Our Comment: 3 key indicators the Mayor needs to keep an eye on

Having hosted the first Mayoral hustings in November last year and several since, we were impressed by the overall quality of the candidates. Earlier this month Sustainability West Midlands (SWM) congratulating Andy Street, as he was elected the first Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). Now the real work begins.

When Andy Street was Managing Director of John Lewis he had a range of key management data and indicators to help him and his team run the business. But apart from approval ratings – what are the key indicators he should be keeping his eye on in this new job?

As the WMCA Sustainability Delivery Partner SWM is currently contributing to the latest WMCA Single Economic Strategy annual review. Within this there are 3 key indicators we think Andy should keep an eye on.

1. Economic productivity. This is the reason the Government devolved powers, the promise of ‘local knows best’. If he can’t get local businesses, councils and communities to work together to help deliver this, then we won’t be trusted with any more devolved powers and responsibilities from Government. This is the indicator the Government will want to talk to Andy about.

2. Carbon Reduction. Andy, like the majority of other candidates, pledged to make the region run on 100% ‘clean’ energy by 2050. The strongest and highest profile international networks and meetings of Mayors is around carbon reduction and clean energy. The United Nations and many multi-national businesses recognise this is where to find real global leadership, action and innovation. This is the indicator world leaders, other Mayors, and energy related investors will want to talk to Andy about.

3. Health inequalities gap. There will always be some people who live longer than others, however when there is such a marked difference in life expectancy between different areas within our region there is a problem. Some of the biggest factors in the quality and length of our lives is whether we have a job, a supportive community of friends, colleagues and neighbours, access and use to green space, and regular physical activity such as walking and cycling. These are all issues within the remit of the Mayor and partner organisations. This is the indicator ultimately the citizens will want to talk to Andy about – how can you improve the quality of life for myself and my children and their future? How can you make sure the benefits of an improved economy and environment are shared by all of us?

The good news is that SWM and our members and networks have been working together on projects to help improve these indicators over the last 5 years as part of our independent 2020 sustainability roadmap for the region. These 3 indicators and objectives are built into the heart of the WMCA Single Economic Plan, which Andy in his former role as Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership helped develop with partners.

The challenge is that to make real progress requires long-term committment over several Mayoral terms of local partners working together in the same direction. At the same time we all need to see some form of action to encourage us that change is desirable and possible. This is where we welcome initiatives such as the Mayor Mentor Scheme and a focus on Homelessness, at the same time as building the foundations for a strategic organisation to serve us in the decades to come.

What happens in the next 3 years of the Mayors term in getting this short-term and long-term balance right in terms of direction, partnership, and action will probably have a bigger impact on the future of our region than the results of the General election early next month.

SWM with our members and network are willing to continue to play our role as the Government recognised regional sustainability champion body and as the sustainability advisors to the leaders of the West Midlands.

Dr Simon Slater, Director of Policy and Partnership, on behalf of the SWM team.