Message from James Burn: Green Party Candidate for WMCA Mayor

Green Party Candidate for WMCA Mayor

I'm standing as the Green Party’s candidate for the West Midlands mayor because I want to see an inclusive and accountable authority, focussed on building a home-grown economy, based on up-and-coming areas (like low carbon manufacturing and innovation), where no-one is left behind. So, what would that look like for the business community?

To start with, it means a commitment to listen to business owners, and to take an active approach to engaging and collaborating. It means setting up methods by which I can be held to account as mayor. Currently, the existing proposals for scrutinising the mayor and WMCA are very lacking indeed. If we are to expect the public, let alone businesses, to come to trust and support the authority, tackling this needs to be the mayor’s first priority.

Whilst I welcome appropriate outside investment, I would re-focus the WMCA on building a home-grown economy based on likely future growth areas that match our existing unique strengths, rather than competing with other Combined Authorities for a limited pot of inward investment, which can leave the area as quickly as it arrives.

For example, low carbon manufacturing and technology is and will continue to be one of the fastest-growing global markets and has huge job-creation potential. The annual UK turnover of this industry is already bigger than the auto and aviation industries put together. As the West Midlands has a unique heritage and strength in manufacturing knowledge and skills and this area presents a significant opportunity for growth, this is a sector the mayor absolutely should help develop.

 I also want to see far more assistance given to existing and new small and medium-sized businesses which are based in the area (along with the self-employed and social enterprises). Investing in this type of business makes good economic sense. For example, money made by SMEs flows around the local economy far longer than for other business types, and from 2010-2013 more than 8 from every 10 new jobs were generated by this sector (according to the IPPR).

SMEs are also more likely to invest and be rooted in the many areas of the West Midlands that have been economically left behind and are less attractive to outside investors.  These areas need direct support to develop, rather than assuming that investment in growth in other areas will automatically benefit them too. As I want to build the economy with the greatest chance of being capable of creating the highest number of decent jobs, of being resilient and of benefitting our local economy, it’s on home-grown SMEs I will mainly focus. 

I’ve been listening to concerns from business owners about accessing finance, being paid on time, the availability of decent and relevant training and support, increasing resilience, ensuring good broadband coverage and reliability, and much more. These are all things the mayor and WMCA need to look at. In addition, the mayor needs to make sure that for everything that has to be contracted out by the WMCA and other public institutions (like hospitals, schools and universities) this is done as much as possible with local businesses and large contracts are broken into several smaller ones to enable SMEs to compete. This will further support the sector.

But as I outlined at the beginning of this piece, I am committed to being a mayor who listens to everyone in the West Midlands. I’m starting as I mean to continue, so please get in touch with your thoughts, ideas and challenges.  Together we can then shape the best possible plan for the region.

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.

You can find out more about the West Midlands Combined Authority through our briefing paper (click here) or visiting the WMCA website (click here).