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Byrne won’t enter metro mayor race, launches public consultation instead

Byrne won’t enter metro mayor race, launches public consultation instead

🕔13.Jun 2016

Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne has confirmed he won’t enter the race to get the Labour nomination for West Midlands metro mayor, and has instead launched a consultation exercise to find out what voters really want from the new system.

In a message to supporters, Mr Byrne revealed he had been planning to back former Sandwell council Labour leader Darren Cooper for mayor, until his sudden death earlier this year.

Describing Cllr Cooper as “legendary”, Mr Byrne said he spent hours talking things over with the Sandwell leader before he died. They’d agreed a deal where if Cllr Cooper became mayor Mr Byrne would be given the task of heading a new West Midlands Development Corporation.

Labour has invited members to self-nominate if they wish to be considered to stand to become the party’s metro mayor candidate. There are five nominations, with MEP Siôn Simon regarded as favourite to be selected.

Mr Simon faces Najma Hafeez, who was Birmingham’s first female Muslim city councillor and is the ex-wife of former council leader Sir Albert Bore. The other candidates are former Birmingham Labour councillor Steve Bedeser, Wolverhampton council cabinet member Milkinder Jaspal and freelance bookseller Mary Simons-Jones.

Mr Byrne said:

I think the best way I can honour Darren’s incredible work is to make sure we have on the table the best possible plan for the region. Ideas we can turn into action. A People’s Plan.

So today with a number of friends I am launching the People’s Plan for the West Midlands. We are bringing to the West Midlands technology that has been tried and tested in Europe, to let people work together to create a plan for change.

Mr Byrne, a former minister under the Blair and Brown Labour governments, who once held a Government brief to oversee the West Midlands, explains his thinking on a website dedicated to the People’s Plan:

Next year, the Government is giving the West Midlands power and money to do things our way – and in May 2017 we have to elect a Metro Mayor to call the shots.

We want to work together to give the politicians a plan that we think will make a difference. So: pitch in. Give us your ideas for what needs to change!

The West Midlands is a place of opportunity and enterprise, with a proud tradition of trade, manufacturing and innovation. But it lacks good jobs, affordable homes, good transport and long-term investment.

The People’s Plan is about identifying the big challenges we all agree need tackling.

The website states that the metro mayor will “control big budgets and make big decisions”, although in reality the mayor’s powers will be limited and in most cases subject to approval by the West Midlands Combined Authority cabinet, consisting of the region’s council leaders.

Mr Byrne insists his plan is not a party political initiative. It will involve “trade unions, community groups and as many people as possible from all parties and none”.

Ideas promoted so far on the website include tackling the region’s traffic problems, making public transport safer and cleaner, using church halls for community events and “sorting out Birmingham’s image” problems.

There are also demands to bring the Channel 4 headquarters to Birmingham, make the West Midlands “a great place to bring up children” and improve the environment.

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