Dear Sir,
David Bailey criticises Tory proposals to strip Regional Development Agencies of their powers - claiming that this won't help the West Midlands economy and will inevitably lead to a recentralisation of policy-making and delivery in London.

This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, it is not Tory proposals that "don't quite add up", but rather Mr Bailey's misplaced assumption that regional and local policies are some how one and the same.

Take the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy. This is a regional planning document that has given little or no consideration to the needs of local communities and more alarmingly, perhaps, prevents free and fair competition.

In short, local authorities are being denied the right to determine their own figures for office and retail floorspace on the grounds that too much development in one locality could stifle inward investment elsewhere in the region.

Does Mr Bailey honestly believe that this type of interventionist approach will help local economies adjust and develop?

Mr Bailey points to MG Rover to highlight RDA Advantage West Midlands as a force for good. Whilst there has been success stories, it is equally important to highlight AWM's shortcomings.

Moreover, business and employers' groups continue to express their reservations about RDAs' effectiveness. Just last week, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce said RDAs should be spared only if they could demonstrate they were adding value to the local economy and business.

The Conservative Party's interim findings of the Small Business Task Force were not encouraging. The problems of duplication and waste were two of the biggest concerns. Up to two-thirds of the money spent by RDAs, for example, goes nowhere near businesses and is spent instead on administration. Out of a regional budget of £2 billion that's an unacceptable waste of taxpayers' money.

The Tories are committed to stripping RDAs of their transport and planning powers and for these powers, and budgets, to be exercised at the lowest levels possible.

Why? Because we believe the best solutions come from local people. Left to themselves, local councils and communities have a proven track record of knowing how best to deal with the problems they face.

Philip Bradbourn OBE, MEP,  Conservative MEP for the West Midlands


* This 'treaty' is a waste of time and money

Dear Editor, on June 12, the people of the Republic of Ireland are to have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Obviously the Irish government has more respect for the intelligence of its people than the British government has for ours.

According to the EU's own rules, if the people of Ireland reject the Lisbon Treaty, the EU becomes invalid and will cease to exist.

But wait, didn't the people of France and Holland say no to the treaty?

They did, but what did Brussels do? They simply changed the name from constitution to treaty. Both documents are identical, in content, if not in words, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to admit.

If the result of the referendum is no, what will Brussels rename the treaty, the European Charter or The People's Choice?

How about Fool's Paradise, or the Great Swindle?

A huge amount of public and private money will be spent on trying to persuade the people to vote to say 'yes' to the treaty, but judging by the decision of the people of France and Holland it will be money down the drain.

JAMES BENTON, Birmingham


* UK's aid is not helping needy

Dear Editor, UK overseas aid giving continues in spite of the annual millions of tax-payer funded politician's largesse.

That 'aid' is usurped by thieving despots, warlords and guerrillas, before it can benefit the needy starving.

Why should corrupt dictators be unconditionally bankrolled, and prosper on donated UK wealth they should be spending on alleviating their citizens' suffering?

As also our own dictator PM.

This is in stark contrast to the conditions, and qualifying criteria applied to the needy indigenous population.


* Forget Barry, Gera is the big issue

Dear Editor, I'm sick of all the talk of Gareth Barry.

Why aren't the Baggies doing something about Gera?

He is a major asset for West Brom and I hope this will persuade him to stay with us.

If O'Neill believes his own rubbish about Villa being top four or five as Barry clearly doesn't, he would pull out the stops to pay the wages to keep him at Villa.

Good luck to Blues in the Championship with Sullivan and Gold, you're going to need it.

BOB, Chelmsley Wood