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Mayoral news machines go into overdrive

Mayoral news machines go into overdrive

🕔27.Apr 2017

You know when an election is days away. Two things happen in campaign teams – there is intense focus on getting out the vote and the number of press releases rises exponentially.

Over the next few days, we’re going to focus on the manifesto commitments and analyse where the mayoral campaign has reached, including after our Final Public Debate last weekend. But for now, we’re going to try and cover what the candidates are keen for you to know.

Media staff and volunteers for Andy Street (Conservative) and Beverley Nielsen (LibDem) have been particularly productive in recent days.

If elected, Andy Street will be a very busy Mayor indeed. As well as battling congestion and solving youth unemployment he will be heading up multiple national bids and major events.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games, the revival of the Birmingham Superprix, winning the City of Culture bid for Coventry and bringing Channel 4’s HQ to the region are all on his hitlist.

I have long been a supporter of Birmingham’s bid for the Commonwealth Games in 2026. However, the opportunity presented for the 2022 games means we should step up our efforts.

I truly believe the bid should be for the entire West Midlands, bringing everybody together behind a cause.

If elected as Mayor on May 4 I will make it an immediate priority to get everyone in the region behind Birmingham City Council’s bid so that we can convince Government that they should support us.

New laws have come into force that will allow motor racing events to take place on closed public roads in England. Mr Street said:

These new laws will make it so much easier to overcome some of the obstacles around putting on these events, provided of course we agree the necessary permissions locally.

In my Renewal Plan I have committed to making the West Midlands a global centre for electric and driverless vehicles, building on our existing strengths in advanced manufacturing.

A revival of the Superprix – which is fondly remembered by West Midlanders – focused towards racing in new technologies would demonstrate our growing confidence as a region.

It would of course be a tourism draw, bringing motorsports fans from all over the world.

But it would also be a showcase for our global excellence in this emerging industry.

Meanwhile, the Conservative candidate has launched his Digital Plan with a particular eye on landing the fourth TV channel.

The creation of a Digital Skills Institute and a new graduate retention programme are included in proposals by Andy Street to help the West Midlands “prepare for the Digital Revolution” and support the bid.

Digital is vital to the continued success of the West Midlands economy because it is the golden thread across all the industries which will provide jobs in the twenty-first century and forms a key part of the bid to bring Channel 4 to the region.

The Mayor needs to lead the charge to bring digital skills and digital jobs to the West Midlands. We need someone who has the necessary experience and skills to make it the digital revolution success for the West Midlands.

Mr Street, who is not known for his own personal prowess with digital technology, has not said whether Birmingham, the NEC or Coventry should be the new home to Channel 4.

Siôn Simon, Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Mayor, has called for FA Cup semi-finals and England men’s international friendly matches to return to Villa Park.

Siôn Simon says, if elected. he will work with the Football Association and Department of Culture, Media & Sport to bring more elite sport out of London and into the West Midlands.

The lifelong West Bromwich Albion fan and season-ticket holder said:

Fans should not have to travel to London to watch the England national team play. Friendly matches should come out of the capital and return to Villa Park.

The England football team belongs to the whole country and not just London.

FA Cup semi finals should return to the heart of the country too.

Siôn Simon says he also strongly backs Coventry’s bid to be the UK City of Culture in 2021 and Birmingham’s bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2026.

Mr Simon has issued a “challenge” to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling over his “botched” handling of transport funding in the region.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has recently confirmed his backing for a Lower Thames Crossing and announced the preferred route for the scheme, which could cost up to £6bn, but refuses to endorse the Labour candidate’s plan to nationalise the M6 Toll.

Mr Simon said:

If we needed anymore [sic] proof that the Tory London Government is out of touch with the people of the West Midlands, now we have it.

In the same week that the Tory Transport Secretary lavishes billions of pounds in funding for a new road in the leafy South East, he refuses to endorse a plan to seriously cut congestion in the West Midlands.

I’m calling time on failing Grayling’s dodging of this issue. People in the West Midlands deserve better than this Tory London Government. It’s time to take back control from London and get the best deal for the West Midlands on transport.

Asked at the Final Public Debate whether he had asked for or been given any assurances about a commitment to nationalise the M6 Toll in Labour’s General Election Manifesto, Mr Simon said he had not had any discussions with anybody in the national Labour Party about the manifesto.

Siôn Simon has pledged to double the number of affordable new homes if elected West Midlands Mayor.

Bureaucratic barriers, indifference of London politicians in the “Tory London government” and contaminated land have limited the rate of house building, he says.

Mr Simon’s pledge of a £500 million reclamation fund for brownfield sites has not been matched by the Conservatives, according to Labour.

Everyone should have the right to their own front door. Under the Tories, home ownership is falling, rents are rising and homelessness gets worse every week.

Strong communities are built on safe homes. And right now we don’t have enough homes – or enough affordable homes. By taking back control of the West Midlands, with a Mayor who is from here and will always put us first, we can start to do something about it.

In the yellow corner, Beverley Nielsen has accused the Tories of “cynically targeting vulnerable young people to slash government spending.” She added:

Housing benefit for the under-22s has long been seen as a valuable safety net for those who can’t afford private rent levels, and for those who have left their family homes for a variety of reasons.”

The option of being able to live with one’s parents is not available to everyone, and these individuals are desperately trying to build new and independent lives – which is something the state should be encouraging.

Instead, this callous policy will do the opposite. In some cases, young people will be forced to return to their homes. In others, they will simply become homeless, end up on the streets, and be exposed to the risk of emotional and physical abuse.

Andy Street joined the Vice-Chancellors of Birmingham, Warwick, Aston and Wolverhampton Universities in calling on the Government to support higher education institutions during Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

In an open letter to Universities Minister Jo Johnson, Mr Street and higher education leaders ask Government to ‘prioritise the needs of the world-class universities in the West Midlands’.

Specifically, the letter asks Government to:

  • Protect the rights of EU and UK students and staff, to study and work at European and UK universities
  • Make it easier and faster for the best and brightest students to study in the West Midlands
  • Guarantee funding opportunities for West Midlands universities.

Mr Street said:

The universities in the West Midlands are vital to our efforts to boost the region’s economy. There are 152,000 students gaining the skills that they need to be successful in the twenty-first century.

As Mayor, I will be committed to securing the support our universities need from the Government during the Brexit negotiations.

The letter urges Ministers to ensure no additional barriers are raised for students and staff moving between EU countries and the UK for teaching and study, and to prioritise continued UK participation in Erasmus+ programmes in negotiations with the European Union.

Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate, Beverley Nielsen, unveiled a partnership with Elonex to promote her campaign, ‘Lib Dems Deliver.’ Giant electronic posters will be seen at major sites across the region, according to her campaign team.

Labour think they have got this stitched up and in the bag, but I’m hearing that people think that party has lost its way and will remain in the wilderness for years. Yes, they know how to spend, but they have no credible economic plan and no way of generating the wealth that is needed to support their spending.

Conservatives are obsessed with austerity, cuts, and especially the hard Brexit they want to foist on us. We need investment, not cuts, we need to inspire hope not fear, and we need access to the Single Market for the goods and services produced here.

Birmingham City Council is in danger of “destroying its historic Jewellery Quarter (JQ)” by focusing on new residential space, and ignoring the small manufacturers which gave the area its name, says Ms Nielsen.

She fears a combination of fast-rising property prices and business rates, coupled with short-term local authority leases which don’t provide the certainty required for investment, is ‘hollowing out’ the area.

The city council owns large tracts of land here, and is landlord to something like 40% of the businesses in the JQ development trust area, but the people I met all complained about its lack of foresight, and its inability to deliver a strategic vision for the area.

Ms Nielsen’s solution is for the council to set up a specialist JQ Hub offering start-up business space, access to skills training, networking sessions for recent graduates and retail space, to become a new and dynamic focal point for jewellery manufacturers and allied trades.

Beverley Nielsen met around 30 tenant traders that have been in dispute with their local authority landlord since 2010, when their previous leases expired, and they claim all requests for new leases have since been ignored.

There’s been a market here for 850 years, and the local authority should be using its extraordinary heritage to attract residents and visitors to this area, making it a flagship development for Birmingham, as we’ve seen in other major European cities, such as Barcelona, Rotterdam and Valencia.

Instead, I met disillusioned traders who – because the council won’t give them new leases – are prevented from selling their businesses on, relocating or even retiring. All the council’s focus has been on the wholesale markets and Birmingham Smithfield, but the indoor, outdoor and rag markets appear to have been forgotten.

Delivering a scheme of which Birmingham can be proud, needs a clear vision, strategic leadership and an ability to combine commercial nous with awareness of the requirements of the traders. It’s no wonder they’ve become so frustrated that they have taken this class action.

Low productivity and limited access to finance have bedevilled Britain’s SME manufacturers for decades says the LibDem Mayoral candidate.

….I think this country has more to learn from the harmonious relationship between Germany’s financial sector and its so-called Mittelstand; the vast array of successful enterprises operating between the giant quoted plcs and its small businesses.

These companies tend to be family-owned and managed. Their planning horizons span generations, rather than merely the next set of results, and although they tend to be rooted in their regions, they have global ambitions.

As Mayor, I will set the building blocks in place so that our SME manufacturers can finally get the support they have deserved for so long.

I will establish a West Midlands Bank, and a £1bn Innovation Fund, to encourage young talent, skills development, expertise, universities and research centres to link into our Mittelstand, to devise practical market-applicable solutions that deliver real growth and jobs.

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