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Mark Andrews: Who needs HS2 when there's white paint?

By Mark Andrews | Opinions | Published:

Read the latest column from Mark Andrews.

Who needs HS2?

Councillors in Walsall were told to play with Lego at a training session, so they would know how to build 'resilient communities'.

Well, those awful buildings on the corner of Bridge Street look like they're made from Lego, but I wouldn't say they were particularly resilient.

Politicians love the 'R' word, don't they? They never shut-up about 'resilience', and it invariably accompanies some form of lunacy.

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird says those councillors who objected to the play sessions should 'go back to kindergarten'. Which seems odd, I'm pretty sure Lego is the toy of choice at most kindergartens. Before they are old enough for Meccano or Bayko, obviously.

I do think, though, if Walsall Council wants to build relationships with communities, it would do better to leave the children's construction sets in the toy cupboard. And focus on the boring, grown-up stuff, like emptying bins, mending potholes and keeping libraries open.

A resilient community?

HS2 gets the go ahead, despite the price tag rocketing to £106 billion.

This is a huge relief, as I have long worried that London, Birmingham and Manchester do not get their fair share of infrastructure spending.

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Better still, there is going to be an extra £5 billion for buses and cycle lanes, which I'm sure will transform the lives of everybody in the Black Country. The metropolitan elite get a futuristic 250mph rail line, we get a bit of white paint along the side of the road.

Zuckerberg – chilled

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Communications regulator Ofcom has been given the task of policing social media, taking on the mighty tech giants.

You have to admire the Government's optimism, but I suspect Ofcom will have its work cut out.

Picture the scene: Mark Zuckerberg sat on his golden throne at the top of a Silicon-Valley skyscraper, his diamond-encrusted flip-flops on the desk. His army of servants are mopping his furrowed brow, feeding him jelly babies. Then one of his little minions pokes his head round the door to deliver the bad news.

"Your Highness, your online platform which brought you untold wealth has been censured by Ofcom for facilitating bullying, terrorism and fake news," he whimpers.

The great man takes a sip of kale juice, and digests the information.

"Splendid!" he replies. "Now come and file my nails."

Sandwell – unloved

Sandwell Council leader Yvonne Davies hopes her 10-year plan will put the borough 'on the map' and make people proud of their local area.

Now people may take pride in being from West Bromwich, Oldbury or Wednesbury, but I doubt if anybody outside local government feels any affinity towards 'Sandwell'. It's like the West Midlands Combined Authority, which seems to be a rehash of the short-lived and little-mourned West Midlands County Council.

Rule of thumb: if an area's identity has evolved over centuries from the shared sense of belonging by ordinary folk, then people will embrace it. If it is forced on the public by politicians, for politicians, it will only ever be held in contempt.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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