I am given the news
that a consultant paid by Centro has said at the public enquiry into transport that Electroliners (aka Trolley Coaches, aka Trolley buses) are not cost effective.
This, of course, not news. News would be when a consultant paid by Centro said something that centro did not agree with. If someone is paid to write a report they generally write what they are asked to write. The payer of the piper may wave around the report saying "this report agrees with me", but that is generally meaningless.
The other substantial issue that arose at the Cabinet Meeting was the PFI scheme into roads. The PFI scheme is essentially getting the roads improved on Hire Purchase. The headlines
look quite good. The City Council gets a "PFI credit" of £379 Million (over 25 years). Indeed it might be good for the city. However, the city loses £175 Million of Local Transport Plan funding and also has to commit to paying out around £50 million a year (index linked) to a private contractor. The figures for this have not been checked. £50 Million a year is about a fifth of the council tax revenues. The problem is that the whole story has not yet been told so it has not been checked. Hence the argument about scrutiny.
The City Cabinet on Monday had a few interesting decisions.
The demolition and redevelopment of North Newtown is a typically absurd decision by the Housing Department and Cabinet. This estate has a problem with crime. The Housing Department have plucked a figure out of the air that it would cost about £33,000 to improve each of the properties. By underestimating the cost of repurchasing the 35 private properties (which would not cost 33K to improve) they come out with specious figures indicating that it is cheaper to knock the properties down rather than improve them. This, of course, ignores the cost of rebuilding any properties.
Meanwhile in the real world the drug dealing will continue. The people living on the estate will live on an estate that deteriorates dramatically whilst they wait to be cleared and fewer houses will exist for people to live in and as a consequence more people will live in crowded conditions.
Meanwhile the Birmingham Trades Union Council have written the following letter:
We are writing, on behalf of Birmingham Trades Union Council, to advise you of an important resolution adopted by the Trades Union Council at its November meeting.
The Trades Union Council is deeply concerned at the deal done between Labour and Conservative Councillors on Birmingham City Council, as a result of this concern the Council passed the following resolution:
"Birmingham Trades Union Council condemns the shabby deal entered into between the Birmingham Labour Party Councillors and the Conservative Party to share out leading positions in the City Council.
This dirty deal is not in the interests of the Birmingham Working Class and represents collaboration of the worst kind, which this Trades Council has always opposed.
We therefore call upon the Birmingham TUC to lead a trade union campaign to oppose this deal with the object of ensuring that the Labour Councillors withdraw from it and never conclude a similar deal in the future."
As part of the campaign we are launching about the deal we would encourage you to raise this matter with your members and ask them to lobby their Labour Councillors and ensure that no such deals are done in the future. We will also be writing to all Branch and Constituency Labour Parties in Birmingham, and we would ask you to join us in lobbying them to change Labour Party policy to rule out such deals.
The Birmingham Trades Union Council will shortly be organising a series of meetings to develop policies for our public services that advance the interests of working people, as opposed to deals with Conservative Councillors.
Mick Rice/Douglas Jewell - Joint Secretaries Birmingham Trades Union Council
Given that the Mick Rice who has signed this letter is also the Councillor Mick Rice who is a member of the Labour Cabinet (with the support of the Conservatives) this raises some questions in peoples' minds. Luckily although this letter was sent out on 28th November he has already dealt with the issue by trying to disown the letter on 4th December in a confidential email sent to Labour councillors plus 2 Lib Dem Councillors which reads as follows:
I am in the process of sending you a letter in my capacity as joint secretary of Birmingham TUC.
PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM SENDING THE LETTER IN MY CAPACITY AS AN EMPLOYEE OF BIRMINGHAM TUC.
The fact that I have signed the letter as an OFFICER of Birmingham TUC does not constitute personal support or agreement with its contents.
So that's clear then.
Why a weblog
For someone who established the first ecommerce
site on the internet outside the USA it may seem odd that I have not so far established a web log. The logic is that people interested in the City Council in Birmingham
or the constituency of Birmingham Yardley
may wish to use the internet to find out a bit more about Liberal Democrat
activity in those areas. (I am the Leader of the City Council Liberal Democrat Group and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Birmingham (Yardley)).
The most efficient way of keeping something like this up to date is by using a web log (as far as I can tell) hence this web log.