Our Comment: How will you will use your most important vote for 2017?

Each year it appears we have to make an important vote which will have long-lasting implications. In 2015 we elected a new UK Government, this year we voted to leave the European Union, and next year we will be voting for an individual that set the foundations and direction of £1.1 billion worth of local transport, housing, skills and employment priorities for the West Midlands for the next three years.

We are delighted that the majority of Mayoral candidates announced so far will be setting out their priorities and answering your questions at our annual conference on 21 November. So join us with Andy Street, Beverley Nielsen, James Burn as we discuss the best ideas and leaders to help create a better future.

What is the West Midlands Mayor?

On 4 May 2017 many of us will be voting not just for our local councillors, but a new ‘metro-style’ mayor for the West Midlands. Like other elected mayors for cities like London, Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield they will have one of the most powerful elected political positions in England outside the current Government Cabinet.

Our Mayor will be chairing the newly created West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and residents within the WMCA constituent members will be able to vote for them. These members are currently Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall councils.

However the strategic influence of the WMCA is growing all the time with the current economic plan covering three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and many other local authorities joining as non-constituent members. Therefore, by the time we have the next Mayoral election in 2020 it is likely that the area able to vote could broadly look like the old Government Office region of the West Midlands. If all this seems confusing – it is. Centre for Cities has an excellent fact sheet around devolution and mayors.

Current local priorities for the Mayor?

As part of the development process for the legislation for the ‘metro mayor’ the WMCA conducted a public consultation exercise around which proposed devolved powers and responsibilities to deliver the devolution deal were most important. The results showed that transport powers were ranked highest, followed by air quality, and then skills and employment and new homes. This contrasts with an earlier survey which ranked affordable homes as the top priority.

What are the opportunities for sustainability?

At SWM we believe that the creation of a metro mayor for the West Midlands, supported by a strategic body, is the greatest opportunity we have had within a generation to drive a long-term, sustained, distinctive, cross-sector and locally supported series of changes for a better future set out in our 2020 sustainability roadmap.

As the recognised sustainability delivery partner for the WMCA, we have continued to provide independent good practice advice from our staff, board, networks and members as part of our sustainability support programme.

Since 2014 we have developed three key sustainability tests to assess the variety of devolution proposals. We think these are a good starting point to question the current West Midlands Mayoral candidates.

  1. How will you use the scope of your role and networks to address existing issues of sustainability performance to meet our 2020 roadmap targets of improved productivity, life expectancy, and reduced carbon emissions which now form part of the new WMCA economic plan?
  2. How will you use the scope of your role and networks to help avoid potential groups of people or areas from being left out from the better future you are creating?
  3. How will you use the scope of your role and networks to strengthen the transparency and accountability of how the West Midlands is governed to create a better future?

We look forward to hearing answers to these other questions on 21 November, and look forward to seeing many of you there.

Dr Simon Slater, SWM Associate Director of Policy and Partnerships


Useful links:

Previous SWM comments on devolution and the WMCA: