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Street: confident about further devolution

Street: confident about further devolution

🕔14.Jul 2017

Securing economic success is key to obtaining more developed powers and controls from central government, according to Mayor Andy Street in an interview with the councils trade magazine, Local Government Chronicle.

Mr Street has repeated that there will be a West Midlands Finance Commission to look at new forms of funding for the region. He said a “re-working” of proposals was necessary, in addition to the 30 year investment fund that helped to establish the combined authority.

He told LGC that the need for DCLG to focus on the implications of the Grenfell Tower tragedy has meant he has not had discussions with them as originally anticipated. Proposals to let mayors raise a levy for infrastructure projects fell when with the Local Government Finance Bill was dropped as a consequence of the snap election.

In a recent interview with BBC Midlands Today, he revealed he had not been to Number 10 for a meeting with Theresa May – something he often cited as his first action if elected.

At the end of last year, there was excited talk about further devolution deals. They have failed to materialise as yet. Even the ultra-positive Mayor Street seemed to indicate it was unclear what was going on in Government over devolution at the last WMCA Board meeting.

In his interview, LGC reports:

Mr Street said civil servants in DCLG are “utter believers in devolution” and added Communities Secretary Sajid Javid “absolutely is” as well.

“In terms of the rest of government, Brexit makes it more important this is done actually,” he said.

Mr Street said he was “not concerned” about a lack of commitment to devolution because “what I am absolutely sure of is the government wants to support those areas of the country that really can deliver in terms of improved performance.”

The interview write up also states:

“…what I am absolutely sure of is the government wants to support those areas of the country that really can deliver in terms of improved performance”.

“That’s what the West Midlands has done over the last four years… and that is why the government will engage with us.

I don’t see this as a politics question but as a business and economics question.”

Mr Street is at pains in the interview to highlight the importance of the councils as well as the Mayor.

In a comment that might surprise some in Birmingham’s financial community, Mr Street is reported as saying:

The fact the West Midlands has “such a strong economy in non-financial areas, particularly in manufacturing, gives us a real ace card”, said Mr Street.

Comparing being Mayor to his old job at John Lewis, he says the:

“political imperative to be seen to do things” is “where it is perhaps a bit different to business”.

Mr Street has taken a high profile role in pushing bids for the Commonwealth Games and Channel 4 re-location as well as Coventry’s City of Culture aspirations. He has also established a Mayor’s Mentor scheme, launched a Homelessness Task Force and promoted transport developments.

Touching on his impact and legacy as Mayor, he said:

“The mayoralty will be judged not in the first 100 days but in 10 years’ time. Have we done things to make this a more successful and more equal region which has got a dynamic future? Those are the really big questions and are what I like to think we are spending our time on.”

Mr Street also highlighted the importance of assembling a top team. The WMCA has recently appointed its first permanent chief executive with other director level appointments to follow, making up an executive team also including Neil Rami (Growth Company) and Laura Shoaf (Transport).

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