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GBSLEP ‘barking up the wrong tree’ by backing HS2 college at Washwood Heath

GBSLEP ‘barking up the wrong tree’ by backing HS2 college at Washwood Heath

🕔04.Mar 2014

Former DWP civil servant John D Turner says the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP is making a big mistake by promoting plans to use the former LDV plant at Washwood Heath for an HS2 college and maintenace depot.

The bane of those with funds to distribute or contracts that they wish people to deliver for them are applicants who chase after every passing opportunity like a dog will often chase after passing cars.

I fear GBSLEP is turning into just such a yapping dog with regards to projects like HS2.

Firstly, they are happy to settle for a second rate HS2 station proposal and now they are happily endorsing plans for a dedicated Further Education College for the high-speed railway to be built alongside a planned HS2 maintenance depot on the former LDV plant in Washwood Heath.

Is a college for a line that may never be built the best possible use for the LDV site?  LDV used to directly provide jobs for 2,000 people.  The college and maintenance depot, if they are ever built will never come close to that.

If GBSLEP is short of better options for the LDV site then may I suggest that they speak with St Modwen, the owners of the site next door, the former GEC Alstom plant.

The site benefits from direct access to Heartlands Parkway, leading to junction 6 of the M6 motorway and features a direct rail link.  The site is within two miles of Birmingham city centre and has been identified by the city council as a key employment area.  Combine the two sites together and you have got the ideal location for a major rail freight hub.

I hazard a guess that such a hub will create more jobs for the residents of Washwood Heath Ward than the proposals currently under consideration.

Unemployment in the Washwood Heath Ward, using the narrow Jobseeker’s Allowance count currently stands at:

  • Male: 1,258 and Female: 668; a total of 1,926.

Unemployment in the Hodge Hill Constituency of which Washwood Heath is a part stands at:

  • Male: 3,804 and Female: 2,122; a total of 5,926, or 8.3% of the working age population.

And in the neighbouring Erdington Constituency it stands at:

  • Male: 2,956 and Female: 1,498; a total of 4,454, or 7.2% of the working age population.

Erdington Constituency is eighth in the list of UK constituencies ranked by the percentage of their working age population who are in receipt of JSA and Hodge Hill is fifth.  This is the chart where you definitely want to be nearer 650 than 1.

I and my colleagues at the DWP were frequently recipients of applications for funds and/or contracts that were from organisations that pitched for whatever was on offer, whether or not it complemented their core aims.  Thankfully, most were weeded out before any real harm occurred.

Those that did get money or contracts often got into diificulties because their aims conflicted with the demands of funders or contractors.  They tried to meet their aims and satisfy the requirements of the agreements into which they had freely entered.  Such conflicts rarely ended well.

Trying to meet conditions that conflict with your aims damages your credibility and your potential to obtain future funds and contracts.  It can make a mockery of your strategies and brings into doubt the purpose of your organisation.

Even worse, by winning funds or contracts that you, perhaps should not have sought you deny those opportunities to people who might have made better use of them.

I cannot believe that GBSLEP regards chasing a flashy HS2 emblazoned car speeding down the Heartlands Parkway as being more important than addressing the high and stubborn levels of unemployment in East Birmingham.  Time to think out of the box as to how best to do that?

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