In January 2012 I wrote to the Departmnent of Communities and Local Government with my response to their consultation on a directly elected mayor for Birmingham. Here’s the text of my letter:
The proposal to establish an elected Mayor for the City of Birmingham is one that offers exciting possibilities for city and the wider West Midlands region. The prospect of creating fresh mechanisms of local governance, which allow for reinvigorated, effective local leadership and a repatriation of powers to localities, is one that I hope the people of Birmingham will fully embrace when they vote in the referendum this May.
Birmingham is unique amongst the initial twelve “mayoral cities”. Geographically, it covers a much larger area than other cities, taking in a population of over a million people and encompassing a degree of demographic diversity far more marked than is the case with other English cities. Its public sector budgets are, in turn, of a far greater scale. The City Council alone accounts for £3billion a year.
In turn, our city sits at the heart of the UK’s second most populous conurbation, providing the central driving force behind the West Midlands’ economy. The key questions facing Birmingham, whether in terms of economic development, of educational attainment, of crime and security or of transport infrastructure are as much regional questions as they are city-wide ones. Therefore, it is inevitable that the newly elected Mayor of Birmingham will be expected to exercise a degree of regional, rather than strictly municipal leadership.
The allocation of additional powers to Birmingham’s elected Mayor has to take strong account of this regional dimension. You will be aware that the Birmingham Chamber of
Commerce made a similar point in its response to the consultation, recommending that the Mayor should take the lead roles on both the Local Enterprise Partnership Board and the Integrated Transport Authority. The ability to meaningfully influence both of these policy areas would be essential to the success of otherwise of an elected Mayor. (more…)