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Old October 26th, 2008, 11:10 PM   #1
U475 Foxtrot
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10 Things, Item 3 - Greater Birmingham / Elected Mayor

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Smalltown politics holding back Birmingham, claims thinktank leader
Oct 26 2008 By Tom Scotney, Business Staff
Dermot Finch

One of the country’s top urban thinkers has said Birmingham suffers from a lack of effective leadership and is in danger of being ignored on the world stage.

And Dermot Finch, director of the Centre for Cities thinktank, said “parochial politics” were holding the image of the city back.

Speaking at a Birmingham Forward lunch at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mr Finch said the West Midlands needed a radical rebranding – including adopting a regional name like ‘Greater Birmingham’ – if it wanted to catch up with the global profile rivals like Manchester had built up for themselves.

And he added this rebranding would have to include better leadership across the city. He said: “Every time I’m here, I hear mutterings about the quality of the city’s leadership. Looking from the outside, it appears less strong than in other big cities like Manchester.

"I was in Washington last week and they’d heard of [Manchester council leader] Richard Leese, and the Manchester city-region is moving forward more quickly than Birmingham’s. They’d never heard of Mike Whitby.

“I’m not just talking about Mike Whitby here. Leadership across the whole city-region is not strong enough. There’s too much tension between the local authorities, and the inability to agree a compelling brand for the city-region is just one symptom of that. Your city and the city-region need stronger leadership, across the board.”

Mr Finch was speaking about the impact of the impending recession on how cities would have to operate.

He said tough times would be coming up for cities, with cutbacks in public spending inevitable, and added not enough had been done to make sure regeneration took in whole cities, rather than just “shiny new city centres”.

And he said while he admired Birmingham’s Big City Plan, more needed to be done to address unemployment rates, lack of skills, and relatively low level of population growth.

He claimed adopting the “Greater Birmingham” name would help solve these problems, saying delivering housing, transport and job training at a region-wide level would make more sense.

“It doesn’t make sense to deliver these at the local, or national, level,” he said. “They need to be delivered by you, at the city-regional level.

“Our research shows that the seven (or eight) authorities within the Birmingham city-region should collaborate more closely together, and pool their funding, to deliver better housing, transport and job training.

“The Birmingham city-region should bite the bullet, and call itself “Greater Birmingham”. Individual brands like Dudley and Sandwell don’t mean anything in the global marketplace – nor does the “West Midlands”, which could be anywhere if you’re based in Mumbai.

“I realise this will be very unpopular in Dudley – which has a fear of being swallowed up by Birmingham, and wants to preserve its own identity. But identity is not singular. I’m from Clitheroe, Lancashire, the North West, England and the UK. Parochial politics should not exercise a veto on necessary collaboration.

“The Greater Birmingham brand should not be a threat to others like Dudley and Coventry. It’s quite simply the best brand for the whole city-region. If Greater Manchester can do it, why can’t you?”
http://www.birminghampost.net/news/w...5233-22122202/
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Old October 26th, 2008, 11:23 PM   #2
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Quite topical considering Stoke on Trent's recent vote

I agree with the shut up with it and get on with approach to the name. If we can start presenting an image of a Greater Birmingham and create some self-fulfilling images of ourselves in the same way Manchester has we could achieve a lot more. Confidence breeds confidence and if we can get people to start believing some things I hope that can get bring some confidence and make achieving things a stepping stone to achieving more things.

There's a strength through a first among equals approach to the name and recognising the Greater Birmingham area as a region of diverse peoples and towns and cities.

It's quite apparent that we need a coordinated approach that a regional name and elected Mayor could bring in areas such as transport.

I'd say it definitely needs to get buy in and lots of potential conflicts need addressing with clear raison d'etre and remit as to get the varying authorities to agree is bad enough as it is before it would work. If they represent certain things such as transport, planning and local business controls with the exisiting authorities doing other things so there is clear understanding from public what they're voting for and what it does then might work.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 12:13 AM   #3
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All the above makes perfect sense. One problem is the name West Midlands is still instilled in many people's minds including the young. Solihull is an unofficial south-eastern suburb of Birmingham, while places like Stourbridge, Dudley and Smethwick are western suburbs. There's no other way of describing them if you look at the map of the conurbation. Forget this parochial nonense please and let's all work under the name of Greater Birmingham.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 12:21 AM   #4
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life would be so much easier with a greater bham lol
try teaching settlement hierarchy to year 8 kids in solihull, it all gets very confusing
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Old October 27th, 2008, 10:48 AM   #5
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Well, I was staunchly pro-DE Mayor, but I am faultering slightly.
I read an article by Mike Whitby, and further political commentary, and I can see that the current system of leader + cabinet can work, but only if control is relinquished by Whitehall.

Ultimately that is the thing - DE-mayor or not, we need to wrest more control of our own destiny from central government and place it with the local authority.
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 06:03 PM   #6
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You don't meet many people around the world from the West Midlands who say that's where they are from, they always (slightly annoyingly) say they are from Birmingham!

You can't blame them, as more people know birmingham than sandwell or some other part of Greater Birmingham. Lets all start using Birmingham, maybe from common use some of the councillors might get a hint and think realistically about the regions' future
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 07:51 PM   #7
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Birmingham, Greater Birmingham.

The place needs a mayor.
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 02:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morestoreysplease View Post
All the above makes perfect sense. One problem is the name West Midlands is still instilled in many people's minds including the young. Solihull is an unofficial south-eastern suburb of Birmingham, while places like Stourbridge, Dudley and Smethwick are western suburbs. There's no other way of describing them if you look at the map of the conurbation. Forget this parochial nonense please and let's all work under the name of Greater Birmingham.
But MSP, how can Stourbridge and Dudley be 'suburbs' of Birmingham when they are individual towns with their own town halls and in Dudley's case its own council? A suburb is mostly just a housing sprawl with a few shops thrown in for good measure.

Also, I just hate the name "Greater Birmingham".


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Originally Posted by OperateOnMe View Post
You don't meet many people around the world from the West Midlands who say that's where they are from, they always (slightly annoyingly) say they are from Birmingham!

You can't blame them, as more people know birmingham than sandwell or some other part of Greater Birmingham. Lets all start using Birmingham, maybe from common use some of the councillors might get a hint and think realistically about the regions' future
If I ever have to say where I'm from I will often say that it's near or not far from Birmingham but I will never say I live IN Birmingham - because I don't! My most local town and city is Dudley and Wolverhampton, but they're 10-15 miles away from Birmingham and are big towns in their own right.
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 11:01 AM   #9
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But they are both towns in the Birmingham conurbation which depend on Birmingham for their existence. Nothing is black and white in these regards. What about Solihull? It's a big town with its own council, and a very nice shopping area, even 2 department stores. But you would struggle to call it anything other than a Birmingham suburb in reality.
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 11:20 AM   #10
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This is the problem. I tell this to a lot of people from Dudley - Dudley IS a suburb of Birmingham.

I'm not from the West Midlands, so I have an open mind. There is a huge divide between Brum and the Black Country, and it's hurting everyone. People from Dudley are stuck in a bubble of wanting to be distinct and individual.

I think the region needs to be held at the scruff of the neck to sort it all out. One way to do this is with a regional assembly with an elected mayor.

The councils are at the heart of the problem. Dudley wont work with Birmingham, for example. It takes our MPs to intervene to sort things out.

I'm also amazed at the amount of people from Dudley I meet who have never been (or maybe in the last 20 years) travelled to Brum. It's usually not a "I have no reason to go", it is "I don't like Brum as I'm from Dudley". Shocking yes, they are only 7 miles apart.
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 11:49 AM   #11
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I can never understand how the boroughs of Greater Manchester seem so happy with how they are promoted under the same umbrella whereas the West Midlands councils seem happy to attack each other and are desperate to been seen as individual, which clearly isn't working!
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 12:14 PM   #12
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I think a lot of councils are always on shaky ground political-majority wise so that makes them insular, and an easy way of getting votes is to perpetrate a mythical baddie (i.e. Brum or a neighbouring council).

Hopefully they will stabilise, and now that the decline of manufacturing has stabilised, they will be less fearful and see the benefits of co-operation. The city-region board will help this.
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 12:16 PM   #13
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I have conflicting thoughts on this one, I want a greater Birmingham but I find it hard to concieve of one. The Black country and Birmingham are very different, perhaps too different to reconcile their differences and work together for the greater good.

I think first things first, irrespective of whether or not a Greater Birmingham is to be created we need to look at the council boundaries and look to see if they truly reflect the make-up of Brum. It has always annoyed me that "Birmingham" city council extends mostly to suburbs in the south and east whilst cutting those of the North and West out. How the fuck Bearwood, Smethwick and half of Sandwell are not classed as in Birmingham is beyond me. I live closer to Birmingham than someone from Northfield and am still shoved under the authority of Sandwell! It's the same with Walsall, Walsall council surprise me in their damnation of a Greater Birmingham because Walsall seems like the perfect Birmingham/Black Country hybrid. A good distance fom everywhere. Lord knows why they are so desperte to create their own distinct image, okay so their art gallery is better than Birminghams, BIG DEAL, most of the people who visit it are probably from Birmingham anyway, sheesh.

Before we get a Greater Birmingham council I want what we have to be made fairer, it's annoying that people living in Selly Oak or Mosely can claim some kind of ownership over the city because they are under Birmingham city council, when people who are just as close, work and spend plenty of time there are completely removed from the politics and decision making in Birmingham. Bah I say, BAH.
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 01:03 PM   #14
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You sound like a sheep Bah!

I know what you mean - it is difficult to tease the areas apart in places, but others are definitely part of Brum in all but name.

But we definitely need certain things decided at a Greater Birmingham level - housing, transport, health and possibly education, but certain things are much better locally, such as local services, childcare, social services, retail etc.
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 01:04 PM   #15
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The small minded localness reminds me of the rivalry in the Simpons between Springfield and Shelbyville and how stupid that is!
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Old November 3rd, 2008, 04:06 PM   #16
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We definately DO NOT need more bleedin politicians, we need less. Elected mayor? No thanks.
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Old November 4th, 2008, 11:49 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SimonTheSoundMan View Post
I'm also amazed at the amount of people from Dudley I meet who have never been (or maybe in the last 20 years) travelled to Brum. It's usually not a "I have no reason to go", it is "I don't like Brum as I'm from Dudley". Shocking yes, they are only 7 miles apart.
I know people in this area (young and old) who pretty much never go to Birmingham, or who go like once or twice a year (like me for example ). We have enough towns locally for most needs - Wolverhampton, Dudley/Brierley Hill/Merry Hill, Stourbridge, Halesowen and even Walsallshire at a push... plus various smaller townlets. Who needs to head into congested Birmingham when we have that much choice on our doorsteps? Plus of course there's nothing nicer than heading west into the countryside.

IMO 'Greater Birmingham' is okay as a kind of nickname for the wider conurbation but as an official name I personally wouldn't like it as it makes me think of a horribly built up place - but of course I'm in the minority with that thought what with this being an urban forum.
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Old November 4th, 2008, 12:07 PM   #18
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I agree with you butterfield about it not being surprising that many people from Dudley and the wider Black country choose not to go into Birmingham, there are far more convenient local centres for them, the public transport into brum from most of the Black Country is basically just buses, why take a long bus ride into brum when you can just take a much shorter journey into Dudley, Walsall, Merryhill, Stourbridge etc?

You have to remember that for alot of older people the last time they went into Birmingham it was still a maze of underpasses and they simply remember it as being a very intimidating place, and to be honest after 20 years of shopping in Dudley I think Brum would still be very intimidating to those people today.
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Old November 4th, 2008, 03:25 PM   #19
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The fact is and has been stated above before, irrespective of local authorities in (), is that Walsall(WS), West Bromwich(SW), Dudley(D), Halesowen(D), Rubery(BG), Solihull(SH) and Sutton Coldfield(B) are all equi-distant from the city centre. I appreciate where you're coming from Butters (Dudley!!!) but to look at these places on a map says that they are "unofficial" suburbs of Birmingham. Yes, Greater Brum can be a by-word for Black Country folk but this has to be a collective rather than the confusing use of "West Midlands".
In 1974 some clever twat decided to use this term because we live in an area that is West of the East Midlands, but then forgot about the counties of Hereford, Worcester and Shropshire being further West than our conurbation, which should really be called "Central Midlands". That would sound pathetic to describe a "city" of 2.5 million.
Another confusion of the term "West Midlands" that the Post and Mail keep using is the rural and urban usage which could be stopped overnight by using "Greater Birmingham".
Also, I know of a golf course in Warwickshire called West Midlands Golf Course, a hospital in Cradley Heath called West Midlands Hospital, and of course West Midlands Safari Park - all miles apart and the laziness of the names all emit a vagueness that offer no information on the huge city next door!
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Old November 4th, 2008, 03:36 PM   #20
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Don't forget the West Mids Showground in Shrewsbury.
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