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Andy’s Anniversary: two questions

Andy’s Anniversary: two questions

🕔05.May 2018

We didn’t have time or space to mark the anniversary of the first Mayoral contest in the West Midlands yesterday. It was quite a busy day on the local political front, writes Kevin Johnson. 

Vote2018: rolling results live blog

Mayor Street was also occupied yesterday – celebrating Conservative success in the Black Country and a “respectable” performance in Birmingham.

Like the council elections, the Mayoral count was staged on the day after polling so 5th May 2018 is exactly one year since being returned by the electorate.

The Mayor will actually mark his first anniversary with events in June.

Andy Street has been busy campaigning for his party, but points to team work with Tory and Labour leaders as the primary reason for a good first year in a wide-ranging interview with the Express and Star’s Peter Madeley.

Given Andy Street has a touch of Tony Blair’s communication skills, he might have paraphrased the former Labour PM by saying his top three priorities will be “skills, skills, skills.”

Street: ‘Addressing skills challenge is my priority’

He told Insider magazine this week:

Securing a new skills deal is the top priority for the next 12 months alongside launching the new Housing First programme and securing further transport investment.

We understand a Skills Deal announcement is pencilled in for early July.

Street expects pre-summer Skills Deal

In an interview with the Local Government Chronicle, Mr Street said both he and the combined authority needed to reframe the argument for greater control over skills services and budgets.

Clearly, skills will be the focus as the Mayor enters his second year. A regional skills plan is scheduled for discussion at the WMCA Board later this month.

Developing a local industrial strategy, along with the WMCA’s approach to innovation, public sector reform, inclusive growth as well as skills, are likely to define Andy Street’s Mayoralty and determine the region’s ability to address its own economic opportunities and challenges.

This raises the first of two questions which might be on Mr Street’s mind.

What are the right structures for the Mayor and WMCA to deliver the new skills plan and deal, together with a new industrial strategy?

How will they align with the Mayor’s manifesto commitments and the Strategic Economic Plan?

How will councils, three local enterprise partnerships, the West Midlands Growth Company and Midlands Engine pull together to deliver on jobs, skills, innovation, productivity, investment, enterprise and inclusive growth?

Will a small but high-powered team at Summer Lane working with officers in seven councils and three LEPs be the right model after 2020?

The Mayor has also made clear that the region needs to significantly up its game on international promotion, especially post Brexit. A study is currently being undertaken by KPMG.

As the Government (eventually) reaches its conclusion about customs arrangements and develops a new immigration policy, it is more than possible Andy Street will need to argue the interests of the region on access to talent and export markets run counter to Conservative Government policy.

Except for securing a Mayoral precept, Andy Street has been on a winning streak.

Street loses first vote as Mayor

The Commonwealth Games and City of Culture are notable successes. The Housing Deal, investment in the Metro extension and the Housing First pilot rank as key Government backed wins.

The third big campaign remains in play. This Friday is the deadline for receipt of submissions by Channel 4 as part of its plan to develop a new national HQ outside of London along with two other ‘creative hubs’.

5,000-word written submissions will allow the broadcaster to shortlist a number of cities. Pitches need to outline the strengths of each city and how they can help meet Channel 4’s ‘For All the UK’ vision.

Mr Street has remained bullish about the region’s chances, but seemed to be caught slightly off guard when Channel 4 unveiled its ‘4 All the UK’ strategy on 8th March.

It is possible that rather than one agreed bid, separate bids will Ben put forward by Birmingham and Coventry.

The process will conclude on 1st October.

With local elections out of the way, the second question which might begin to cross Mr Street’s mind will be who will he face in 2020?

Chamberlain Files has a working list of six possible Labour candidates.

Pete Lowe, Labour’s leader in Dudley, would have been hoping to be returned as leader of the council yesterday. That didn’t go according to plan.

We understand he wants a tilt at the Mayoralty. A seat on the WMCA Board might have provided a useful platform.

Ian Austin, another Dudley politician, may fancy the role. He was a regional minister under Gordon Brown. Mr Austin has a wafer-thin majority and is one of Jeremy Corbyn’s sternest critics inside the parliamentary party.

Jacqui Smith, the former Home Secretary who co-presented LBC Radio’s election special, had been considering the role but has apparently now ruled herself out.

Liam Byrne, another former regional minister, has also been self-deposed from the list, but several party insiders hope he will re-consider.

Would another Corbyn critic, Jess Phllips MP, fancy the job and the national platform it provides?

Finally, will Siôn Simon still rate his chances second time around come 2020? More to the point, will the party let him?

There’s another 18 months before that question needs to be resolved, but that won’t stop us playing our usual parlour game.

In the meantime, it will be worth listening out for what the Mayor has to say on Tuesday – the day he marks exactly one year since officially taking office. Happy Anniversary Andy!

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