It has previously been pointed out here that it took less time for NASA to get a man on the moon than it will take the UK Government to build a 125 miles of railway between Birmingham and London.

The time between the first announcement of HS2 to the first train trundling out of Curzon Street Station will be approximately 16 years – long enough for every highly paid consultant, board member and the legal system to squeeze enough out of the multi-billion budget to retire on.

We are seeing similar extended time scales for the delivery of metro systems and are told this is the way things are.

But this is clearly not the case for the Northern Powerhouse economies.

Apparently if Greater Manchester and her friends in the north click their fingers then the Government comes running.

Thus the high speed rail link to Crewe can be brought forward six years so that while some trains do arrive in Birmingham city centre, many more will be flying past the Midlands on their way to the north west.

At the same time we have also seen confirmation of a Transport for the North authority to tie up the links to the new line, run by John Cridland, the former director general of the CBI no less,

There are grumbles that they are favoured because Chancellor George Osborne represents a Cheshire constituency and the business community there has his ear as a result.

But the leaders here in the West Midlands have to face the fact that they too have been far from unified in purpose and have not made a convincing case for the region to get a decent slice. Recent steps towards a combined authority and the Midlands Connect transport project show that this is changing.

As new Birmingham council leader John Clancy says, the devolution deal given to the region is at ‘the lower end of expectations’. It is simply not good enough for an economy of this size.

To steal one of Clancy’s new buzz words, the leaders of Greater Birmingham and beyond need to ‘step up’ their efforts and prove that we can match the North for ambition and direction and ensure that Government delivers for this region too.

Housing plans need to be joined up

Last week Birmingham’s planning committee approved more than 1,000 homes over several major sites – including major 100-plus property developments at Soho Loop and the Jewellery Quarter as well as several smaller suburban schemes and student apartment blocks.

Yet the message still coming from Government is that it is the planning system and red tape holding up the system – it seems the developers, mortgage lenders, investors and those corporate ‘land bankers’ may need looking at, and planning committee members have been right to highlight this.

But the council is not going to convince anyone of this if it too is storing up land for a rainy day.

One such issue came up with the development of a 15-storey tower as part of the restoration of the historic Christopher Wray factory on the edge of Eastside City Park.

The area around Masshouse can clearly take a 15-storey building, but the city’s conservation panel and some councillors disagreed , saying that it would overshadow one of the city centre’s oldest surviving building.

There was a ready-made solution with a patch of council owned ground behind the site which would have allowed the student block to be spread over a wider footprint and reduce the height.

The committee was told that the council’s property division are not sitting on the site awaiting a rise in land values once HS2 arrives in town.

But from the outside it does look, as some have suggested, like a case of land banking.

Harmony, what harmony?

John Clancy, the new leader of Birmingham City Council
John Clancy, the new leader of Birmingham City Council

Despite a public show of harmony for the inauguration of the new council leader , the Birmingham Labour group is still deeply wounded following the bitter leadership election.

In a bid to stop any more blood letting there was an order handed out from Labour party officials, and agreed to by new leader John Clancy, that there should be no resignations or sackings from the cabinet.

Such a reshuffle would obviously have led to more internal elections and more infighting as among those most likely to be promoted to cabinet, Clancy allies Waseem Zaffer and Majid Mahmood, would leave vacancies on the council’s scrutiny committees.

They have also watched their national counterparts squabble under Jeremy Corbyn’s calamitous stewardship and want to avoid a repeat.

But like the famous World War One Christmas football match between the trenches, this is only a festive break in hostilities.

One councillor described it as a ‘smokescreen’ and another from a rival camp predicted a ‘night of the long knives’ for cabinet members in the new year.

Meanwhile, others are plotting to make councillor Clancy’s occupation in the leader’s office a short one.

This is far from over.