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Former MP joins WMCA as Mayor begins next phase

Former MP joins WMCA as Mayor begins next phase

🕔29.Aug 2017

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) confirmed the appointment of “devolution expert” Julia Goldsworthy as director of strategy just as the Bank Holiday weekend started, writes Kevin Johnson.

Chamberlain Files speculated that Ms Goldsworthy was in the running for the job over a month ago and understood she has long been the front runner.

Described as the latest of Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street’s “permanent top-tier appointments”, she will leave her role as senior adviser with professional services firm PwC to take up the post in September. She has spent the last two years leading the firm’s market approach to devolution in England.

The ‘top four’ firm has a number of commissions from the WMCA, including working on its Finance Commission and helping it respond to the WMCA’s own Land Commission.

WMCA’s official release points out that Ms Goldsworthy was a special adviser at HM Treasury during the coalition government, where she focused on public spending and public service reform. It omits to remind readers that she was appointed to work for then Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, soon after losing her seat as Lib Dem MP for Falmouth and Camborne by just 66 votes in a boundary-changed constituency at the 2010 election.

She stood again for the seat, Camborne and Redruth, at the 2015 General Election but came fourth with UKIP in third.

After working as an economic researcher in a Lib Dem MP’s office and as a regeneration officer for a council, the Cornwall native enjoyed a successful Parliament. She was a member of the Public Administration Select Committee, a junior shadow Treasury spokesperson and then Shadow Secretary for Communities and Local Government.

WMCA says she will be a key member of the executive team being assembled by the Mayor and led by incoming WMCA chief executive Deborah Cadman.

Mr Street and Ms Cadman will no doubt believe the new director of strategy’s knowledge of the Treasury; relations with Westminster politicians and civil servants; experience in business as well as her professional abilities will stand her in good stead, particularly in pursuit of new funding streams and public sector reform.

Ms Goldsworthy said:

Devolution on the ambitious scale we are seeking will have far reaching implications for the region’s public sector, businesses and individuals.

There are exciting opportunities ahead for the West Midlands, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to play a part in ensuring we make the most of them.

Street 100: Around the Metro Mayors in 100 days

Whilst the 100 day honeymoon and reviews are now done, Mayor Street still has what he describes as “setting up shop” duties.

Street 100: the Mayor has failed and made no difference

As WMCA points out, it is also currently recruiting a strategic director of housing & regeneration and a director of skills & productivity.

Whilst commissions and negotiations are in play, the Mayor lacks significant powers and budgets beyond transport. It is unclear what resources will be in place for the two new postholders when appointed.

Street 100: what should the Mayor do on skills and housing?

Rumours reach Chamberlain Files that the Mayor wants Conservative non-constituent councils to come inside the WMCA tent on full terms. This is potentially an incendiary issue, but could be critical to his re-election in 2020.

However, costs of full membership might be prohibitive to the districts and there could be resistance to what would be seen increasingly as another tier of local government. They might also find themselves working with a Labour Mayor from 2020 if any kind of political ‘normality’ returns to traditional voting patterns in the West Midlands.

Street: 100 words on 100 days – what his rivals say

Such a move might also require a degree of boundary change or other upheaval. The Mayor also wants to take over the powers of both the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Fire Authority ready for the next term. That is already complex enough, requiring support locally and at Westminster, before thinking about expanding beyond the metropolitan region into areas such as Warwickshire.

As Chamberlain Files highlighted in our 100 day review, the Mayor’s relationships with council leaders – and what he can offer them – will become ever more critical.

Deborah Cadman, the incoming CEO, said she was delighted with the latest appointment:

I am very much looking forward to working with Julia.

She brings an invaluable skill-set to this role, with top level experience of government and work in both the private and public sectors.

Her expertise will help us understand the full potential of devolution for the benefit of the West Midlands.

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