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Patrick Burns, Political editor, Midlands

Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

This is my take on politics in the Midlands - a region of five and a half million people with a diverse, exciting political landscape

Council funding cuts turn friends into polar opposites

9 April 2014
Roger Lawrence (l) with Patrick Burns (c) and Philip Atkins (r)
Wolverhampton City Council leader Roger Lawrence (l) and Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council leader, have been lifelong friends

Philip Atkins and Roger Lawrence are lifelong friends.

They first met as schoolboys at Denstone College in north Staffordshire, more years ago than either of them care to recall, and their very different career paths have eventually led them in remarkably similar directions.

They both now lead large local authorities which find themselves the closest of collaborators on the most ambitious of projects - i54, where Staffordshire meets Wolverhampton.

Close to the border between our biggest shire county and one of our big city authorities is the Midlands' most ambitious economic regeneration venture.

The i54 site extends over 226 acres. It's where cutting-edge manufacturers, including Moog and Jaguar Land Rover, are creating over 2,000 jobs - JLR alone is spending £500m on its giant engine factory there.

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Alas poor Warwick: Who'd shed tiers in council reforms?

26 March 2014
Warwick Castle
Should there be a two-tier power system in Warwick?

Picture yourself in Warwick, famous for its self-proclaimed "finest medieval castle in Britain", its racecourse and its refuse collections.

Yes, refuse collections.

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Budget Day: What does it mean for West Midlands voters?

19 March 2014
George Osborne
Has the chancellor been displaying crowd pleasing instincts

Just over a year to go to the General Election.

And for signs that the pace is quickening in parts of the country like ours, famous for our marginal seats, look no further than this most political of Budget days.

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Greater Birmingham: Is there a soft rebranding?

11 March 2014

For once it really is true to say it: the clue is in the name.

Make that "the names". Plural.

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Training for trains: Railway towns bid for HS2 college

26 February 2014
Curzon Street station
The first phase of HS2 will see trains arrive and depart from a redeveloped Curzon Street station, in Birmingham.

Costing around £20 million, it would be England's first new Further Education College for 20 years. Training the next generation of railway engineers for the age of the high-speed train, it could open in as little as three years' time.

It would unveil new horizons for specialists in rail construction and environmental studies.

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West Midlands jobless figures point towards election run-in

20 February 2014
Jobcentre Plus sign
In the final quarter of last year, around 226,000 people were out of work in the region

This week's Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures show unemployment is dropping faster in the West Midlands than anywhere else in the UK, outside southeast England.

And only last month, the accountants KPMG reported our region was leading the way on job creation too.

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Councils battle between themselves over HS2 station

12 February 2014
HS2 Stoke-on-Trent designs
Designs are drawn up for a HS2 stop at Stoke-on-Trent. But passengers could be taken to Crewe instead

Divide and Rule - it's a tactic employed by the great generals in ancient classical armies, by feudal kings and by modern-day political power brokers.

And now the company charged with delivering the first stage of the £42bn High Speed Rail project, HS2 Ltd, is being accused of doing it too.

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Why charities are counting the costs of council cuts

4 February 2014
County Hall, Worcester
Worcestershire County Council will decide next week on a £30m budget cut

Stand by for yet another spike in the number of reports of further council cuts (or savings) leading to the loss of yet more local jobs and services.

It's the time of year when local authorities decide their budgets for the next 12 months, with an extra tightening of the belt dictated by George Osborne's Autumn Statement two months ago.

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Combating the threat of extremism in Birmingham

14 January 2014
Pavlo Lapshyn
Pavlo Lapshyn killed grandfather Mohammed Saleem last April

In the constant struggle to keep the UK safe from what's become known as "home-grown" terrorism, Birmingham is one of Britain's most vulnerable areas.

I think back to a conversation I had a few years ago with a well-placed Home Office source.

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Patrick added analysis to:

Wolverhampton City Council stops spending to 'prevent insolvency'

8 January 2014

Wolverhampton is not the first big city authority to raise the spectre of going bust. Birmingham City Council has said much the same thing for more than a year now.

It's become something of a "ritual dance" as councils struggle to draw up their budgets for the coming year.

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About Patrick

First experience of Parliament as a young BBC journalist was a session of PMQ's when Harold Wilson was being interrogated by Margaret Thatcher.

Reported on The Troubles in Northern Ireland for four years including the worst-ever IRA attack on the army at Warrenpoint.

First became a Lobby journalist at Westminster as part of a team of correspondents which included such legendary figures as John Cole and John Sergeant.

He has been on the "inside track" at Westminster from the "high water" mark of the Thatcher period, through the Blair/Brown era to the unfolding drama of the Cameron/Clegg coalition.

Patrick grew up in Birmingham and went to university in Manchester. He has lived in Birmingham for 25 years.

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