Saturday, May 27, 2006

Playing to lose

So the shortlist of locations for Britain's supercasino has been announced and there's one name missing from the list. Although Brent gets a look-in, as does Greenwich and Cardiff, with room for Manchester, the second city doesn't even merit a mention, despite the efforts of the council.

Now I'm not a big fan of gambling and wouldn't be visiting a casino even it were on my doorstep, besides, I'd place a small bet that the eventual site will be Blackpool, but I'm stunned that we can't even get on the shortlist.

For once, this isn't down to a London-centric approach, as most of the bids are in the regions, but it again highlights the utter incompetence of Birmingham City Council. For all of Whitless' attempts to seek refuge and pass the blame on to Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, the blame stops at his door. Peter Smallbone, the failed Tory council candidate for Ladywood reckons that the sites have been decided according to local politics. He conveniently ignores the fact that Birmingham has nine Labour MPs and Birmingham as the largest party and the strength of Labour in places like Leeds and Middlesborough, Hull, Dudley and Coventry - also unsuccessful in getting shortlisted.

It didn't help that Calamity John Alden, then cabinet member for leisure services, torpedoed the project personally by declaring his opposition to the proposal last autumn. Even as late as December last year, they were undecided which project they should support - claiming that their guidance from the Department of Culcha, Meeja n'Sport meant that they didn't have to make a choice until this summer and wouldn't set the consultants to work until April. Curiously, by mid-March, the City Council had changed its mind again and decided to back the Solihull bid.

The critical error was backing the NEC bid in an attempt to stem the losses made by that Group. The Birmingham City bid would have fulfilled one of the key drivers of the casino project and delivered a massive regeneration project to one of the most deprived areas of the City, as well as providing a world-class sporting facility able to play a supporting role in the 2012 Olympic Games and providing a focus for Birmingham. Karren Brady was entirely right to call the council's decision 'utterly stupid' amd she added
'sadly we have to wonder if we have a council worthy of running our city as, slowly, their decisions drain us of our second city status.'

Roger Godsiff, the local MP, said,
'Birmingham backed the wrong bid. I am not the slightest bit surprised at the outcome. The NEC was never going to win. Regeneration is a key criteria. How can we offer regeneration in Solihull, one of the richest boroughs in the country? Instead the council has passed up £300 million investment that would have regenerated this deprived area of Nechells due to a lack of foresight and forward thinking. This is a failure of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition running Birmingham.'

The only thing he got wrong was in the last sentence. This is yet ANOTHER failure of the Tory-Liberal Democrat administration to add to an increasingly long and embarrassing list. They are bedevilled by indecision and sheer stupidity. There is no sense of long-term strategic thought and the regeneration of my city has ground to a shuddering halt under what passes for leadership. That deal to get Hemming elected has proved hugely expensive for Birmingham.

Yet again, Whitless - you blew it. This incompetence has ceased to be funny, it is a tragedy for our city.


Richard Allen said...

While what you say is mostly true you do seem to have missed out one little detail. The Labour group also supported the NEC bid. All 3 parties were wrong. They all let us down.

PoliticalHack said...

I don't speak for the Labour Group - which is probably a good thing. It is certainly the case that the NEC bid had broader support across the council, but even with that, Whitless wasn't able to get the bid shortlisted.

I'm still of the view that the Birmingham stadium bid would actually have offered more for Birmingham than the Solihull/NEC deal, which was clearly lined up as a revenue stream to support the troubled NEC.