e. those who are not registered political parties) is approximately a tenth of the limit for designated organisations. As varying the limit between regions could cause confusion, we recommend that permitted participants in all regions should have their expenditure uniformly capped at £100,000.'

Full Story

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Campaigning Gets Under Way in North

"YES and NO Campaigns are already running"

Campaigning for and against the establishment of elected regional Assemblies is now well underway in the North East, Yorkshire and Humber and the North West. YES and NO Campaigns are running and ODPM is engaged on a number of fronts to raise public awareness of the issues.

Full Story

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Four Regions to Pilot All-Postal Voting in June Elections

"Scope of experiment extended "

Government Plans to use the local and European elections to pilot all-postal voting have been scrapped following a defeat of the Government's proposals in the House of Lords. All-postal voting will be the basis of the referendums to be held in the autumn about the establishment of elected regional assemblies in the three northern regions, but they will not now have the benefit of experience which could have been drawn from the pilots.

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Referenda for three Northern Regions

"the West Midlands will learn from first wave regions ..we will be pressing to be in the next wave of devolution."

 Three northern regions are to hold referenda with a view to establishing elected assemblies. The announcement represents "a big victory over the cynics at the centre who have fought to keep decision-making out of the hands of the regions" according to Colin Beardwood, chair of the WMCC who added that he is looking forward to taking the same question to the people of the West Midlands in the next round of referenda "there is now a real prospect of a our own region holding a referendum as early as 2006".

Full Story

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Devolution Prospectus Agreed

"a radical change in the way the West Midlands is governed" 

WMCC will publish proposals for devolved democratically Regional Government for the West Midlands later this year.

A draft devolution prospectus for the West Midlands was agreed by a meeting of Convention supporters on the 5th July. The draft will be published in the autumn when views will be sought from all the Regions existing public insitutions, elected representatives, other regional interest and most importantly the public.

A Convention spokesperson said, "We propose a radical change in the way the West Midlands is governed as a means of democratising growing regionalisation and more effective way of delivering what the region needs in terms of sustainable development, employment, investment. The package will contribute to building a new more vibrant and inclusive politics in which all parts of the region and all the region's population would have a part to play. Central to the new approach will be a greater emphasis on bringing decision making and economic activity to the local level. It is much mor than just establishing an elected Regional Assembly although such a move is seen to be central to shifting power from Westminster and Whitehall.

If you wish to be consulted about WMCC proposals please contact Debbie Steventon

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Community Ambassadors Sought

"to help us keep up to date about the interests and needs of the people of West Midlands "

WMCC wishes to engage with all parts of the West Midlands Region and particularly to be aware of the interests and needs of its population. This policy is aimed at informing the Convention's proposals and campaigning in support of them.

We wish to appoint/designate individuals Convention ambassadors with special responsibilities. These can include a political party, business, local government, the voluntary and community sector, young people, women, black ethnic minorities, or a part of the region or some other some other interest.

Full Story

Contact us about becoming a Community Ambassador by filling in the form at the foot of this page

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The English Regions Debate: What do the English Want?

"majority would vote 'yes' in a referendum "

A new report has concluded that there is a high level of public support in the West Midlands and all the other English regions in holding referendums on the establishment of elected regional government .It has also concluded that there would be a majoritory in the West Midlands and all the other regions for the establishment of such assemblies.

Full Story

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Government Appointments to Quangos favour South East

"A number of departments could not provide information and do not consider this to be an important issue"

The response to questions posed in parliament asked by Joyce Quinn MP have confirmed that (where the information is available) appointments to Government Quangos continue to be dominated by individuals resident in the South East and London. A number of departments could not provide the information and do not consider this to be an important issue.

Commenting on the responses a Convention spokesperson said "the West Midlands is clearly underrepresented in its own Government across a wide range of domestic public policy. It continues to be a matter of considerable concern that information about the individual members of quangos, including their places of residence, remuneration, is not in the public domaine. The absence of such information can only undermine public confidence in these bodies and strengthen the case for them all to be made more democratically accountable to the people of the region"

For further information see Hansard, March April 2003

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Commons Support for Elected Regional Assemblies

"wealth gap is growing" 

The economy of the West Midlands Region has consistently grown less than the average for the UK, and significantly less than the London, South East and Eastern Regions, says a Committee of MP's.

The Committee says 'the West Midlands, the three northern regions and the South West are not fulfilling their potential, experiencing reduced life chances, higher unemploymnet, ill health and lower productivity than is socially justifiable and economically desirable.'

This state of affairs is at odds with the Government's aim of maximum growth for all the regions and reducing the gap between them

Full Story

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West Midlands is near bottom of House of Lords League 

"second chamber is dominated by South East"

The Campaign for the English Regions (CFER) has published new research demonstrating the weakness of the West Midlands voice in the House of Lords.

In the first exercise of its kind, the Regional Map of the House of Lords proves what has long been presumed that London and the South East hugely dominate the second Chamber at the expense of much of England

Full Story

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Regional Assembly Withdraws Referendum Call

"more work is necessary to engage public support for an elected body"

The existing West Midlands Regional Assembly is not calling for a referendum to be held to test public support in the region for the establishment of a directly elected Regional Assembly.

The Assembly has told the Government that 'While media interest is growing and opinion research suggests there is concern in Whitehall, more work is necessary to engage wider public interest in the devolution agenda.'

Full Story

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Local Labour Party Confirms Support for Elected Assembly

"public campaign to engage support to will be considered"

The West Midlands Labour Party has confirmed that in principle it supports the establishment of an elected regional assembly for the West Midlands.

At a Regional Conference in Malvern at the beginning of March it was agreed that the Party's Regional Board will seek the views of Party members and through a further regional conference in 2004 and 2005 move towards initiating a wider public campaign in support of holding a referendum on the question of regional government.

Meanwhile the establishment of directly elected assemblies for the Midlands regions has been supported by a meeting of delegates to the Midlands TUC. The delegate conference called for the assemblies to be given wide ranging powers to make a real difference in both regions Delegates also called for the Assemblies to build on the established arrangements for involving Trade Union representatives to a greater extent than existed at present.

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Significant Policy Disparities in UK Health Systems

"...English patients will be going to Boots operated clinics ... and Welsh patients will be treated at ones run jointly by LAs and the NHS"

 The four health systems in the UK are moving in markedly different directions according to a comprehensive review of devolution in the UK. Envisaging English patients going to Boots operated clinics in 10 years and Welsh patients being treated as ones run jointly by local governments and the NHS, Scott Greer of the Constitution Unit, an independent think tank says ' the choice of each system is the product of real political differences, which have been taken for England, and the rest of the UK.'

Full Story

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Wording of Referendum Criticised

"90 word preamble is too long"

Controversy has arisen over the proposed wording for referendum ballot papers. The question, "Should there be an elected assembly for the (insert name of region) region?" Is to be preceded by a ninety-word preamble. This follows the Electoral Commission's Referendum Question Assessment Guidelines which suggest the addition of such a preamble where "the referendum issue is a complex or unfamiliar one… rather than have a long question"

The Campaign for the English Regions CFER insist that this distinction between question and preamble is largely spurious and claim that "voters will have to read this preamble many times".

Full Story

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Transport Specialists Back Beefed-up Assembly

"condemnation of existing arrangements"
 

 Leading Transport specialists from across the West Midlands have concluded that the region's pressing transport needs will only be met if an elected West Midlands Regional Assembly is given the powers to deliver as well as plan transport.

Full Story

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Report Urges Open Government

"a new kind of representative body...more open to citizens and regional stakeholders than local councils" 

A new report report Regional Assembly for all the West Midlands, concludes that an elected Regional Assembly for the region needs to be a different kind of body than local councils and Westminster. It needs to be more open to citizens and regional stakeholders and interest groups-it has to be more inclusive of different interests.

A Seminar is being held at the Orange Studio in Birmingham at 11.00am on the 22nd November to consider the report and the implications for a devolution settlement for the West Midlands. The event is being jointly organised by the Convention the West Midlands Governance Research Group and the existing West Midlands Regional Assembly.

Full Story

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New Study to find solutions to economic divisions

"it will address the serious economic disparities which are grouwing across the UK"

The Institute of Public Policy and Research has announced it is to host a project on regional economic policy that will help address the serious economic disparities which are grouwing across the UK.Welcoming the intitiative George Morran,WMCC Project Director said "this initiative can make an important contribution to national economic policy and the important contribution of devolved ,democratically accountable regional government".

Download the report in .doc format

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Devolution for England: What they say

"Government Ministers (and others) speak out in support"

"We will see the biggest ever shift in Britain from the 'old Whitehall knows best' culture to a Britain of not one but many centres of initiative and decision-making power"

Gordon Brown, Wolverhampton Febriary 2003

"Devolution in Wales is just one part of a much wider programme of constitutional reform designed to move us away from a centralised Britain to a more democratic, decentralised, plural state"

Tony Blair Welsh Assembly on 10th October 2001

"..we are entering an era in which national government, instead of directing, enables powerful regional and local initiatives to work"

Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer January 2002

"Too many aspects of regional policy are designed centrally, and implemented by agencies and divisions of central government departments"

John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, June 2001

"Spain and Portugal witnessed a devolution of power to regional and local level which could explain the increased turnout [at elections]"

Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Transport Local Government and the Regions, November 2001

***

A recent joint DTI / Treasury report, "Productivity in the UK" notes the continuing economic inequalities between the regions. The report concludes that a significant factor in sustained regional inequalities is the lack of an effective institutional framework at the regional level.

***

In 'Where Now for New Labour?' (Fabian Society) Professor Anthony Giddens, director of the LSE and third way guru to Tony Blair, sets out his support for regional government:

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 Speeches

"Government Ministers (and others) speak out in support"

"Regional Devolution"

John Prescott
, Deputy Prime Minister,
Speech given at North East Regional Assembly, June 2001.

Download in .doc or .pdf format

"Regional Governance: Dream or a Nightmare for Local Democracy"

David Curry
, Conservative MP for Skipton,
Speech given at Annual Meeting of the St. Williams Foundation in September 2001 and published in Viewpoints the Foundation's Journal, Series 3 200/2001

Download in .doc or .pdf format

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Recent Publications 

Devolution in Practice: Public Policy Differences Within the UK

Edited by John Adams and Peter Robinson (IPPR).

This book explores the public policy implications of the devolved administrations, asks whether variations public policy really matter and whether they should be welcomed or viewed with concern.

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Women's Political Participation in the United Kingdom

by Meg Russell (The Constitution Unit, UCL).

A report looking at the background to women's under-representation, women's representation in elected office today, and women's participation in broader political activity. For more details see: www.ucl.ac.uk/comstitution-unit/reports

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England: The State of the Regions

Edited by John Tomaney and John Mawson (The Policy Press).

An authoritative volume bringing together some of the country's leading experts to provide the first up-to-date and comprehensive picture of the state of regionalism in England. To order, please e-mail: direct.orders@marston.co.uk For more information you can visit: www.policypress.org.uk

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Community Ambassadors

"Just fill in the form to find out how to become a WMCC Community Ambassador"

We are now urgently seeking volunteers to act as Ambassadors for WMCC in all parts of the Region. We want to connect with local communities, interest groups, local government, business and other non governmental organisations as well as local media. The Convention will pay reasonable expenses to those apponted as its ambassadors.

Fill in the form below to arrange for an informal discussion about your potential involvement as a Community Ambassador

I would like to discuss how I
can become a WMCC Community Ambassador

 
My contact details are:
 
Name  
 
Company/organisation  
E-mail address  
Telephone number  
Fax number  


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Now click on the "Send" button

 

If you prefer not to use the online form you can submit the same information by phone, fax or post to the address given below 

 Quiz

Spring Quiz

Click for answers

1. Referendums on regional devlolution will be carried out using all-postal voting

true or false?

2.WMCC changed its terms of reference in Autumn 2003. It now campaigns for:

a) Elected regional government for the West Midlands?
b) More funds for existing local goverment?
c) More MPs to represent the region?

3. Which West Midlands castle once housed the King's Council for Wales and the Marches?

a) Beaudesert
b) Ludlow
c) Hay-on-Wye
d) Stokesay

West Midlands Constitutional Convention
C/o Cllr Phil Davis,
PO Box 213
Telford TF3 4LD.
Tel: 01952 202451
phil.davis@wrekin.gov.uk