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Setting the Mayor’s top priorities – think tank and chambers

Setting the Mayor’s top priorities – think tank and chambers

🕔09.Feb 2017

Cut down on car use, raise the region’s profile on the global stage and support more people to move into jobs should be top of the new West Midlands Metro Mayor’s to-do list when they take office in May this year, according to a report from a leading think tank.

The report published today by Centre for Cities highlights what it believes are the top three top political priorities for West Midlands metro mayor to address from May 2017. The think tank says it wants to help the new Metro Mayor “hit the ground running” from the start of their term.

Centre for Cities is one of the principal partners behind the Public Debates for the mayoral election, launched yesterday by the publisher of the Files alongside the Express and Star, Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph

Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said:

The West Midlands’ Metro Mayor will face many challenges when they take office, including acting on their campaign pledges, preparing the city-region for Brexit, and establishing the new mayoral office. To make a success of the role, it’s vital that the mayor acts quickly to address the biggest issues that the city-region faces.

The Centre for Cities analysis includes one ‘quick policy win’ to set the tone for the Mayor’s time in office, along with two long-term strategic priorities for the city-region:

Cut down on car use and encourage other forms of transport.

Alexandra Jones said:

Traffic congestion is a big problem across the West Midlands, especially in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. By announcing their intention to address this problem on day one, the new mayor can demonstrate their ambition to have a tangible impact on behalf of local people in their initial months in office.

In particular, the Mayor should avoid the temptation to scrap the M6 toll, and instead use scarce public resources to improve bus and rail travel across the region – for example, by making it easier to use the Swift smart travel card across all networks. Not only will this help cut congestion, it will also make it easier for people to access jobs and amenities across the West Midlands.

On long-term strategic priorities, the Centre recommends:

Support more people to move into employment by improving skills.

Alexandra Jones said:

Around 61,000 people in the West Midlands are currently looking for work, and employment in the region is nearly 10% lower than the national average. Tackling this problem should be the top long-term priority for the Mayor, who should focus in particular on improving skills among local people.

One way to do so is to encourage more big firms in the region to work with schools, FE colleges and universities to equip more people with the skills they need to move into work.

Act as an ambassador for the West Midlands on the global stage.

Ms Jones said:

Raising the profile of the West Midlands internationally will be vital in ensuring the region can compete with Greater Manchester and other places, and that local businesses can flourish in the years to come.

The Mayor has a big role to play in this by acting as a spokesperson for the region on the global stage, forming networks with other cities across the world and taking firms on trade envoys on behalf of the West Midlands. This will be crucial in attracting more foreign investment, helping local firms in all sectors to export internationally and boosting jobs across the region.”

Meanwhile, businesses in the region are to spell out what they expect from an elected Mayor in an in-depth manifesto due to be launched at the end of the month. Produced by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Black Country Chamber of Commerce and Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, it will aim to ensure that businesses are fully informed about the election.

The results of a poll of 500 firms to be published in the manifesto show that one of their main priorities is that the Mayor ensures the region is getting a fair share of funding from the government. They also want the Mayor to promote the region nationally and internationally, improve transport connections and ensure the region is producing people with the right skills.

Businesses also call for the Mayor to ensure the region derives “maximum value” from the development of HS2 and promotes growth at Birmingham Airport.

On Brexit, firms have said they want a Mayor who understands the structure and strengths of the region’s business and research communities and will stand up for the region and its citizens in “the most contentious and challenging negotiation of a generation”.

The poll reveals that 49 per cent of local businesses were not aware that the WMCA mayoral election will take place on the May 4. And 59 per cent of businesses do not feel well informed about the WMCA and WMCA mayor.

Henrietta Brealey, policy director at Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce speaking on behalf of the three Chambers, said:

We are redoubling our efforts to ensure that all businesses in the region are fully informed about the mayoral election.

Their voice will be vital in the build-up to the election and afterwards in ensuring that their interests and those of the region are taken on by the mayor.

The three Chambers are also principal partners in the Public Debates revealed yesterday, alongside Centre for Cities.

The Centre for Cities CEO added:

There’s a lot at stake for the new Mayor, and showing that they mean business from day one will not only be vital in building trust with local people across the West Midlands – it will also be crucial in achieving their vision for the city-region and securing the long-term future of the Mayoral office.

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