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A Right Mayor of a Week

A Right Mayor of a Week

🕔11.May 2017

What a week that’s been – not least for new West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, who will tomorrow chair his first meeting of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), writes Kevin Johnson

This time last week, he and his campaign team were busy getting out the vote. It was particularly effective as it turns out – especially in Solihull, with nearly 34% of the Borough’s electorate voting.

READ: LIVE West Midlands Mayor Result – as it happened.

On Friday, no one knew until the very last moment who had won. Team Street looked both shattered and exhilarated.

Tomorrow, he’ll assume the chair from Cllr Bob Sleigh after some opening remarks from the the Solihull leader. It is not clear if Cllr Sleigh and his six fellow council leaders (all Labour) have arranged for balloons and cake in the Chamber of Birmingham’s Council House.

READ: WM Mayor – where did the votes come from?

It’s a relatively thin agenda, with a number of updates, but it does include discussing the response to the Government’s consultation on ‘Increasing the Regional Impact of Channel 4 Corporation.’ The item will be led by Birmingham’s John Clancy, no doubt with significant contributions from the Coventry and Solihull leaders.

READ: New WMCA chair takes the helm, but what’s it been up to?

Chamberlain Files understands that one of the major accounting firms has been commissioned to undertake a feasibility study for the region’s bid to house the broadcaster – a process being run by the new West Midlands Growth Company – that will help decide which of the region’s potential three bids to put forward.

The tone and body language of Friday’s meeting will give a sense of how Mayor Street will approach working not just with Labour council leaders, but a range of other key figures who are now, in one way or another, part of the WMCA Board.

One of those is David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, who has been somewhat of a thorn in the side of WMCA colleagues. Mr Jamieson may even find a way of pointing out that his personal political mandate is actually stronger than that of Mr Street, having racked up 306,578 votes in the last PCC election compared to 238,628 in the Mayor’s narrow win over Siôn Simon.

There is no official word yet on who will be Deputy Mayor. Indeed, there is not even a whisper that any conversations have been had on the subject.

The formal post must be given to one of the Council leaders from the WMCA’s constituent members. Cllr Peter Lowe, leader of Dudley Council, is the current Vice Chair.

It may be a decision that Mr Street will put off until after the General Election, when party rivalries may be less pressing, or he may choose to hand the post to his only party colleague on the Cabinet – outgoing chair Cllr Bob Sleigh.

Mr Street followed through with campaign commitments to make tackling homelessness his first priority, with a visit to St Basil’s on his first day as Mayor. He is expected to announce details of his Rough Sleeping Taskforce this week.

He also told the Birmingham Mail that he will ensure the Metro extension to Edgbaston Five Ways does not overrun.

Chamberlain Files understands that the recruitment process for the WMCA’s Chief Executive is well advanced this week with strong candidates in the field.

We also understand that the West Midlands Fire Authority has agreed to move to Mayoral governance. Mayor Street is committed to seeking to bring the powers of the Police and Crime Commissioner into the Mayor’s role by the time of the next election in 2020.

Mayor Street will still be coming to terms with his victory and how he will run the new office of West Midlands Mayor. In his ‘Renewal Plan’ manifesto, he committed to keeping the running costs down and not creating a mayoral building. He is setting up mayoral bases in the region’s three cities, utilising both Baskerville House and Summer Lane in Birmingham.








READ: WM Mayor – day one and the aftermath.

Labour recriminations continue over how the party managed to lose an election in its own heartland. Whilst there is plenty of talk about the lack of national funding from Labour and it’s biggest funder, Unite, compared to Mr Street’s well funded campaign and the lacklustre support on the ground from MPs, councillors and activists, it remains a widely held view that Siôn Simon simply did not work hard enough to secure victory.

Occasional Chamberlain Files blogger and former deputy leader of Birmingham’s Labour Group, Andy Howell, sets out the story on the Progressive Politics blog.

Was this the moment, at our Birmingham Public Debate, that Siôn Simon finally lost it, effectively encouraging Silhillians out to vote in large numbers for Andy Street’s shade of green last Thursday?

In truth, there will have been a range of factors that tipped the election. But Mr Simon’s “honesty” may have acted as a useful recruiting sergeant for Team Street in Solihull during the final push.

READ: WM Mayor – where did the others go?

Whilst Mr Street’s commitment to ‘brownfield first’ may have helped to win the day, planning and housing is likely to be one of the new Mayor’s biggest political challenges.

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