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Street: 10 days ‘til the big 100 – what’s the score?

Street: 10 days ‘til the big 100 – what’s the score?

🕔07.Aug 2017

The fabled 100 day marker is in sight and Andy Street is heading towards it with the air of a student cramming for an exam. Kevin Johnson assesses the Mayor’s homework.

Recent announcements on Devolution Deal II talks, a Funding for Growth programme and a transport action plan as well as senior appointments are part of a choreographed run up to 12th August* when the honeymoon period made famous by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt comes to a close.

Last Tuesday Andy Street met PM Theresa May. In his list of ten achievements to be marked after 100 days, visiting Number 10 was fourth on the list.

But, popping down for tea with the First Lord of the Treasury was generally the answer when asked about his first mayoral action during the campaign. The political landscape changed dramatically, though, between his election and the General that followed.

By any measure, Andy Street is leading the field of new Metro Mayors. Only Andy Burnham is attracting as much attention nationally – which is partly due to already being a Cabinet level political player; being at the head of an established Combined Authority/Interim Mayor infrastructure and the terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena which brought the region’s leader into the spotlight.

The recent announcement about Devo Deal II talks is seen by the Street camp as evidence that the West Midlands has overtaken Greater Manchester as the region shaping the next phase of devolution.

A deal should be ready for announcement in the Budget towards the end of the year.

In that deal, Mayor Street is trying to secure more powers over skills and housing. Chamberlain Files understands that absorbing the powers of the Police and Crime Commissioner is also on his agenda, with the aim of a transfer in time for the next mayoralty starting in 2020.

Whilst current Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, may not object in principle to the aim set out in Mr Street’s renewal plan, he is expected to voice strong views on the sort of governance framework policing should have in the region.

For many, the skills gap is the region’s most significant strategic challenge – especially if you accept that transport improvements are in the system. The WMCA is, after all, built on the foundations of a transport body.







WMCA is currently recruiting a Director of Skills and Productivity whilst the Productivity and Skills Commission launched its call for evidence in April. But it is not clear what resources the new £100k+ executive role will have to develop a “skills programme”. The Commission was meant to have produced a consultation response summary by the end of July, but so far no sign.

Securing powers to be able to direct the region’s strategic skills agenda, achieving better alignment between supply and demand in the skills ecosystem; bringing employers and educators together and developing new flexible pathways will need to be high on the Mayor’s list. There are no outward signs of such policy development yet.

Housing is the third big challenge. The Mayor’s powers are extremely limited; councils do not appreciate the Mayor stepping onto their territory and Mr Street will recognise that his ‘brownfield first’ promise was a factor in his election – especially in Solihull.

He has stopped short of endorsing the recommendations of the WMCA Land Commission whilst very few politicians are arguing for statutory, region-wide spatial planning powers which most experts believe are essential.

It is likely the Mayor will be seeking assistance in securing more funds for brownfield land reclamation and new measures to bring unoccupied homes into use.

Along with addressing homelessness through a taskforce, a Mayor’s Mentors scheme was the first initiative of his mayoralty. An announcement is expected in the next few days about how the scheme will work, supported by a partnership with One Million Mentors and the Careers and Enterprise Company. The scheme has apparently already exceeded the 1,000 target.

The Mentors scheme, launched days after Mr Street’s unexpected victory, is symbolic of his whirlwind tenure to date. A policy initiative with good intentions is launched, supported by political will rather than legal powers with almost no practical wherewithal in place.







The success of Mr Street mayoralty’s will begin to depend more and more on the relationships he develops with council leaders and how his office and the emerging WMCA executive, under incoming CEO Deborah Cadman, manage to work together. Beneath the smooth surface, tensions exist in both dynamics.

Mr Street will benefit from a bigger WMCA executive, but managing relationships will become more complex. Some observers will want to see evidence of a Mayor drawing on wider sources of advice and experience as he moves from setting up shop to proving regional renewal.

Restoring pride in the West Midlands was Andy Street’s core pitch. As we have mused on these pages, we expect Mr Street to tackle the perpetual West Midlands brand question.

In the meantime, he has busied himself as the region’s campaign specialist – taking a leading role in the Commonwealth Games (Birmingham), City of Culture (Coventry) and Channel 4 move (er, get back to you on that…) bids.

He won’t be able to take all the credit if one or both of the first two come off (Birmingham and Coventry councillors will make sure of that), but if (and it’s a big if) the fourth channel does re-locate re-locate re-locate (sorry), he will have played a key role.

“Lead West Midlands businesses on a trade mission to a fastgrowing market, for example, Silicon Valley” was number 5 on the list. Chamberlain Files understands the recent “mission” to Toronto, which comprised the chief of staff to the Mayor, Andrew Browning, and Chamber of Commerce boss Paul Faulkner, was put together in record time.

A West Midlands Brexit Summit is expected shortly, allowing the Mayor to tick off his 10 things in 100 days. The new immigration system, along with tariff-free access to the single market, will surely be top of that Summit agenda. In a rare intervention, he has already urged Theresa May to stop including student numbers in immigration statistics.









Mayor Street will pass his 100 day SAT test.

But as he progresses to the crucial end-of-third year exam, the fundamental challenges of his mayoralty will come into focus.  Can he ease congestion; do anything about the housing crisis; secure more funds and promote the region in a way that generates pride as well as commercial opportunities? Will he be able to claim he has delivered more jobs (including zero youth unemployment), growth and investment?

Mr Street won with an exceptional campaign, helped by a Labour candidate who seemed complacent and ill-equipped for the challenge, in a very different political landscape.

2020 will be quite different – but Andy Street will have a record to promote/defend.

Whilst Mr Street will have a small majority to protect, it’s possible that wafer thin margin will help him secure more prizes from his Conservative colleagues in Government.

* We are generously interpreting 16th August as the 100th day, as Mr Street’s term of office technically started on 8th May, rather than the 4th (polling day) or 5th (count day). His office is, as ever, more ambitious and counting 12th August as the exam sitting.

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