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Jamieson slams ‘ludicrous’ £40,000 ‘light touch’ mayor, and makes Siôn Simon an offer

Jamieson slams ‘ludicrous’ £40,000 ‘light touch’ mayor, and makes Siôn Simon an offer

🕔18.May 2016

The latest attempt to downgrade the role of the West Midlands metro mayor could see the successful candidate paid little more than £40,000 a year if council leaders get their way.

A report tabled at a meeting of the shadow combined authority board suggests a suitable salary for the most powerful elected local government politician outside of London could be between £40,000 and £50,000 – a figure comfortably less than the leader of Birmingham city council is paid and way below the £143,000 paid to the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

In a sign of growing tension among senior politicians, the suggested salary was described as “absolutely ludicrous” by Labour’s West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, who is paid £100,000 a year.

He said he thought the West Midlands metro mayor should be paid about £140,000.

Mr Jamieson went on the attack, telling Chamberlain Files he feared the seven West Midlands metropolitan council leaders – Tory as well as Labour – were attempting to “shackle” the mayor in advance of next May’s mayoral election.

And he hinted he might advise the Home Secretary not to approve the transfer of police commissioner powers to the metro mayor unless he could be certain the successful candidate would be handed wide-ranging executive powers.

Confirmation of the £40,000-50,000 salary range came from Wolverhampton Council chief executive Keith Ireland, who is clerk to the shadow combined authority. Speaking at the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership annual conference, Mr Ireland also said there were concerns the mayoral role would bring an unneeded level of bureaucracy.

While the seven metropolitan council leaders who make up the shadow combined authority board may have approved Mr Ireland’s policy paper, it remains unclear whether they actually have the powers to set the mayor’s salary, or whether a figure will be decided by the Government.

It has emerged that Mr Jamieson has been talking to Siôn Simon, the Labour MEP and favourite to become West Midlands metro mayor, about sharing the police commissioner’s administrative team.

His public admission may surprise many in his party since Mr Simon is yet to officially declare his candidacy for metro mayor, although his interest in the job is an open secret. Mr Jamieson said he would happily make the same offer of administrative cover to mayoral candidates from any party other than UKIP.

Mr Jamieson is proposing that his office, due to move into refurbished headquarters at Lloyd House in Birmingham city centre later this year, could be shared by the mayor. He said the idea would make “perfect sense” if the mayor appoints a deputy mayor to take over the role of police commissioner – a role that many believe could go to Mr Jamieson, who was re-elected PCC for a four year term on May 5.

He said:

The mayor will need a communications team and a policy team as well as good finance officers. I have that team. Money is tight, there is as far as I know no budget set aside for a mayor’s office, and you don’t want to build up a huge bureaucracy so I have suggested it could be a good starting point for the mayor to use some of the people here and bring in advisers on transport.

I have the only set of people who straddle the whole of West Midlands other than the fire authority. We have a financial team and people who are very strong on economics so you don’t need to recreate all of that for the mayor.

There is the potential here to save a lot of money bringing good quality professionals together to support the mayor.

Asked about claims that the council leaders are attempting to strip the mayor of powers even before the post is created, Mr Jamieson said he would look very carefully to see whether a transfer of police commissioner powers to the mayor could be justified:

What I won’t do is submit the role of the PCC to a very light touch mayor. That would be truly ludicrous. We would be moving backwards.

The metro mayor calls for a strong person with a lot of authority and powers.

That person has to have authority over economic development and transport and perhaps some health services. That person will be directly accountable to the people of the West Midlands.

What they are proposing with the metro mayor is that the successful candidate should earn less than several West Midlands council leaders and that doesn’t seem to me to add up to someone who has major responsibilities. To pay the mayor half the salary of the police commissioner is just ludicrous.

The mayor will be a full time position and the most powerful elected official outside of London. What sort of candidates are we going to get if the pay is £40,000?

Mr Jamieson said the mayor could not be “second guessed by a moveable feast of council leaders” and added that “noises” from the councils did not give him much comfort. He added:

The West Midlands council leaders have to make a leap of faith. They have to let go.

The council leaders will all be stronger if we have a strong mayor with the ability to draw in financial resources that we can’t currently get.

The mayor has to become a national figure, someone with status who speaks for the West Midlands at Government and international level. Someone who beats at the door of Ministers.

This is not someone who is just going to chair a committee.

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