Silly season almost-true story puts Brum in the headlines

  1. So it all started with a bit of holiday season flammery in the Birmingham Mail. Former Black Sabbath manager Jim Simpson wanted Birmingham Airport renamed in honour of Ozzy Osbourne:
  2. Reading the piece carefully, I’d wager it was prompted by a letter from Jim in response to some previous articles in the Mail about plans for a Sabbath inspired music festival in the city.
  3. That’s pretty standard practice in a quiet newsroom in the dead zone between Christmas and New Year. Extract the choicest bits from Jim’s letter, phone a rentaquote councillor, and you’ve got more than enough for a tidy page lead (and the picture library’s full of old Sabbath pics, too.) It doesn’t hurt either that your interweb chappie always tells you how good Sabbath-related tales are for your Google-juice (whatever that is).

    But then the whole thing takes off (pun intended). And in the process, puts Birmingham, its airport, its status as the birthplace of the global heavy metal movement, its very name, and even that of a back bench councillor from Sutton Coldfield on the world map. Even Usain Bolt ‘s ‘big up’ Birmingham eulogy didn’t get this much airtime outside of the city.

    First, the nationals, as bored as their regional cousins, pick it up:

  4. Then it went, errr, mental:
  5. Notice how Jim is now ‘leading the charge’ (he only wrote a letter), and ‘council chiefs are in talks’ (no they’re not). Hey ho, since when have facts needed to get in the way of a good headline?

    And finally – you know a story’s really made it when the satire sites start having a go:



And that’s another year of trudging to the poll booths done with. And another demonstration of how as a nation we are truly pathetic. That is the only way to do justice to the apathy that demeans the local election process.

A coloured voting box

In Birmingham for example, alongside the traditional voting for local councillors, was a referendum to decide whether the city should be run by an elected mayor. It was one of 10 English cities holding such a ballot.


So when the populace gets its chance to vote for local representatives or use it as an opportunity to voice discontent at the national government, and at the same time is presented with an historic opportunity to change local governance, what happens?


Less than a third of those eligible can be bothered putting an x or a tick on a piece of paper. In secrecy. Without the need to…

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Elected mayors – it’s all about the city vision, stupid

Colmore Row, Birmingham

It seems any argument between supporters and opponents of elected mayors sooner or later reaches an impasse when each side declares their preferred model of local governance is ‘more democratic’ than the other.

For the ‘yes’ side, the principle of each and every voter having a direct say in who leads the city is seen as irrefutable proof that the democratic gods are on their side.

The nay-sayers dismiss this, pointing out that voters already elect the councillors who currently make that choice, and a democratic mandate therefore runs like a thread from the ballot box to the leader’s office.

What’s more, say those who object to mayors, local councillors are more in touch with the issues in their neighbourhoods, and therefore more closely represent the key concerns of the electorate than a distant mayor ever could. These individual ward-level local concerns together form Read the rest of this entry »

There’s another election going on, you know. Solihull’s Joe Tildesley tells Top of the Cops why he wants to be the Tory candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner

Scale of the challenge: report illustrates size of Brum mayor’s job

A timely report from the Centre for Cities spells out the size of the challenge for any new mayors that appear following next week’s referendum – none larger it seems than that in Birmingham.

Throughout the report’s survey of the education, business and employment challenges in each of the cities, Birmingham sticks out in all the graphs like a lanky teenager. Here’s one, just for example:

The report says:

New city mayors will need to support and respond to the needs of their population. A mayor of Birmingham, for example, with a constituency of 1,036,900 people, would have the second biggest constituency in the country after the Mayor of London.

The Centre for Cities echoes the call of the Warwick Commission on Elected Mayors and City Leadership for the Government to look to introduce ‘Metro Mayors’ whose responsibilities cover geographical areas much wider than those proposed currently.

The think tank also makes the case for mayors to co-chair their Local Enterprise Partnerships and to head up their Integrated Transport Authority. (I report on today that Sir Albert Bore, now Liam Byrne’s running mate for mayor, has said he wants to see the Birmingham and Black Country LEPs united.)

Well worth a read. The full report is here.

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There’s be a lot more noise about a Young Mayor for Birmingham over the next few months. Here’s a blog post to get you started.

Yes to a Birmingham Young Mayor

When I was first asked whether I thought campaigning to get a Birmingham Young Mayor was a good idea I was, shall we say, unconvinced. ‘A Young Mayor?’ I thought, ‘Isn’t that just nominal role local councils employ to give them the appearance of tackling ‘youth issues’ without actually having to bother engaging with the people and problems?’. But rather than just shoot down the idea I agreed to do some research and, much to my surprise, I’ve found myself a convert.

So, for all you other sceptics out there here are some excellent reasons why having a Young Mayor is a great idea:

1) They have real influence over the Youth Agenda

Young Mayor’s already exist in the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets as well as in North Tyneside in Newcastle. The age range of Young Mayors varies from location to location but generally falls…

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