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Jamieson in pole position for metro mayor, if West Midlands follows Manchester

Jamieson in pole position for metro mayor, if West Midlands follows Manchester

🕔01.Jun 2015

West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson will be looking with interest at events in the north-west where Tony Lloyd, his counterpart in Greater Manchester, has been selected as the region’s interim metro mayor, writes Paul Dale.

Mr Jamieson has made no secret of the fact that he wants to be a candidate for a West Midlands or Greater Birmingham mayor, should a prospective combined authority agree to accept Chancellor George Osborne’s insistence that an elected mayor is mandatory for full devolution.

The veteran Labour politician will be studying carefully the outcome of a controversial ‘behind closed doors’ meeting of Greater Manchester council leaders which resulted in the appointment of PCC Tony Lloyd as interim mayor until 2017, when a mayoral election will be held.

His position will not carry any new powers, but is designed as a caretaker role to move the devolution programme forward and raise the profile of the Greater Manchester ‘super council’ with the public. No decision has yet been taken on how much the interim mayor should be paid, although Mr Lloyd already receives £100,000 a year as police commissioner.

Whoever eventually becomes the elected mayor of Greater Manchester will also assume the powers of police commissioner and the PCC role will be scrapped. It is unclear whether Mr Lloyd will be Labour’s official candidate at the 2017 election, although he is now in prime position to get the job.

The selection of Mr Lloyd as metro mayor draws a template for what could happen in the West Midlands, where Birmingham, Solihull, the four Black Country councils and Coventry are moving towards combined authority status – giving the new body some additional powers over transport and economic development.

Council leaders in the West Midlands have made it clear they don’t want a metro mayor, but if Mr Osborne stands firm they will have to go down the mayoral route in order to get the full range of devolved budgets and powers on the table for Greater Manchester.

Mr Jamieson, 67, told Chamberlain Files earlier this year that he regarded himself as the politician with the biggest directly-elected mandate after the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, having been elected in August last year with 102,000 votes on a 10.4 per cent turn out.

He correctly forecast that the push for English devolution following the Scottish independence referendum would open up the possibility of regional metro mayors who would assume the powers of PCCs.

Yesterday, Mr Jamieson told the Birmingham Post: “If the West Midlands is to have a Metro Mayor it would make complete sense for that person to have responsibility for policing governance much like the Mayor of London currently does.”

The selection of an interim metro mayor could be even more problematic in the West Midlands than in Greater Manchester, where ten council leaders took more than two hours to select Mr Lloyd.

Although, like Greater Manchester, most of the West Midlands councils are under Labour control, one significant player, Solihull, is run by the Conservatives.

Any run off for interim West Midlands mayor will probably boil down to a contest between three Labour politicians – David Jamieson, the PCC, Birmingham council leader Sir Albert Bore and Sandwell council leader Darren Cooper.

Sir Albert is a long-time supporter of elected mayors and even at 69 would see himself as a viable candidate for a metro mayor.

Cllr Cooper, however, has been leading on forming the combined authority, is the official spokesman for the seven councils, and is fast emerging as hot favourite to lead the new authority or to become Labour metro mayor.

Cllr Cooper welcomed the inclusion of a Cities Devolution and Local Government Bill in the Queen’s Speech, and described the prospect of devolution as a once in a generation opportunity giving the West Midlands “a much bigger say in making the key decisions that will drive economic growth in relation to transport, housing, regeneration and jobs”.

He added: “There is a real sense of urgency in the region and politicians are grasping the nettle to transform how our councils work together and to present a credible, ambitious and compelling business case to government.

“A case that will demonstrate we are serious about our vision for growing our own economy and reforming our public services, spreading prosperity and opportunities for people and businesses across the region.

“We have a clear work plan that includes consulting and working with a range of individuals, residents, businesses and organisations with the aim of developing a prospectus, to be published in the summer.

“This will be the basis for our negotiations with government for a major devolution deal.

“These are exciting times for the region and we head in to the next few months with renewed optimism. The West Midlands is preparing to become the UK’s new engine house of productivity and once again the beating heart of the country’s economy.”

The draft Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill which has now passed its first stage in the House of Lords proposes to:

  • Provide for an elected mayor for the combined authority’s area who would exercise specified functions individually and chair the authority
  • Provide for the possibility for the mayor additionally to undertake the functions of Police and Crime Commissioner for the combined authority area (in place of the Police and Crime Commissioner)
  • Where a mayor is to have Police and Crime Commissioner functions, cancel Police and Crime Commissioner elections that would otherwise have taken place and allow the current Police and Crime Commissionerʹs term of office to be extended until the mayor is in place
  • Remove the current statutory limitation on functions that can be conferred on a combined authority (currently economic development, regeneration, and transport)
  • Provide for streamlined local governance as agreed by councils.

The second reading of the Bill is on June 8 in the House of Lords.

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