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What is The West Midlands Mayor?

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We’re going to be electing a West Midlands Mayor on the 4th May.

Despite tireless campaigning from the candidates and big campaigns from the Government and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) there are still a lot of people in the region who are not aware that this election is taking place. And it’s not surprising: there are well over 2.7million people living in the areas taking part in the vote. That’s a lot of doors to knock.

At the Chambers, we are proactively doing our part to raise awareness of these elections and champion a pro-business approach with the candidates. This post aims to answer the key questions such as “what is the West Midlands Mayor?” and “why does it matter?” along with an update on what the Chambers have been doing and how you can get involved.

What is the West Midlands Mayor?

On the 4th May, voters in Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton will head to the polls to elect the first ever West Midlands Mayor. This individual has the opportunity to become a powerful champion for the region.

Their official powers and other responsibilities are as follows:

  • Transport: some funding to invest and responsibilities for the key roads network, bus franchising and smart ticketing.
  • Skills: responsibility for a devolved Adult Skills budget.
  • Housing: Compulsory purchase powers
  • Leading: Chairing of the West Midlands Combined Authority (see below for more info on the WMCA) and helping shape its overall strategy, priorities and spending.
  • Representing: Taking a leading role in negotiating with Government on behalf of the region and representing the region on the local, national and international stage.

As this is the first time anyone has been elected to the role, the successful candidate will have a huge role to play in establishing it and their office and how they interact with the region, businesses and stakeholders.

What is the West Midlands Combined Authority?

The concept behind Combined Authorities, like the WMCA, is simple: Local Authorities can accomplish far more, together, at scale and across Local Authority boundaries than they can constrained by their own patch and resources.

A Combined Authority is created when two or more Local Authorities come together to create a brand new legal structure. With approval from the Secretary of State, statutory powers can be transferred to a Combined Authority, along with any further functions the Local Authorities involved agree to share. They have become more popular in recent years as momentum behind “devolution” (the concept of moving powers out of Westminster/national Government control down to a local level where they can be more tailored to local needs) has picked up pace.

There are now Combined Authorities in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, the North East, Sheffield City Region, Tees Valley and West Yorkshire.

The West Midlands Combined Authority is a partnership between 12 Local Authorities and 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships. The constituent or “full” members (the areas that will be voting on the 4th May) are the Metropolitan Councils of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Why does the West Midlands Mayor Matter?

The structure of the West Midlands Combined Authority can seem a bit, well, confusing. But when it comes to the Mayor that doesn’t necessarily matter. If you asked most people on the street who the mayor of London is, they’d probably have a ready answer. Ask them to describe the structure of the Greater London Authority and the official powers of the London Mayor, and they might struggle.

That’s because the potential impact of a Mayor for the West Midlands isn’t just about functions, responsibilities and processes – it’s about the power to represent and the clout to bring people together.

The West Midlands is a wonderful place full of fast growing urban areas, beautiful rural villages and country side and a rich and varied history and heritage. But there’s no denying some parts of our great region have not felt the same benefits as others and there are fundamental areas that need addressing (skills and unemployment, the significantly lower than average per capita Government spend on transport in the region, addressing the impact of reduced Local Government budgets and more).

The Mayor will have the mandate to bang the drum and seek to negotiate greater funding, investment and opportunities for the region. They will have the profile to bring together the plethora of people doing fantastic work in the area and focus minds on collectively tackling the big issues of the day.

In short, the Mayor is really rather important - and so is making sure that everyone who can votes to give them a nice, clear mandate to represent the region.

What are the Chambers doing?

We’ve been rather busy:

  • We’ve been working with the candidates to promote a pro-business voice: we have launched a “manifesto” Business Priorities 2017: Vision for a West Midlands Mayor in partnership with the Black Country Chamber of Commerce & Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce. Andy Street (Conservative candidate), Sion Simon, (Labour candidate) and Pete Durnell (UKIP candidate) have all shared their support for this document.
  • We’ve been providing opportunities for members to engage with and shape debates: we are a Principal Partner in West Mids Elects and have been bringing delegations of Chamber members to, and creating opportunities for them to ask questions at, West Mids Elects debates.The next one will be taking place on Sunday 22nd April, you can find out more and sign up here.
  • We are working with our members to help raise awareness of this election: we have launched a simple toolkit for our members, providing content and ideas to help employers raise awareness of this election among their employees.

More information on all of the above is available here.

How can I get involved?

  1. Find out more about the candidates and decide who will get your vote (and second choice vote, this election uses a supplementary voting system – see below for details). You can view messages from the candidates here.
  2. Share the content from the aforementioned toolkit with your colleagues, friends and family.
  3. Follow us on twitter (@grbhamchambers) and get involved in our “Challenge of the Day”. Starting from the 21st April, we’ll be setting our followers simple challenges to help them get informed and spread the word about this election.
  4. And most importantly: turn out to vote on the 4th

What else do I need to know?

  • The election for the West Midlands Mayor will use a supplementary voting system. This means that you will be able to select two candidates on your ballot paper: one first choice, and one second choice. For more information click here.
  • The deadline for registering to vote (if you are not registered already) is the 13th For more information click here.
  • Polls are open on the 4th May from 7am to 10pm.