As we leave the European Union, I want to build a West Midlands where if you work hard and do the right thing, you can get on in life once again; earn a decent wage; find a place you can call home; rely on good local schools and a strong NHS.
When I talk to people about their ambitions - and worries - about leaving the EU, top of their list, is the challenge of creating new jobs that pay a good wage - and rebuilding the unity in our community, that makes our diverse region a great place to live. To meet this challenge, the West Midlands must create and attract more businesses and jobs - and in ways that benefit all communities and ensure that no one or no place is left behind.
We’re the home of the steam engine, the Spitfire, and William Shakespeare. The West Midlands has a heritage of genius and so much unfulfilled potential - our best days can still be ahead of us.
We can be a world leader in the manufacture of electric cars, as well as self-drive vehicles. We have globally renowned universities – partnerships between them and business can create new opportunities in sectors as diverse as clean energy and life sciences, computer games and professional services. We must consolidate our place as the crossroads of England through airport expansion, HS2 construction, and metro extension. Infrastructure improvements that will bring additional employment and crucially enhanced connections - across the region, the country and globally.
We need the dynamism and hard graft of West Midlands businesses to build these new industries and jobs. With a more strategic approach to filling the skills gaps of today and tomorrow. With regional planning that clearly identifies what land is available for business and residential development. With an urgent reduction in traffic congestion and increased capacity on our roads, not least by taking ownership of the M6 Toll.
We need, in short, a new partnership in which the change-making entrepreneurship of business is aligned to political leadership at a regional level - the office of Mayor. At the moment, we are not getting some basics right. For example, we lack coordinated inward investment, marketing, and export strategies for the West Midlands. As a region, we must pull together to fix our own problems.
I’ve talked about taking back control of the West Midlands. This is exactly what I mean by this: the region fixing our own problems and taking control of our own future.
There is a lot that I’ve already touched upon that we can do to help with this – filling skills gaps, planning across the region, tackling congestion, promoting our amazing region. But taking back control also means managing more of our money in the West Midlands.
According to Treasury figures, Scotland receives £10, 536 per head of public expenditure compared to £8, 816 in England and less in the West Midlands – due to the Barnett Formula, which determines how much public funding goes to the different parts of the UK.
I am campaigning to change this formula. I will always stand up for what is right for this region. But we cannot prosper as a region without a thriving private sector. I will create the conditions that will support businesses of all sizes, in all sectors. I will be setting out my commitment to do this in my manifesto.
It is vital that the voice of business is heard and understood. The Chamber of Commerce and its members have a key role to play. Let’s roll up and sleeves and get on with it.
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 2016 we featured introductory articles from each of the confirmed WMCA Mayor Candidates on our website and in our December & January edition of ChamberLink Magazine:
Conservative: Andy Street (click here)
Green: James Burn (click here)
Liberal Democrat: Beverley Nielsen (click here)
UKIP: Pete Durnell (click here)
We will continue to feature articles from further candidates on our website as they are announced on their message to the business community.