Birmingham Friends of the Earth call for fairness and transparency in public funding

11.2.2011 (Birmingham FoE)

By Tom Hulme   


Birmingham Friends of the Earth welcome the fact that the Birmingham Local Enterprise
Partnership’s bid for £15 million from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) to subsidise
the airport’s runway extension was ruled ineligible under round one, but is looking
for more transparency in future rounds. (see story below, from 27.1.2011)

The money, which would be used for the diversion of the A45 Coventry Road to
enable the 350-metre runway extension, is still likely to be asked for in future
rounds by the board, but the campaigns group, Friends of he Earth, believes public
money should not be sought for such projects.

Lead aviation campaigner Thomas Hulme believes that “There is a lack of transparency
in the RGF bidding process. Why should it be left to an unelected and unaccountable
body to decide which projects take precedent and indeed which projects are bid
for? There is no public scrutiny or opportunity to input into this process”.

Birmingham Friends of the Earth have been campaigning against the runway extension
due to the huge environmental impacts of the aviation industry and the rise in
noise pollution that it will create. However, they also feel that it is unacceptable
that public funds should subsidize this commercial airport project, especially
at a time when huge cutbacks are being made in public sector jobs and funding
for other transport projects.

Mr Hulme continues to say “In this economic climate we need to be investing in
local, low-carbon transport projects, not further feather-bedding the aviation
industry even more. When the rest of us are suffering financially, why should
they enjoy such perks as being exempt from paying VAT and get taxpayers to pay
for moving this road?”

Notes to Editors

1. Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaigns on many environmental issues on
a local, national and international level.

2. For more information on Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s stance on Aviation
issues, please visit

For more information contact: Joe Peacock (Birmingham Friends of the Earth) 0121
632 6909

Or Thomas Hulme (Lead Aviation Campaigner) 
see also

Short-term ‘quick win’ projects given priority for regeneration cash

27.1.2011  (Birmingham Post)

by Jonathan Walker

Plans to raise money to support the expansion of Birmingham Airport and to regenerate
the former MG Rover site at Longbridge have been put on hold after the Government
changed the rules over using cash from the Regional Growth Fund.

It followed the sudden announcement that only short-term “quick win” projects
to create jobs in the near future would be considered in the first round of bidding
for the £1.4billion fund.

The Regional Growth Fund is designed to help the private sector create jobs,
particularly in regions which are currently unduly dependent on the public sector,
and a first round of bidding began in October with up to £300 million up for grabs.

But it emerged just days before the deadline for applications closed on January
21 that only schemes likely to create significant numbers of jobs in the short
term would be considered.

As a result, business and council leaders in Birmingham, Solihull and the wider
West Midlands were forced to scrap carefully prepared bids for key programmes
to support the local economy.

MP Richard Burden (Lab Northfield) said: “The Regional Growth Fund was the Government’s
big idea to help the West Midlands prosper but it has just descended into chaos.”

Ministers have said they want to fund “projects” which will begin creating private
sector jobs as the public sector sheds staff over the next 12 months, and not
“programmes” which will take longer to have an impact, although the Department
for Business, Innovation and Skills stressed that long-term schemes will be eligible
for later rounds of bidding.

As a result, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership has
decided it can only support two proposals – a request for support for Midlands-based
carmaker Jaguar Land Rover and support for the FA’s National Football Centre in
Burton, Staffordshire.

The other schemes considered vital for the future of the region’s economy will
not now receive the active support of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in
this first round of bidding, which includes business organisations and local authorities
in Birmingham, Solihull, Bromsgrove, Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire, Lichfield
and Tamworth.

They include an application for funds to subsidise the £32 million cost of diverting
the A45 Coventry Road, to enable Birmingham Airport’s 350-metre runway extension
to be built.

And they also include developer St Modwen’s application for £22 million to help
pay for infrastructure improvements at Longbridge, as part of a £1 billion regeneration
project on the 468-acre site.

Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber Group, said the Chamber
continued to back the proposals, describing the airport expansion as “probably our top shared priority”.   But he said: “We hope it will get through in round two.

“We don’t think it will be a round one contender. There will be no point insisting
to government that something qualifies if it doesn’t meet the criteria.”

Other bids which had been due to receive the LEP’s support in round one but have
now been put on the back burner include:

 *A planned £22 million development fund for small and medium sized businesses
in the area

 *A £2.1 million bid for a retail development project to encourage growth of
high-value independent shops in Birmingham

 *A £1 million bid to support an apprenticeship training programme for young
people in Birmingham

 *A £3.2 million graduate retention programme across the LEP area

 *A £5 million bid to support the development of Birmingham’s biomedical industries.

 *A £7 million bid for completion of infrastructure to deliver the Eastside regeneration

Bridget Blow, chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local LEP Development
Board, said: “We didn’t have the latest criteria until at most a week before we
had to make the submissions, so it did alter what the LEP supported last week.

“We reduced the number of projects that we supported, because they didn’t meet
the criteria.

“Clearly, people will be disappointed. What we are at pains to explain to them
is that there will be another tranche.

“We have asked the Government to give us clarity as soon as possible about the
second round and the types of bids that will be considered.”

Mr Blackett said: “The criteria for round one, which emerged painfully slowly,
became much clearer in a rush, and it meant that the majority of bids we have
seen are unlikely to be successful, because not many of them can deliver private
sector employment overnight at good value.”

The Chamber had offered to help the Government draw up the criteria for bids
in round two, he said.

A spokesman for Birmingham Airport said he was “surprised” that the airport bid
would not receive support in the first round of bidding for cash, and said it
would be seeking clarification from the LEP.

Jaguar Land Rover declined to give details of its submission to the Government.










see earlier

£15m growth fund boost for Birmingham Airport runway plans

14.1.2011 (Birmingham Post)
A new Government Regional Growth Fund for economic development could contribute
£15 million to kick-start Birmingham Airport’s runway extension.

Councils and business leaders in charge of the Birmingham-Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership want
the RGF to meet almost half the £32 million cost of diverting the A45 Coventry
Road to enable the 350-metre runway extension to be built.

Uncertainty about how the road diversion will be paid for is continuing to hold
back the runway project, which is seen as a vital trigger for economic growth.

Centro, the passenger transport authority, will give £10 million toward the A45
, with the airport contributing £7 million.   Birmingham City Council has promised
to find £15 million, but public spending cuts faced by local government could
put the pledge in doubt.

The proposal to include the A45 scheme in one of eight priority bids for the first round of LEP funding was criticised
by West Midlands Friends of the Earth.

Spokesman Chris Crean said: “If the airport wants to extend its runway then it should pay the full cost itself,
including moving the A45.  We do not believe there is any justification for a
commercial project like this being funded by the public purse.”

Mr Crean hit out at the allocation process for RGF bids, overseen by an interim
assessment panel set up by the shadow LEP board.

He said: “Who are these people deciding which projects to bid for?

“There is no public scrutiny, no transparency and no democratic input into this.”

With the longer runway in place, Birmingham Airport will be able to compete with
Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester by offering non-stop flights to cities in China
and India and to the west coast of America for the first time.

An application for financial assistance is one of eight bids from the partnership for RGF funding totalling
£54 million.

A separate bid for financial assistance is expected to be submitted by Jaguar
Land Rover.

The RGF will operate across England from 2011 to 2014 and replaces a cash fund previously administered by the regional development agencies.
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