March 2012 Archives
Liam Byrne has won the endorsement of some of Labour's most impressive national figures in his bid to become mayor of Birmingham - as well as fulsome praise from party leader Ed Miliband.
The line up of supporters includes former foreign secretary David Miliband, former chancellor Alistair Darling and Peter Mandelson.
Their backing may help to cement his claim that he has the knowledge and the authority to stand up on a national and international stage and fight for Birmingham, thanks to his experience in government. His last job before the general election was as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the second-in-command behind the Chancellor.
Following my blog last week on the impending publication of the NPPF we have had to wait a little while, but on a glorious sunny day on Tuesday 27th March the airwaves were alive with the sound of planning reform and intensive media debate and speculation. So we now have a finished 50 page document which simplifies and streamlines the existing 1000 pages of detailed planning guidance with the explicit aim of allowing a pro-growth agenda albeit with the public at the heart of the system. This document is now operational and, as such, produces one of the biggest changes to the planning system since its inception in 1947.
Downing Street has published details of the "private" dinners hosted by the Prime Minister for Conservative Party donors, and it emerges that one of the first people to receive an invitation to Downing Street was Staffordshire businessman Sir Anthony Bamford, chair of JCB.
Sir Anthony and wife Carole, Lady Bamford, were guests at a dinner at 10 Downing Street on July 14 2010, along with 13 other people. His individual donations and donations from JCB come to more than £400,000 in total.
JCB also donated £25,000 to the "no" campaign opposing the alternative vote, and £7,500 to David Davis in 2005, apparently to help fund his party leadership bid (Mr Davis stood unsuccessfully against Mr Cameron).
Calls for Birmingham to be run by a directly-elected mayor will be debated when senior politicians gather in Birmingham this week.
Greg Clark, the Minister for Cities, will be one of the speakers at a debate on reforming the way Birmingham is governed.
Michael Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister, will also be attending, as well as for Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis.
Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable will continue to push for more property taxes in future budgets, he has said.
Speaking to regional newspapers following the Chancellor's Budget statement, he said he backed the cut in the highest rate of income tax from 50p to 45p because a range of other measures, such as increasing stamp duty on properties worth more than £2 million, means the rich will still pay may more in total (a claim Labour disputes).
But one thing that wasn't in the Budget was a full blown mansion tax of the sort he has been calling for. This would be an annual levy on properties worth more than £2 million, while stamp duty is only paid when a property is bought.
Later today we will get some detail into the long awaited final National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). As I sit typing I can hear the various protagonists preparing their verbal weaponry for whatever eventually emerges. It is a complex battleground with the future direction of planning at stake. However, with arguments raging on both sides about the possible positive or negative impacts of the NPPF, there has been one dimension to the NPPF debate that has escaped significant scrutiny. I refer to the process by which the NPPF itself has come into being.
Should a worker in Dudley receive less for doing the same job than one in central Birmingham?
That's the question posed by the Government's plans to introduce local pay across the country.
And it is local pay that George Osborne wants to introduce - not regional.
This weekend's papers were full of speculation that the Chancellor is set to speed up plans to introduce local pay in Wednesday's Budget - only for some of today's papers to report that Lib Dems have convinced him to delay the proposal.
Birmingham's mayoral contest risks becoming a massive headache for Ed Miliband after Labour's National Executive Committee ruled that any MP selected as a mayoral candidate for the party must stand down from the House of Commons.
It means Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart could be ordered to quit as an MP, if she succeeds in her bid to become Labour's mayoral candidate.
That could mean a by-election in Edgbaston, a seat which Labour held with a majority of just 1,274 in 2010 - to the genuine astonishment of local Tories, who were confident of winning the former Conservative stronghold back.
It's amazing what you can do with technology nowadays. Blogger Éoin Clarke, who runs an organisation called Labour Left, has set up an automated system allowing voters to send an e-mail to Liberal Democrat MPs protesting against the Government's NHS changes.
The gadget lets you send your protest with the minimum of effort, and even writes the text of the email for you.
Digby Jones, the former head of the CBI, has issued a video plea urging residents to vote "yes" to an elected mayor for Birmingham.
Lord Jones of Birmingham, as he now is, said: "We need someone who doesn't want to climb up the greasy pole of tribalism of Conservative, Labour or Liberal."
He added: "Birmingham has given much to the world but the world has changed. We need someone free from tribal politics who will give a clear decisive message about Birmingham, who will be accountable for Birmingham and who only wants to talk about Birmingham. I urge you to vote yes in the elected mayor referendum on May 3."
It's a late winter's afternoon and rather dark outside. I'm on a bus, coming home from the city centre. I'm financially depleted - again! - having shopped in stores out of my league and bought stuff I clearly don't need.
An elderly couple - wrapped in scarves and oversized coats - are seated in front of me carrying a couple M&S bags. They're like the remnants of the forties, a by-gone age when mono-cultural certainty was shared by all. They're talking, commenting on a news item in the Metro that reminds them of their own alienation. 'And they're teaching soaps - stuff like Coronation Street,' says the man to his wife, appalled at the state of the world and bemoaning modernity. 'Coronation Street! - can you believe it?'
The wife nods sympathetically - a tad disgusted as if her husband has just announced that he wants to eat a teacher for dinner washed down with a glass or two of cabernet sauvigon. 'No!' she exclaims horrified. 'Well, that's just ridiculous!
The Government faces a big public row over plans to axe child benefit for higher-rate tax payers, and a second battle over Lib Dem plans for a "mansion tax".
But there's another row which has been slightly less well-publicised, this time over plans to increase business rates by 5.6 per cent in April.
The increase is based on the retail price index for September last year. But some Tory and Lib Dem MPs argue that the 5.6 per cent figure was a "spike" in the RPI, and businesses should not suffer a major tax rise because inflation was high for a short period last year.