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Government says ‘quality candidates’ will emerge in metro mayor races – our latest list.

Government says ‘quality candidates’ will emerge in metro mayor races – our latest list.

🕔07.Dec 2015

The Government is convinced there will be many “quality candidates” coming forward to stand as metro mayors for devolved city regions like the West Midlands, MPs have been told.

Local Growth and Northern Powerhouse Minister James Wharton said he believed there was a lot of public interest in the devolution agenda and this meant there would be no shortage of good people putting themselves forward for the high profile positions.

Mr Wharton told the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee he would make no predictions about likely voter turnout in elections for metro mayors.

He insisted no region or city would have a mayor imposed against the wishes of local councils, but stressed full devolution could only go to areas prepared to have mayors in order to achieve “maximum democratic accountability”.

The shadow West Midlands combined authority – Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell and Dudley councils – announced last month that they had concluded a devolution deal worth £8 billion over 30 years with the Government.

Powers to oversee transport, economic development and skills will pass to a metro mayor who will chair the combined authority. An election for the mayor is scheduled for 2017.

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill which sets out fresh powers for city regions is due to receive its third and final reading in the House of Commons today and is expected to receive the Royal Assent early in the New Year.

On its journey through Parliament, numerous amendments put forward by Labour and Liberal Democrat peers and MPs have been rejected by the Government, most notably a move to permit over-16s to vote in mayoral elections.

Ministers also blocked a proposal that would have prevented an elected mayor from being used as a condition for devolution of power in devolution deal negotiations, and rejected a demand that referendums must be held before city regions can move to elect a metro mayor.

However, the Government agreed to retain two amendments made in the House of Lords, despite having opposed them them: Clause 1, requiring an annual report to Parliament on devolution; and Clause 21, permitting local authorities which had agreed to a directly-elected mayor following a Government-mandated referendum to reverse that decision.

A plan to allow metro mayors to control Sunday trading hours has also been dropped.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark told the committee that the prime objective of devolution was to restore the ability to drive forward the local economy, and social and environmental responsibility, to the local authorities.

The City Deals had begun the process he said. In recent agreements, the reform of the delivery of public services had been crucial and local community engagement made for more informed decision-making.

Who might be in the running for West Midlands metro mayor?

Darren Cooper

The Labour leader of Sandwell Council is the only politician so far to express a definite interest in the job, having told the Wolverhampton Express and Star it was something he wouldn’t rule out. Cooper, who is deputy chair of the shadow West Midlands Combined Authority, is credited with having successfully pushed the devolution agenda forward when he warned a year ago that the Black Country councils might go it alone if Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry could not reach agreement. Could be in a good position as an “I’m not Birmingham” candidate.

Siôn Simon

Labour MEP and former MP for Birmingham Erdington who sacrificed his seat in the House of Commons to position himself as a candidate for mayor of Birmingham. Simon’s plan backfired in 2012 when Birmingham voted decisively against having an elected mayor. His hat will surely be firmly in the mayoral ring.

Liam Byrne

Birmingham Hodge Hill MP and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury in Gordon Brown’s government. Byrne, regarded as a Blairite, is far removed ideologically from Jeremy Corbyn’s wing of the Labour party and may feel his ministerial career is at an end and fresh challenges are required even if Labour can win the 2020 General Election.

Gisela Stuart

The Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston since 1997 is a firm supporter of elected mayors and could have been a candidate had the 2012 referendum not rejected the notion.  Outspoken on many issues, Stuart describes herself as “your independent thinking Labour voice for Bartley Green, Edgbaston, Harborne and Quinton”.

John Clancy

The new Labour leader of Birmingham city council may feel there is far too much on his plate to have a crack at getting his party’s nomination to stand for metro mayor. However, he might be a candidate for deputy mayor, particularly if his either of his chums Darren Cooper or Siôn Simon becomes mayor.

Ann Lucas

The Labour leader of Coventry city council fought a tough battle to convince her party’s backbenchers that joining the West Midlands combined authority was the right thing to do. Could attract support for the mayoral nomination from those with an interest in preventing “domination by Birmingham”.

Bob Sleigh

The Conservative leader of Solihull Council is handily placed as chair of the shadow West Midlands combined authority and has won praise from Labour council leaders for his diplomatic skills in getting the new body off the ground and helping to negotiate the devolution deal with the Government. One of the favourites for the Tory nomination, should he want it.

Andy Street

Chair of Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, non-executive director at the DCLG, on first name terms with Communities Secretary Greg Clark, managing director of John Lewis and lifelong Tory activist, Street would surely be at the top of the list for Conservative metro mayor candidate should he want the job.

Andrew Mitchell

The Sutton Coldfield Conservative MP and former government chief whip appears to have little chance of an early return to ministerial ranks following the Downing Street ‘Plebgate’ affair. He is, however, close to Communities Secretary Greg Clark and was rumoured to be part of a plan to appoint MPs to take over the running of Birmingham city council if the Kerslake governance reforms were not delivered.

John Hemming

High-profile former MP for Birmingham Yardley, Hemming is probably the best known Liberal Democrat in the West Midlands. There’s some damaging baggage thanks to his exotic love life, but he is also a multi-millionaire which always comes in handy.

Lord Jones of Birmingham

Digby Jones is the only non-politician to confirm that he might be interested in becoming metro mayor. The former CBI director general served in Gordon Brown’s government as a business minister but refused to join the Labour party and has always shied away from party politics. Could be an Independent candidate for mayor.

Paul Kehoe

Rumours that the chief executive of Birmingham Airport fancies a crack at becoming mayor under an Independent business-led banner just won’t go away. Mr Kehoe has never denied he is interested. Nor has he ever confirmed he wants the job.

Other candidates could include ministerial champion for the Midlands Engine, Sajid Javid, fellow Tory Caroline Spelman, Labour’s Khalid Mahmood, Waseem Zaffarformer Lunar Society chair Waheed Saleem, head of Birmingham’s Stop the War Coalition Salma Yaqoob. And what price on a return to the frontline for the last two leaders of the city council, Whitby and Bore…….

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