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I am an experienced online journalist and political editor working for Trinity Mirror papers in the West Midlands and the North East, based in the Parliamentary Press Gallery at Westminster.

I understand how government, Parliament and political parties work. I am equally at home digging out stories from data, social media or interviews as I am covering major set-piece events or explaining how things work to readers.

I produce content which is shareable and promote my work on social media.

My experience with content management systems and knowledge of HTML allows me to include charts, embedded content from third parties and formatting in my work, to create content which encourages interaction and keeps readers on the page.

Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (but please send press releases to my work email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as this is the email I monitor during working hours).

Bring on Greater Birmingham's Metro Mayor says Lord Adonis

Former Cabinet Minister Lord Adonis has resurrected the idea of a "Greater Birmingham" or "West Midlands" Mayor who would represent an area larger than the city, as he visits Birmingham today.

The former Transport Secretary is in town to launch a report produced by two think-tanks on "how elected mayors can help drive economic growth in England's cities", at an event in KPMG's offices in the city centre.

It backs the Government's plans to hold referendums on creating elected mayors in big cities including Birmingham and Coventry, but it also says they must be given more powers than the Government currently proposes.

And it calls for the creation of "metro mayors" who would take responsibility for a larger area than a single local authority.

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Taxpayer pays as thousands of civil servants have contracts guaranteeing first class rail travel

Thousands of civil servants have enjoyed first class rail journeys - because a clause in their contract guarantees they won't have to suffer the indignity of travelling standard class.

At least 8,000 civil servants have it written in to their contracts that they are allowed to buy a first class ticket at taxpayers' expense if they need to take a train journey for official purposes.

The bizarre arrangement has been uncovered by Birmingham MP Roger Godsiff (Lab Hall Green), who submitted a series of written questions to departments.

Ministers have stressed in their responses that they inherited the arrangement when the Coalition came in to power last year, and are doing their best to stamp it out.

Defence Minister Peter Luff reported that Ministry of Defence staff made 3,356 first class rail journeys in the 2010-11 financial year, at a cost of £226,177.

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Disgraced peer Lord Taylor claimed £5,100 after being charged with fiddling expenses

Lord Taylor of Warwick, the Birmingham-born peer, claimed more than £5,000 in expenses after being charged with false accounting last year.

The Conservative peer was charged with false accounting in July last year and convicted this January, after a jury at Southwark Crown Court found him guilty of claiming £11,277 in false parliamentary expenses claims.

But it has emerged that between October 1 and December 30 last year he claimed and received another £5,100.

The allowance was paid for 17 days attended in the House of Lords.

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Ed Miliband on banks, police cuts and his nose

I interviewed Labour leader Ed Miliband back in April for Trinity Mirror. Although the story appeared in many of the group's newspapers, I don't think it made it on to at the time, mainly because of looming local elections.

So better late than never:

Labour would tax the banks and pump the money into Britain's great towns and cities to create jobs, party leader Ed Miliband has revealed.

In a detailed interview, he set out his plan to support local businesses and give the construction sector a massive boost.

And he slammed the Government for failing to tax Britain's banks and financial services industry, largely based in London, while employers in other parts of the country were struggling.

Mr Miliband also warned that cuts to police budgets had forced chief constables to sack hundreds of their most experienced officers by making them take early retirement - and predicted this would hit public confidence in the police.

The Labour leader accused the Coalition Government of failing to draw up a strategy to help employers bring jobs and prosperity to the regions.

He said: "Here's one thing I would do very differently. I would be having a bank bonus tax this year - I wouldn't be cutting taxes for the banks.

"And I would be using that money to put young people back to work, to get the housing sector moving and to give more money to small and medium-sized enterprises to help them grow.

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Eric Pickles' plans for Birmingham are like Hitler's plans for Austria (without the horrific overtones), says Labour

Turning Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby into the city's "shadow mayor" is the equivalent of Hitler invading Austria (but without the really bad bits), according to Labour.

Jeremy Beecham, one of Labour's shadow local government ministers, made the rather dramatic claim in the House of Lords, as peers debated the Localism Bill.

We've written extensively about the Bill in the Birmingham Post. It will allow Local Governnment Secretary Eric Pickles to nominate Coun Whitby as the city's "shadow mayor" - shadow in this case being a euphemism for "acting" - in advance of a referendum next May, when residents will be asked whether they want a full-blown elected mayor or not.

But there will also be local elections next May, when Labour could become the majority party on the city council. As the legislation stands, Coun Whitby, a Conservative, would continue to lead the council as shadow mayor, even if Labour wins control in the election (although I guess there's no law that could stop him doing the decent thing and resigning).

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Tom Watson on the powerful forces covering up phone hacking

Black Country Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) told the House of Commons he believed "powerful forces" were at work to cover up illegal phone-tapping.

A bit over the top?

You can decide for yourself, after Watson set out the story, as he sees it, of the phone hacking scandal, in a speech to the GMB conference in Brighton this week, which you can see here:

It's 13 minutes long but he's a pretty good speaker and it's not dull.

Among other things, he accused newspapers of trying to hack the phones of the grieving parents of children murdered in Soham.

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What West Midlands Police told retiring officers invited to come back for no pay

"We all need something to keep our minds and bodies active in the coming years."

That's what West Midlands Police told officers who had been forced to retire, in letters asking them to come back as unpaid volunteers.

We've reported previously that 175 of the Midlands' most experienced officers were asked to return to duty as unpaid special constables after the were forced out.

They were told to take early retirement under a rule called A19, which allows police forces to get rid of staff who are eligible for a pension (in practice, staff with 30 years of service).

Labour leader Ed Miliband raised their plight - and their anger at being asked to come back for no pay - during Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons (incidentally, some of the officers I spoke to also wanted to point out that they do respect Specials and the important work they do).

The full text of the letter they were sent has now been published, thanks to a Freedom of Information request.

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Civil servants enjoy £1,300 night out at burlesque show restaurant

Civil servants enjoyed an £11.48 meal at a Birmingham Burger King funded by the taxpayer, figures published under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed.

But the meal, in September last year, was a modest affair compared to the whopping £1,301.50 bill run up at London's classy Brickhouse restaurant, in May 2010.

Actually, the Brickhouse is more than just a restaurant. It offers diners "live dinner cabaret every night" to enjoy as they eat, including regular burlesque shows - for example, The League of the Extraordinary is currently playing there four nights a week.

Their website doesn't reveal what was playing when taxpayers paid for Sir Humphrey's night out on 25 May last year, so it may have been something less risque.

But the Brickhouse website quotes a flattering review from arts and culture magazine Canvas Magazine, which reads: "The Brickhouse, for those who haven't ventured yet, has a bar and restaurant area, and there's even a top floor packed with gigantic white beds from which guests can view the performances below. Recession? What recession?"

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Enterprise zone bids from Coventry and Warwickshire; Stoke and Staffordshire; Herefordshire and Shropshire ( The Marches ), and Worcestershire.

Business leaders behind Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership have launched an ambitious bid for a second "enterprise zone" which they say could create 100,000 jobs.

But they are up against rival bids from enterprise partnerships across the West Midlands, including Coventry and Warwickshire, Stoke and Staffordshire, Herefordshire and Shropshire and Worcestershire.

The Government has received 29 expressions of interest from partnerships hoping to win one of the ten new zones to be created in round two of the scheme.

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is proposing a zone in Etruria Valley in north Staffordshire, where St Modwen is working with Stoke City Council on a major regeneration project including a 300 acre business park.

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Birmingham City Council spends £7,500 sponsoring pro-cuts think tank

Cash-strapped Birmingham city council is sponsoring a conference organised by a think tank dedicated to cutting public spending.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat-led authority is sponsoring a London conference organised by Reform, at a cost of £7,500.

Star speaker will be Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, who spends much of his time attacking councils for wasting taxpayers' money.

Before I go further, I should point out that Birmingham City Council have been asked for a comment (at about ten minutes to five this afternoon) and have promised to speak to us tomorrow. So they haven't really had a chance to respond.

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Government orders 9,000 Olympic tickets for itself

Have you bid for Olympic tickets? If so, you may be surprised to learn you are competing against Her Majesty's Government, which has requested 9,000 for itself

Of these, 3,000 will be set aside for for civil servants and other officials, who will have the chance to buy tickets from the reserved pool.

Another 6,000 will be available for Ministers and top officials to entertain "international and domestic political and business leaders, dignitaries and others with a close connection to the Games".

It stands to reason that we'll see David Cameron at the games schmoozing foreign leaders, but does the Government really need 6,000 tickets for hospitality? And who are these business leaders, exactly?

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About me

Jonathan Walker Political Editor of the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail, Sunday Mercury, Coventry Telegraph, Newcastle Journal, Newcastle Chronicle and Sunday Sun.

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