November 2009 Archives
Nine years after the idea was first seriously discussed, Birmingham is finally approaching the finishing line in its quest for a new civic library.
Members of the city council planning committee have given the go-ahead for a "futuristic" glass-fronted structure in Centenary Square which has been designed by award-winning Dutch architects Mecanoo and will be built at a cost of ÃÂ£193 million and open in 2013.
Unusually for projects of this size, the new library will be paid for entirely by Birmingham City Council through a combination of borrowing and cash from land sales, when the economy eventually recovers. The fact that the local authority is to find the money and is not reliant on government or private sector funding is a source of great pride to Tory council leader Mike Whitby.
Julie Kirkbride has received backing from an unlikely source for her hopes of standing again as the Conservative candidate in Bromsgrove.
The Tory MP has made it pretty clear she wants to stay on in Parliament, despite announcing she was standing down.
And now she's been endorsed by high-profile Liberal Democrat MP Lembit ÃÂpik - who urged his own colleagues not to give her a hard time over her expenses claims.
Speaking to ITV Central, Lembit said: "I'm glad she's thinking about this. I know she's felt really shocked by the way she was treated in the media.
"She will have gone through this and decided, is there really something here so serious that I shouldn't stand again?
"I really hope that the Liberal Democrats in Bromsgrove will respect her wishes and not seek to make political gain out of this."
Of course, Lembit knows what it's like to be the centre of media attention, after dating first weather forecaster Sian Lloyd and then half of the Cheeky Girls (in a toe-curling Commons performance he told MPs: "I should point out that the other sister is still single").
Perhaps he sympathises. Or perhaps he's just taken a leaf from Chris Crocker's defence of Britney Spears.
My exclusive story a week ago revealing that Birmingham International Airport's ÃÂ£120 million runway extension plan is in deep trouble represents something of an inconvenient truth for West Midlands' political elite.
It is always embarrassing for politicians when people begin to realise that local government's grand plans and strategies are nothing more than meaningless words if the money and the will to deliver major infrastructure projects like the BIA runway simply does not exist.
And let's be absolutely clear about this. Birmingham Airport does not, at the moment, have the money to build a longer runway and even if it did have the funding in place the BIA board remains to be convinced of the business case for doing so.
The Queen's Speech set out the laws Labour plans to introduce before the next election. Here are some of the highlights:
The BBC chief I feel sorriest for is Tom Sleigh, Chief Adviser Operations, slaving away for an annual pittance of ÃÂ£76,300.
Poor old Tom. How must he be feeling after a national newspaper exposed the 100 best-paid Beeb executives, with Mr Sleigh anchored in bottom place?
It's unclear to me what a Chief Adviser Operations does, although giving advice is clearly a large part of the job, but no doubt he is worth every penny.
Even James Heath, Controller Strategy Journalism, is on ÃÂ£85,000, while Richard Addy, Chief Adviser Journalism, is paid ÃÂ£104,000.
I'm particularly taken by Sue Inglish, Head of Political Programmes. At ÃÂ£125,000, this is a job I venture modestly to suggest one might be interested in should a vacancy occur in the not too distant future. Wouldn't mind a crack at Head of Newsgathering either, at ÃÂ£165,000, if present incumbent Francesca Unsworth decides to call it a day.
I've been writing today about the MG Rover trust fund, which was discussed in a House of Commons debate led by Richard Burden (Lab Northfield), the Birmingham MP.
You may know that the former Rover directors, known as the Phoenix Four, promised to turn what left of the business into cash to be distributed to former employees, when the carmarker collapsed in 2005.
So far there's been no money, and the official explanation is that the business could not be liquidated while an official government inquiry into its affairs was still taking place.
Now that the inquiry is over - it reported in September - Mr Burden wants the money transferred to the employees' fund as soon as possible.
Fair enough. But let's remember that there is no guarantee there will ever be any money at all.
The corpse of MG Rover has creditors as well as assets. It needs to pay them off first.
Some of the Government's critics have talked up the importance of the trust fund, claiming that the lengthy inquiry into Rover's affairs stopped former employees getting their cash.
But they may be guilty of raising false hopes. I hope former Rover staff receive compensation but I wouldn't assume anything until they have the money in their pockets.
The ongoing row over Be Birmingham's use of the city's ÃÂ£115 million Working Neighbourhoods Fund puts the spotlight on a very shadowy organisation.
It is doubtful whether many people outside of the rarefied world of local government have ever heard of the City Strategic Partnership, as Be Birmingham used to be known before undergoing a trendy name change.
But this unelected body, which meets behind closed doors in private, is entrusted by the city council and the government to play an increasingly important role in deciding how large sums of public money should be spent - or not spent in this case.