July 2011 Archives
Did you know councils are obliged to open their books to members of the public - allowing them to see every invoice, every payment and every receipt - for 20 days each year?
This isn't new, but it's not always well publicised. This year, the Government is making an effort to get word out, so that "residents and armchair auditors" have a chance to inspect spending in their local authority.
It's set up a search engine allowing people to check when their local authority is making its accounts available, which you can find here: http://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/index.jsp?LGSL=1584&LGIL=8 .
Spotted this on YouTube (hat-tip to Richard via restirred.com). Brilliant stuff:
Birmingham Post readers have been invited to meet Labour leader Ed Miliband to tell him what Labour should do to support Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Readers from Birmingham and the surrounding area are invited to meet Mr Miliband, put their questions to him and tell him what they think Labour should be doing, at an event hosted by our sister paper The Birmingham Mail on Thursday July 21.
Since winning the Labour leadership last September, Mr Miliband has battled to rebuild his party following its defeat in last year's general election.
Could Rebekah Brooks face jail if she refuses to answer questions in the House of Commons?
In theory, MPs do have the power to jail News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks if she fails to submit herself for questioning to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
Along with Rupert and James Murdoch, she has been asked to attend a session of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Tuesday. If she turns up, her interrogators will include committee member Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East), News International's most outspoken and fearsome critic.
These past few days mark a turning point in Ed Miliband's career as Leader of the Opposition.
Where once he was "red Ed" or "odd Ed", or the man who stabbed his own brother in the back, now he's the voice of the people.
And this is important. When Princess Diana died, Tony Blair spoke for the nation as he paid tribute to "The People's Princess".
He did it again in the days following September 11 - and whatever happened since, we loved him for it at the time.
Nobody has done more to bring the truth about phone hacking at the News of the World into the open than West Midlands MP Tom Watson.
His battle against media mogul Rupert Murdoch's empire began in 2006 - when he helped to force Tony Blair out of office.
Mr Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) quit his job as a Government Minister and signed a letter demanding that Mr Blair leave Downing Street.
He feared that the former Prime Minister was determined to cling on to power, despite his growing unpopularity. And working with Labour colleagues such as Khalid Mahmood (Lab Perry Barr) and Sion Simon, the former MP for Erdington, he succeeded in forcing Mr Blair to promise to quit within 12 months.
Are the Metropolitan Police "evasive, dishonest or lethargic" - or perhaps all three?
That was the question posed in the House of Commons by Alan Johnson - the man who was Home Secretary until May last year.
What surprised me during yesterday's Commons debate about phone hacking was how little faith the people who make our laws seem to have in the people who enforce them.
Criticism focused mainly on the News of the World and the newspaper industry in general. This was both predictable and deserved, however upsetting that may be for those of us who work for newspapers and have never been involved in hacking or similar practices.
But it's not just the media that MPs have in their sights. The police, and the Metropolitan Police in particular, should be worried.
As we report in today's Birmingham Post, MP Richard Burden (Lab Northfield) has posed a series of questions to the Home Secretary asking her to investigate a controversial American preacher who is due to speak in Birmingham next month.
Pastor John Hagee believes the Holocaust was part of God's plan to force Jews to return to Israel and claims Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment for a planned gay pride rally.
He is due to speak at Birmingham Symphony Hall, in the city centre, at a rally on August 19 and two seminars on August 20. Tickets are being sold at £10 each through his website.
I thought it was worth setting out exactly what Pastor Hagee has said to prompt Mr Burden's reaction, in more detail than we were able to include in the print edition of the paper.
Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East), speaking in the House of Commons, has highlighted a story that appeared in the News of the World on April 14 2002, which reports on messages left on Milly Dowler's phone.
I thought people might be interested in seeing what was reported, under the headline: "Missing Milly 'hoax' outrage"
THE hunt for missing Milly Dowler took a shocking twist last night when it emerged a deranged woman has been posing as the missing youngster.
Newsnight's Michael Crick is reporting that former Sutton Coldfield MP Norman Fowler might lead an inquiry into phone hacking. Lord Fowler was a Cabinet Minister under Margaret Thatcher, and Conservative Party Chairman under John Major. He was also chairman of the Birmingham Post newspapers for five years.
In the House of Lords yesterday, he made his thoughts about recent developments clear - and urged the Government to commit itself to "an independent inquiry looking at all the evidence"
He said: "I declare an interest in that I was once a journalist, but my view of the press is that newspapers are there to expose injustice and abuse of power, not to illegally intrude into the private lives of the public.
The West Midlands quango set up to support the region's economy repaid £201,801 to the European Union after it failed to include the EU logo on publicity material.
Advantage West Midlands was forced to repay the sum after it received an EU grant of £1.7 million for a project to market the region to tourists and inward investors.
It decided not to include the EU's logo - the 12 yellow stars on a blue background, also commonly known as the EU flag - because it wanted "to avoid having a confused brand image", according to the Government.
I guess that means it wanted to cover its leaflets and posters with images connected to the West Midlands rather than the EU, which seems eminently sensible to me.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has revealed that he "cannot support the current proposal" for a high speed rail line from London to Birmingham.
The Mayor says that he does support the planned £17 billion line "in principle" but I'm not sure how much that helps.
I've got hold of a copy of Boris' letter in which he sets out his views, which I publish in full below.
A minor controversy has broken out after David Cameron was spotted jogging in Hyde Park wearing an Aston Villa shirt with (wait for it) "10 CAMERON" on the back.
But Mr Cameron has never claimed to be a real footie fan - just a fan of the claret and blue, as we first revealed in 2005.
Far reaching reforms to adult social care to be announced next week could free the middle classes from fear that they could lose almost everything they own in old age.
Economist Andrew Dilnot, who was commissioned by the Government to lead the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, will set out plans for a cap on the amount individuals are asked to contribute to their own care, of between £35,000 and £50,000.
Crucially, he will recommend that the full amount should not be paid by anyone with assets of less than £100,000.
The Government is not banning wild animals in circuses, despite last week's high-profile Commons debate when a ban was approved unanimously.
Environment Minister James Paice has told the House of Commons that it cannot introduce a ban now because it would be "unlawful" to do so.
He did promise that the Government was "taking active steps towards finding a way in which to introduce a ban" but that's not the same thing as actually introducing one.
Last week's Commons motion, proposed by Shropshire MP Mark Pritchard (Con The Wrekin), was written very deliberately to remove any wriggle room for the Government. There was no talk about "moving forward" or "finding a way" - the motion stated simply: "That this House directs the Government to use its powers under section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to introduce a regulation banning the use of all wild animals in circuses to take effect by 1 July 2012."