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Metro Mayor: Getting Down to Business

Metro Mayor: Getting Down to Business

🕔28.Mar 2017

You may (or may not) have noticed: we’re going to be electing a West Midlands Mayor on the 4th May, writes Henrietta Brealey

Despite tireless campaigning from candidates, there are still a lot of people in the region who are not aware that this election is taking place. And it’s not surprising: there are well over 2.7M people living in the areas taking part in the vote. That’s a lot of doors to knock.

Chambers of Commerce are business membership and business support organisations. My Chamber, the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, exists to Connect, Support and Grow local businesses.

We generally assume that the business community are more engaged with these sorts of debates than the general public. However, back in November, we surveyed our members across the region and found that just under half, 49%, were not aware that the election will be taking place on the 4th May.

I have no doubt that this has significantly improved since then, but we’ve still got a way to go.

At the Chambers, we are proactively doing our part to raise awareness of these elections and champion the business voice. This Thursday we will be launching a toolkit for employers, providing resources for engaging their employees in registering and turning out to vote (this will be available here).

Together with the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, we have also produced a “manifesto” Business Priorities 2017: Vision for a West Midlands Mayor.

Combined, our Chambers of Commerce represent over 5000 members and have championed the needs of businesses for over 200 years. Today, our expert staff continue to help businesses form new connections, offer support and guidance and seek to help shape the region into being the best possible place to start, move and grow a business.

We believe that the creation of a West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and West Midlands Mayor have the potential to offer a step change through greater collaboration, new approaches, joined up strategy and high profile promotion and lobbying.

In our document we set out some of the key priorities and actions we believe will have the greatest positive impact on the business community. Some fall within the current scope of mayoral powers, others will require the Mayor to use their “soft powers” to influence others or seek further devolution deals.

The headlines are clear:
• Providing Vision, Leadership and Promotion
• Making the West Midlands the Best Possible Place to Do Business
• Developing World-Class Transport Infrastructure
• Ensuring a Skills Ecosystem Fit for the Future
• Fostering a Greater Place to Live, Work and Visit
• Leading the Region Through Brexit.

And we make a number of specific recommendations under each.

To date, I’ve personally been impressed by the level of agreement amongst the candidates. A number have already publicly endorsed our Vision and more are planning to in the near future. You can find out more here.

But of course, it’s not just what you want to achieve but how you go about doing it that defines a leader and their legacy. That is why I’m delighted that the Chambers are also a Principal Partner in West Mids Elects, organised by the sister firm of the Files publisher Urban Communications, sister firm of the Files publisher RJF Public Affairs. Their debate series offers a first class opportunity to see the candidates in action, get to know their style and approach and decide who is best placed to represent the region on the local, national and international stage.

The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce will, of course, not be backing any candidate in this election. It’s down to you, the public to decide who can deliver the best results for our region.

As the countdown to Election Day continues I’d urge you to get involved and help spread the word. Devolution, the West Midlands Combined Authority and the elected mayor could be great things for the region. But only if our citizens know they exist and stand ready to hold them to account. The deadline for registering to vote is the 13th April. You can find out how to register here.

This could be a stellar opportunity for the region. Be part of it and join us in turning out to vote on the 4th of May.

Henrietta Brealey is Director of Policy and Strategic Relationships at Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. 

The Birmingham Public Debate is being held at the Patrick Centre at Birmingham Hippodrome, courtesy of DanceXchange, in partnership with the Birmingham Mail and supported by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, the West Midlands Combined Authority, the University of Warwick and Centre for Cities. It takes place next Tuesday evening, 4th April.

If you are a member of the Chamber, BPS Birmingham or Downtown in Business Birmingham please contact them to enquire about tickets. Otherwise, tickets are being allocated by Birmingham Mail here.

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