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Street works: Mayor to appoint Business Advisory Group

Street works: Mayor to appoint Business Advisory Group

🕔20.Jun 2017

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) stages its first Annual General Meeting this Friday, with Andy Street in the chair. Papers published ahead of the meeting reveal how Mayor Street is planning to run his mayoral office and the roles he has assigned to council leaders in his Cabinet.

His report to the WMCA also reveals the Mayor is planning to appoint a Business Advisory Group, but the three existing LEPs will be remain the main mechanism for involving the private sector in the combined authority. The document makes no announcement on individual members or a chair for the BAG.

Its purpose will be to:

  • Advise the Mayor on the concerns of businesses across the West Midlands
  • Identify ways that West Midlands businesses can support the Mayoral WMCA’s agenda
  • Draw in the resources and expertise of West Midlands business representative organisations.

Mr Street says the BAG will be chaired by an independent business leader, appointed by him.

Organisations will be invited by the Chair to become members, including the Chambers of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses and other similar organisations.

The Mayor says the BAG will be convened by the Mayor in an advisory capacity. It will be expected to lead pieces of work, either for the Mayor directly or via the Strategic Economic Plan Board.

The Mayor reaffirms his commitment to three LEPs and says he sees “no case for reforming the number of the LEPs.” He also supports the continuing importance of three separate strategic economic plans (SEPs) as well as joint working.

The Mayor’s paper on structure lays out the director levels roles in place or under recruitment. Mr Street says that, to date, the WMCA has largely operated on goodwill and, outside of the transport function, has operated on a ‘beg, buy, borrow approach.’

Roles currently being filled include the Chief Executive and directors of strategy and public service reform.

The Mayor will chair an Executive Board of eight directors, including the new CEO as well as Neil Rami, CEO of the Growth Company (formerly Marketing Birmingham) and Laura Shoaf, MD of Transport for the West Midlands.

The Mayor’s Renewal Plan is seen as the core pillar of his mayoralty. It is included with the AGM papers to illustrate it will be the basis of the Mayor’s political agenda.

The document also sets out the roles assigned to council leaders. There are some slight changes to the portfolios originally established, with Cllr Sleigh (Con) given Wellbeing as well as HS2 and Cllr Steve Eling (Lab) appointed to lead on Cohesion and Integration as well as Public Service Reform.

Meanwhile Councillor Patrick Harley (Con) takes on Environment after assuming the leadership of Dudley Council in May, backed by Ukip councillors.

The Mayor’s office, based in what was Centro’s headquarters, comprises staff supporting the Mayor led by his Chief of Staff, Andrew Browning. The report – Delivering Our Priorities: The Mayor and WMCA Structures – states that other staff are supporting Mr Street on PR, correspondence, diary and policy advice.

AGM papers reveal that the Mayor is still to make a political appointment. The legislation allows the Mayor to appoint one political advisor and a Deputy Mayor from the council leaders. Cllr Bob Sleigh, the Conservative leader of Solihull Council, was appointed Mr Street’s Deputy at the last Board meeting.

His Chief of Staff, who fought the Birmingham Ladywood constituency for the Conservatives at the recent General Election, has not been taken on as a political appointment according to the Conservative Mayor.

The Mayor, who Chamberlain Files understand was privately surprised at his election over Labour’s Siôn Simon, did not have a staffing structure or implementation plan ready to go as his narrow victory was announced on 5th May. The last few weeks have been spent putting an office infrastructure in place and meeting key stakeholders and partners.

Mr Street is also setting up a series of Taskforces, which began with homelessness.

The Mayor is not proposing any changes to the commissions and committees of the Combined Authority which are functions of the full Mayoral WMCA.

Some have commented on Mr Street’s relatively quiet profile of late, with the only intense activity around the launch of his Homelessness Taskforce and Mayor’s Mentors scheme.

Andy Street committed to being the most transparent Mayor in Britain.

There is currently no dedicated mayoral website or even page on the WMCA site that is immediately apparent to Chamberlain Files. The Mayor’s Twitter feed remains active, but does not include a link to any website.

Mr Street will need all his powers of leadership and persuasion to make the system of directly-elected Mayor and council leaders together in Cabinet work. The election of a Tory Mayor still rankles in many Labour circles whilst the current political environment hardly lends itself to the easing of party allegiances.

In Mr Street’s election campaign, Mrs May was an asset. Part of his pitch was his ability to access senior government figures and do deals on behalf of the region with party colleagues. How times have changed. The Prime Minister is faced with her own challenges of every kind in all directions. Finding time for Mr Street is not likely to be a priority.

However, the Mayor met with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling yesterday in Parliament to lay out the case for the Midland Metro extension through to Brierley Hill.

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