"Men in grey suits"

When I was first elected as a Member of Parliament, the then editor of the Worcester News advised me never to expect a story about “men in grey suits” to make it to the paper. He meant that stories about how government worked were boring and I have always tried to follow his advice.

Human interest stories and decisions that directly affect the lives of people, for good or ill, are much more engaging - but sometimes the less interesting issues are extremely important.

So it is with last week’s Kerslake Review, which may well have passed you by because it appears to be just about Birmingham. It’s a forensic analysis of the shortcomings of Birmingham City Council - but its recommendations would have very serious implications for Worcestershire.

The review sets out Birmingham City Council’s failures and proposes steps to fix them. Many of these recommendations are welcome – it is important to all of us that the second biggest city in our country has a properly functioning council. However the recommendation to create a new combined authority that would eventually include the three northern districts of Worcestershire puts our county’s interests at risk.

If Worcestershire were to lose control of economic policy, transport and strategic planning in Redditch, Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest – as Kerslake recommends - it would endanger the future of all our councils and undermine our prosperity. By taking such important functions away from Worcestershire, there is a real risk that the county council and the councils of South Worcestershire (Wychavon, Worcester City and Malvern Hills) simply wouldn’t be able to operate effectively.

But, it’s not only South Worcestershire that would be disadvantaged. Being on the outskirts of a huge authority, would also mean that the three northern districts would be ignored and side-lined.

I like many things about Birmingham, but as long as I have been a Member of Parliament, I have fought for Worcestershire’s independence from it.

The fact that Birmingham recently opposed job creation proposals in the South Worcestershire Development Plans - and tried to impose even more new houses on us - shows that Birmingham does not have our best interests at heart.

The next few months could be important ones for Worcestershire.


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