Labour Candidate for WMCA Mayor
For almost all my working life, I have been a small businessperson. Like one of the 387,000 small businesses across the West Midlands, I know the pressures that come with being self-employed, at the sharp end of the private sector.
My experience in the public sector has been not as an employee, but as an elected representative - including as Minister for the Creative Industries when I was a West Midlands Member of Parliament.
Government, when it comes to business, can do one of two things; it can obstruct innovation, growth and enterprise; or it can be an enabling force, freeing business to generate employment, investment and growth.
In May, with the election of regional mayors in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region, there will be an unprecedented transfer of powers from Whitehall to the great English regions. This offers an historic opportunity for rebalancing not just our politics, but our economy away from London and the South East. In the West Midlands, we can create a pro-business environment, with strategic decision making powers that span local authorities and investment powers that mean decision making is closer to our businesses than ever before.
But to get the most from this new devolution deal and from our country’s exit from the European Union, we have to be first out of the traps. Let us not allow other regions to pull ahead of us. Let us seize the initiative.
Together, there are so many ways that we can do this. And I will continue to meet, talk and above all listen to the regional business community during my election campaign. I want to hear from you what you want and need from me.
But I know from discussions already that we need bold and achievable goals.
That is why I am pressing the government to open talks about freeing up the M6 Toll Road, costing our businesses around £2billion per year in congestion and delays. The gridlock makes no sense. It is anti-business. I am the only candidate committed to doing this.
We know from international experience that with strong accountable regional mayors new horizons come into view for transport systems. With the arrival of HS2 in the next 10 years, we need nothing less than bold ambitions. That’s why I am unequivocal about the need for a second runway at Birmingham International Airport. And the matching need for much improved connectivity within the region so that we have a West Midlands regional airport - serving the whole region - connecting our region to the world, not a city airport hard to get to from the Black Country.
These are just examples of my approach: pro-business and getting things done. That’s what the new post of West Midlands Mayor is all about. And that’s why I’m standing.
I'm looking forward to working with you.
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.