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Fence sitting Street refuses to be drawn over West Midlands metro mayor bid

Fence sitting Street refuses to be drawn over West Midlands metro mayor bid

🕔17.Jun 2016

Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP chair Andy Street refused to be drawn today on whether he might be a candidate for West Midlands metro mayor.

Mr Street’s name has been linked for more than a year with the job, either as the official Conservative candidate or possibly as an Independent with Tory support, but he has never commented directly on the claim.

He read PPE at Oxford and became president of the University Conservative Association before going on to become managing director of John Lewis. He has chaired GBSLEP since its inception five years ago and has proved adept at working across the political divide.

Mr Street is well connected and retains contacts at the top of the Conservative party. He has never sought to hide his Tory affiliations.

Asked by Chamberlain Files at GBSLEP’s annual meeting today whether he was considering running for metro mayor next year, Mr Street said he had been expecting the question but failed to answer directly preferring instead to sit on the fence.

He said:

I have a job at John Lewis that I really love and I have things I want to do.

The election to choose the first West Midlands metro mayor will be held next May.

The winner will chair the combined authority and have limited powers to run  transportation and economic development.

Conservative party leader David Cameron said recently that he wanted a big hitter Tory to come forward as a candidate for West Midlands metro mayor, making it unlikely that Mr Street would be able to run as an Independent with tacit Tory support .

So far, no local or national Conservative figure has expressed an interest in the post which will be the biggest local government job outside of mayor of London.

The Labour party has five people on a selection shortlist – MEP Siôn Simon, former Birmingham councillor Steve Bedser, Wolverhampton councillor Milkinder Jaspal, and businesswoman Mary Simones-Jones.

Mr Street said he thought it was “fantastic” the West Midlands was to have a metro mayor because he believed ultimately one person should take responsibility for the work of the combined authority.

Asked whether he thought the powers to be handed to the mayor were sufficient, Mr Street suggested the mayor’s soft powers of collaboration and persuasion would be just as important as direct powers.

He also suggested a mayor could be handed additional powers in the future.

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