Rebuilding Jerusalem

The Birmingham Mail revealed on the 11th November Birmingham City Council wants to take over policing and health.

Council leader Mike Whitby revealed the plans in a submission to a House of Commons inquiry into the future of local government. He claimed it would benefit Britain's cities if they were given the freedom they enjoyed in the days of Joseph Chamberlain. Birmingham would gain control over an extra £1.7 billion a year from it's three primary care trusts.

In a report presented to the committee, Coun Whitby called for councils to take back control of local services to ensure they serve the need of residents.
This would include making primary care trusts, which provide GP services and commission hospital treatment, into departments of local councils, he said.

The plans would also have an aim of linking local accountability to services with councillors sitting on Police Authorities.

He said: “A really radical idea would be for all public spend in a large local authority area to go via the local authority.

“Primary care trusts, the police and other public agencies would then have to ask for money from the local authority would hold them to account for performance.

“The result would be that only the local authority would be accountable to Government, so negating the need for government offices, regional development agencies etc.”

If this proposal was adopted, the council would gain control of the lion’s share of West Midlands Police’s £550 million budget, and potentially a share of the £400 million spent by Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency.

This rebuilding of Jerusalem, following the 'Building Jerusalem' as Tristram Hunt titles his book, looking at how the Victorians vowed to emulate the city-states of Renaissance Italy, is that copying Chamberlain's municipal socialism will in fact strengthen the business city Birmingham is. While benefiting it's citizens such moves by Whitby would also bring about a resurgence in the city state of Birmingham. An American Journalist between 1860 - 1890 commented that 'Birmingham is above all a business city, run by businessmen on business principles', not least accounting for the 45% of city councillors that came from the business community between 1860 and 1891.

With gas and water in Council hands, the political foundations of municipal socialism were laid. Chamberlain's energetic successes in Birmingham would soon spur other councils to take private utilities into public ownership. Yet the irony was this 'socialist' endeavour proceeded from quint-essentially capitalist principles: chiefly, the desire of large corporate businesses to have secure and cheap energy supplies.
Building Jerusalem, Tristram Hunt, 2006, p.342.


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