Conservative Candidate for WMCA Mayor
On May 4 2017, for the first time, the people of the West Midlands will vote for their elected mayor.
As a proud Brummie, having been brought up here, I have seen, for decades, the underperformance of my home region.
It was around 2010 that our fortunes begun to change.
It was then that the new Government asked business to share in the leadership of economic development through the Local Enterprise Partnerships.
It was a privilege to lead the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP, taking the skills and expertise from my role as Managing Director of John Lewis and using it to help business and the public sector to work together.
The results of this collaboration speak for themselves.
Over the past six years, the Greater Birmingham and Solihull area has delivered the fastest growth in private sector jobs in the UK.
The West Midlands has had the best export performance driven by our resurgent local manufacturing firms – indeed we are the only region in Britain to enjoy a trade surplus with China.
And last year, there were more businesses born in Birmingham than anywhere outside London.
But there is still more to be done.
This economic success – driven by businesses and local authorities working together – now needs to go much further into our communities and touch the daily lives of many more of our people.
The new role of Mayor offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to accelerate this transformation and truly realise our potential.
This quite simply, is why I have given up a career in business and a job I loved at John Lewis to campaign full-time for this role.
Our Mayor needs to be a strong voice for the West Midlands, accomplished at putting our case to government and being an ambassador around the world. As businesspeople yourselves, you’ll know the importance of being the centre-forward for your organisation publicly. It’s something I had to do for almost a decade and would relish doing for the West Midlands.
At the same time the Mayor will have to address issues that matter locally: jobs, housing, transport and skills, from Coventry to Wolverhampton.
The Mayor will have to make the most of the opportunities HS2 presents to the region. This is something I know about already, having helped to secure the £4.4bn connectivity package for the West Midlands.
The Mayor will have to drive down unemployment – and especially youth unemployment – which are such huge barriers to social mobility.
I believe I have the necessary experience and skills to make a success of this new role for the benefit of everyone in the West Midlands.
John Lewis is a company renowned for sharing its success with its partners.
Similarly, as chair of the GBSLEP, our success was built on teamwork spanning industries, political parties and the different towns and cities of the area.
This is exactly what is needed from the new Mayor.
We must not squander this opportunity.
The region faces a stark choice: do we embrace this renaissance by growing the economy in a way which benefits everybody and thus become Britain’s Powerhouse? Or, do we look backwards?
There is only one answer.
If I have the honour of being chosen by the people of the West Midlands to be Mayor, I will work tirelessly to accelerate the growth for the benefit of everyone.
I hope as business people you will understand the importance of having a Mayor who understands the worlds of enterprise, can lead effectively and ensure success is shared by everybody.
It’s an opportunity we need to grasp.
On the 4th May 2017 voters across the West Midlands Combined Authority area will head to the polls to elect the region’s first ever Mayor. The Mayor will have a vital role to play in shaping strategy, enhancing the region’s reputation and championing local businesses and communities on a national and international stage.
Ahead of these elections the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce are working in partnership with the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce to engage the business community and make sure the business voice is heard. During December we will be featuring introductory articles from each of the confirmed WMCA Mayor Candidates on our website and in our December & January edition of ChamberLink Magazine.