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Simon: Street has failed and made no difference

Simon: Street has failed and made no difference

🕔11.Aug 2017

Andy Street won the mayoral election by under 4,000 more votes than main rival Siôn Simon. Here, the Labour MEP writes exclusively for the Chamberlain Files and says the Tory Mayor has done nothing to make a difference to real people’s lives in the West Midlands. 

Ask yourself how may people’s lives in the West Midlands have been improved by Andy Street’s first 100 days in office? The answer is none. The Tory Mayor’s first 100 days have made no difference whatsoever to the real lives of any of our citizens. That is the core test of politics and he has failed.

ANALYSIS: Street 100 – what’s the score?

And, no, 100 days is not enough to turn around the oil tanker. But it’s enough to start to make a difference. In 100 days I would have got dozens of rough sleepers into housing. It’s an emergency. The Tory Mayor has set up a taskforce. It would be laughable if people weren’t dying.

Homelessness in the West Midlands is a direct result of Tory Government policies on housing funding, housing benefit, homelessness support, funding for victims of domestic violence, people with mental health issues, people with dependency issues.

READ: 100 words on 100 days – what his election rivals say

So what has Tory Andy done or said to stand up to the Tory government on behalf of West Midlands people? Precisely nothing. Has he spoken out against a single one of these Tory policies which are known to be the causes of homelessness? No. He’s on their side not ours.

Congestion has got worse. It’s choking our region and blighting people’s daily lives. Yet the half-empty M6 Toll has just been sold to another distant private operator, which has immediately hiked the prices again. The Tory Mayor has said and done nothing. The Tory government in London doesn’t want the boat rocked.

So instead of standing up for West Midlands interests against the Tory government in London and private operators who stand to profit from increased congestion, the Tory Mayor has rebadged an existing employee as his congestion tsar. The worst kind of token box-ticking.

In the real world, congestion has got worse in the last 100 days, and it will continue to get worse and worse for as long as the Tory Mayor remains in office.

Street promised us he would get Channel 4 relocated to the West Midlands. His Tory connections were going to make all the difference. In truth, there’s no sign they’re actually taking any notice of him now the election is over. His usefulness to them is ended; and they’re not interested in the West Midlands. London is everything.

Likewise on skills and employment. It’s all fluff and self-congratulatory statements; huge announcements about tiny tranches of funding that can’t begin to scratch the surface: the paltriest pots of money for which we’re to be pathetically grateful. Not the slightest attempt to stand up for the West Midlands and demand what is rightfully ours: our fair share of the national pie. Real control of our own money.

READ: what next on skills and housing?

On Brexit, he’s managed to match the achievements of his Tory bosses in London: he’s done nothing, has no plan, seems to have no idea what he’s going to do; has given us no idea what he’s going to do.

This is a crucial issue for the regional economy. We have particular needs and interests as a region that aren’t being represented by the Tory government in London. So what’s the Tory Mayor doing on behalf of the West Midlands?

A trade mission to Canada. One can understand why people weren’t exactly lining the streets to welcome him back.

And so it goes on across the board: bureaucratic tinkereing and vacuous “gosh amazing” announcements. Nothing that will actually make a difference. And, above all, nothing that might upset his Tory bosses in London.

What’s most disappointing after Andy Street’s first 100 days – though it’s what we always feared – is that he’s 100% Tory London’s man in the West Midlands; he’ll never stand up for us against them. And so nobody’s real life in the real world will change.

Siôn Simon is a Labour MEP for the West Midlands and was the Labour candidate at the 2017 West Midlands Mayoral election. 

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