A critical eye, by John Duckers

A critical eye, by John Duckers

Like buses, Birmingham’s economy is a basket case for years and then things worth celebrating all arrive one after the other. Must be the hot weather.

An urban regeneration company is launched to redevelop the area around Curzon Street where Birmingham’s HS2 terminus will be built, we hope – still some way to the final go-ahead, especially with a General Election round the corner and NIMBYs fighting a rear-guard action.

Fingers crossed it will deliver 14,000 jobs and a boost of up to £1.3 billion (more figures dreamed up in the bath) to the local economy … eventually. Up to 1,500 highly paid jobs are en route to Birmingham after HS2 announced its construction headquarters would be housed in the city … eventually.

The new city base in Snow Hill will oversee the building of the £50 billion scheme. Hurrah. Promises of local recruitment, but I wonder how many will commute?

And a new West Midlands authority to drive investment in transport projects is launched. West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, made up of the political leaders of the West Midlands’ seven metropolitan councils, is responsible for transport strategy, budgets, scheme prioritisation and bids for funding.

And who thought we already had one – Centro? How silly of you!

Well at least it shows we don’t need one all-purpose authority like the Government is demanding – you can get together for things that make sense done jointly and otherwise retain autonomy.

Add falling unemployment to the good news and the continued success of Jaguar Land Rover. Plus New Street Station, John Lewis, Metro extensions and a new Paradise Circus round the corner. Gosh, things really are happening.

If only scandals like child protection, Taliban schools and Benefits Street wouldn’t keep inconveniently getting in the way. But that is the nub of the matter. I want to see us move forward but recognise, admit to, and address our problems at the same time – the apologists would have the world believe there are no problems.

But life isn’t like that. I only mention it because, apparently, I am too negative. HS2 jobs are welcome indeed but basically it boils down to a government hand-out rather than anything organic we have achieved ourselves.

I want us to grow and prosper through the entities on the ground which people identify with – Birmingham, the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire. Not some sort of cobbled together artificial region that has never existed and never will. All can loosely combine where sensible, for example as they just have done on transport.

And even more worrying siren voices would impose an elected mayor – rejected by voters twice already over the last decade or so. Why does our awful leadership want to work against the grain, instead of with it? Why does it all have to be so proscriptive and centralised?

I want a vibrant Birmingham, Black Country and Coventry and Warwickshire respecting each other. And I want it built on giving manufacturing, high technology and innovation its head because that is what we are good at.

Is that being negative? No it isn’t. It is being positive – a genuine alternative. A blueprint for the future. Don’t allow the sycophants and apologists to let us down again.

What do you think? Let the editor know via steve.dysonmedia@gmail.com