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Battle of the Mayoral Plans

Battle of the Mayoral Plans

🕔17.Mar 2017

Just like buses, there you are waiting and suddenly two Mayoral Plans come thudding onto the digital doormat. Siôn Simon announces his Transport Plan today, whilst Andy Street unveils a full blown ‘Renewal Plan.’

Mr Street will launch his 48 page Renewal Plan near to the city centre later this morning. It is certainly full of commitments, including for the first 100 days and as well as signalling what voters will notice by the end of his first term.

Given the range of promises and plans, the question for voters will be whether Mr Street – or indeed anyone – could deliver them given the powers available to the new Mayor, the Council leaders sitting alongside him at the WMCA table and a first term of just three years.

“Andy’s 2020 Aims” are stated as:

  • Your commute in the West Midlands will be quicker, with less traffic, and more punctual and less crowded public transport
  • Zero young people will be unemployed or not in skills training
  • The West Midlands economy will be the fastest growing of any city region in Britain
  • Wages in the West Midlands will be increasing faster than any other city region in Britain
  • We will have built 25,000 new homes in the West Midlands
  • We will see a significant reduction in anti-social behaviour, especially on buses and trains
  • Mental health problems will be decreasing not increasing
  • We will establish the role of Mayor as so important that turnout in the Mayoral Election in 2020 will be 5% higher than in 2017.

But the Conservative candidate wants to get started quickly, so he has already published his first 100 days plan which includes:

  • Going to Number 10 to meet the PM
  • Action Plans for Transport, Housing and Jobs with his ‘Mayoral teams’
  • Launching “quick congestion busting measures”, such as reviewing traffic light timings and roadwork plans on the M6 and other key routes
  • Lead West Midlands businesses on a trade mission to a fastgrowing market, for example Silicon Valley.

On the economy, the Plan states:

…the growth of the economy has not yet spread out far enough across the region: many areas need more attention, more investment and more ambition.

He says he will:

….establish the West Midlands as a world-leading centre for advanced manufacturing, technology and the creative industries, life sciences, professional services, low carbon technology and construction.

In a section on Brexit, he says:

I want to make the West Midlands the Free Trade capital of Britain.

Economy measures in the Renewal Plan include:

  • Reduce the youth unemployment rate in the West Midlands to zero by the end of the first three-year term of office
  • Seek a globally recognised digital or tech company to set up a major operation in the West Midlands (for example Google, Facebook or Apple)
  • Create a Mayor’s Digital Skills Institute with responsibility for leading digital training efforts in the West Midlands
  • Retain graduates who study in the West Midlands or who grew up in the West Midlands with a “West Midlands First” programme
  • Create a West Midlands Skills Fund from the £150–180 million Apprenticeship Levy paid by West Midlands businesses each year
  • Launch a “Mayor’s Mentors” scheme
  • Explore whether a West Midlands All Age Careers Service could be created, which would help people into work and into higher-paid jobs at all stages of their careers.

The former John Lewis boss will create a “Future High Streets Taskforce.” He suggests some small independent shops on the High Streets could “turn into the next John Lewis one day.”

Mr Street’s Renewal Plan also says the former retail chief will:

Explore whether the John Lewis mutual model could be applied to social care providers in the West Midlands.

He also expresses his support for the Government’s Free Schools programme.

Some of the eye catching initiatives include:

  • Bring world-class sporting events to the West Midlands, for example, explore bringing IPL teams to play at Edgbaston
  • Develop plans for a world-class Electric Superprix on the streets of Birmingham, to promote the West Midlands automotive industry around the world
  • Hold a “Mayor’s Community Day” once a year, where everyone in the West Midlands is encouraged to take part in service to their community such as “litter-picking, events for older people, and painting and decorating for those who need help”
  • Push for more West Midlands history to be taught to our young people
  • Explore whether the canals of the West Midlands could be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Include faith and community leaders in a Mayor’s Taskforce on community and integration
  • Launch a Rough Sleeping Taskforce
  • Zero Suicide Ambition to prevent suicides in the region.

Land and housing will be a major issue for whoever takes office on 8th May. Mr Street’s Plan says:

We need a joined-up approach to housing across the West Midlands region…. As Mayor I will speed up house-building and knock heads together where there are obstacles, whilst protecting our green spaces and the things that make the West Midlands a great place to live.

One of my first tasks if I get elected, will be to make sure we have a proper plan for housing in the West Midlands for the next fifteen years so we understand exactly what housing we need.

Whilst he commits to working with local authorities to make sure they have local plans, there is no mention of a strategic planning framework, either on a statutory or voluntary basis.

He commits to ‘brownfield first’ but makes no mention of the recent Land Commission report, commissioned by the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Saying there is a lot of building to be done to complete the required 165,000 new homes by 2030, he says:

….we need military-style discipline in order to achieve it.

He will, the document says, “lead the housebuilding charge.” The list begins by saying he will hold “regular meetings with local councils, developers and construction companies to knock heads together…”

He promises to “train a new Mayor’s Army of skilled construction workers.”

The Files will look at the transport commitments of the Conservative and Labour candidates in a separate post, but Mr Street’s plan includes ruling out any universal congestion charge on drivers in the West Midlands and dismissing the case for a second runway at Birmingham Airport.

In a chapter entitled “Lead a Coalition Against Crime” he calls for the Mayor:

to take over the responsibilities of the Police and Crime Commissioner in 2020, in time for the second mayoral term.

In his opening statement in the document, explaining why he wants to the job, Mr Street says:

I gave up a job I loved at John Lewis, to come back home and fight for the West Midlands.

We must not squander this opportunity. The region faces a stark choice: do we embrace this renaissance by growing the economy in a way which benefits everybody and become Britain’s beating economic heart?

Or, do we look backwards? There is only one answer. If I’m the Mayor, I will work tirelessly to make this happen.

The West Midlands needs a leader who can restore pride in our region….

All of these commitments would, you might think, require a big budget and lots of staff. But, the Tory hopeful says he will:

Commit to no Mayoral council tax precept before 2018, and convene a panel of experts to examine the alternatives to raising a council tax precept. Any precept will be a last resort….

He promises to:

Keep the costs of the Mayor’s office low, for example, there will be no new Mayoral building.

Spend time working across the whole region hot-desking across the seven boroughs.

Get paid based on results. The Mayor’s salary should have a minimum and a cap, then be decided based on how well the West Midlands performs….

He will also launch a Finance Commission and a West Midlands Investment Fund, as well as securing second and third devolution deals with Government.

In a statement that his Labour opponent might, almost, have written he says:

Just as control will move back from Brussels to London, we must make sure that control continues to move from London to the West Midlands.

Andy Street’s core message is that he is the man with a comprehensive plan and the leadership capability to deliver it. Those who step out to vote on 4th May will have to decide if it is the most credible plan on offer and if they like the sound of a Conservative candidate with lots of ambition.

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