Greater Birmingham Streets ahead, thanks to our man at the DCLG
Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership chair Andy Street has been given a key role as a senior Government adviser,on the same day as West Midlands leaders sign devolution deal with Government.
Mr Street is to become lead non-executive director at the Department for Communities and Local Government, where he will work closely with Communities Secretary Greg Clark.
The role of the non-executive directors is to work with both ministers and civil servants, offering independent advice and challenge to both.
The lead non-executive director supports the Secretary of State in his role as chair of the board and liaises closely with the government-wide Lead Non-Executive Director.
Mr Street’s appointment comes at a crucial time for GBSLEP, which will be playing a leading role in the West Midlands Combined Authority following yesterday’s announcement of an £8 billion devolution deal.
Mr Street, who will remain managing director of John Lewis, will join DCLG in the new year.
Mr Clark said:
It is fantastic news that Andy will be joining my department. He brings with him a wealth of experience and leadership from the business world and as Chair of Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, which will be invaluable as we drive forward our priorities on devolution, local economic growth and housing. I very much look forward to working with him.
Mr Street said:
I am very pleased to be joining the DCLG Board at a critical time. The role of government and this department in particular is changing in many ways from the implications of devolution to the need to partner with business and communities across the country. I hope my experience will be valuable to the department as it navigates these exciting challenges under Greg Clark’s leadership.
Speaking to the Chamberlain Files last night, he was keen to stress the non-executive nature of the post.
Seven of Birmingham’s nine Labour MPs issued a joint statement congratulating West Midlands council leaders on winning “the biggest devolution deal in England”.
Liam Byrne (Hodge Hill) co-ordinated the statement on behalf of Richard Burden (Northfield), Jack Dromey (Erdington), Jess Phillips (Yardley), Khalid Mahmood (Perry Barr), Shabana Mahmood (Ladywood) and Gisela Stuart (Edgbaston).
Steve McCabe (Selly Oak) and Roger Godsiff (Hall Green) did not lend their names to the statement.
In the statement, the MPs said council leaders had taken a “hard-headed view” about what was best for the West Midlands in the light of Government spending cuts. They added:
We believe it would be have been much better if the Government let the region work out its own plans for governance – but we know our council leaders ultimately had no choice about accepting a metro mayor in order to get the best deal for residents.
This is a good step forward but it cannot only be the first step. It finally puts powers and money in the hands of local people and local Councillors who know what our communities need far better than faceless officials in Whitehall. It finally gives us the chance to rebuild the West Midlands as the workshop of the world.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Cities thinktank warned that all of the devolution deals announced recently by the Chancellor are dependent on the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill being approved by MPs.
Chief Executive Alex Jones said:
These ambitious deals are a great step forward for Merseyside and the West Midlands, and will give local leaders more of the powers they need to improve transport and housing, boost skills, and support more businesses and jobs – all of which will make a big difference to the lives of people in these regions.
Crucially, the investment included in this deals, will help local leaders to undertake ambitious infrastructure projects, such as developing the new deep water port in Liverpool, or extending metro connections in Birmingham. Having a Mayor will also ensure that these regions are well placed to acquire more powers and funding from the Government in the future.
However, these deals will only go ahead if the Cities and Local Government Bill is successfully passed through Parliament in the next few months. It’s now vital that MPs from all parties constructively engage with the Bill – if it isn’t passed, the West Midlands and Merseyside, as well as other places across the country, will miss out on the benefits and opportunities that devolution offers.
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