Andy Street’s first meeting as chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority was a good natured affair with lots of praise across the political divide for outgoing chair Cllr Bob Sleigh and warm welcomes for his successor.
But the Solihull leader and fellow Conservative will not be going far. Mr Street’s first act as Mayor was to appoint Cllr Sleigh as his Deputy.
The Mayor is required to appoint a Deputy Mayor from the seven leaders of the constituent local authorities. In the weeks and months ahead, further leadership appointments will be made – some from outside the current membership of the WMCA – to take forward different areas of activity, according to the Mayor’s office.
In his closing remarks as chair, Cllr Sleigh paid a particularly heartfelt tribute to the late leader of Sandwell Council, Darren Cooper. Cllr Sleigh remarked that he very much doubted “we would be here” without the contribution of Cllr Cooper.
Andy Street said:
“I wanted Bob to take on the role of Deputy Mayor for two main reasons.
First, he has done an excellent job in getting the West Midlands Combined Authority to where it is now, effectively laying the foundations to enable the Mayor to build on the progress.
Second, having been chosen as Chairman in August 2015, it is clear he has the support and trust of the other council leaders. That will be crucial as we work to unite the leadership of the West Midlands.
Having worked closely with Bob during my time as Chair of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, I know Bob will be an invaluable colleague over the next three years.”
Cllr Bob Sleigh said:
“It has been a pleasure to chair the Combined Authority for the last 18 months and I believe we have made a great deal of progress in key areas.
I am honoured to accept the position of Deputy Mayor and look forward to working closely with Andy during what promises to be an exciting time for the West Midlands.”
Mr Street highlighted the lack of representation in the leadership of the Combined Authority which, he said, had been referenced many times on the campaign trail. The Mayor said it would be an issue that would need to be addressed in the weeks and months ahead.
Mayor Street said that, as the WMCA was now being chaired by a directly elected Mayor, it was a coming of age for the organisation. He said he felt a huge sense of privilege and opportunity in becoming Mayor.
Mr Street announced that his priorities would be to set up the various Mayoral taskforces included in his Renewal Plan, starting with Homelessness today; the recruitment of various WMCA senior posts and championing the region.
First to welcome the Mr Street to the Mayor’s position was David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, who took no time in highlighting his bigger vote count and managed to reply to the Mayor’s brief opening remarks with a much longer, although positive, response.
The Combined Authority agreed to back a bid from Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games 2022. Cllr Ian Ward, leading Birmingham’s efforts, promised it would be a bid involving the whole region.
Birmingham had already been working on a bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2026. But a replacement city is now being sought for the 2022 Games after host city Durban, South Africa stood down.
Mr Street said:
“For this bid to be successful, it’s important the entire region gets behind it and that’s exactly what we’ve done today.
I can’t think of a more fitting showcase for our resurgent region in 2022 than to host one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
It was important we were quick out of the blocks on this bid and I would like to congratulate the bid team for the work they have put into getting this ready for submission.”
Cllr Ward, who is also chair of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bid Company, said:
“When it comes to the Commonwealth Games, it is now Birmingham’s time to shine.”
A Commonwealth Games for Birmingham would actually be a Commonwealth Games for the wider West Midlands region as a number of the key venues and training facilities would be situated outside of the city’s immediate boundaries.
If we are to be successful with our bid, we need all partners from all sectors across the region to support it – which is why it is encouraging to have the support of the Mayor and council colleagues from the combined authority.
The Government issued a call to UK cities interested in hosting the 2022 Games last month and will work with bidders and the relevant Commonwealth Games Associations on a detailed assessment of whether Britain can step in to host the event. The Games were last hosted in England in 2002.
Birmingham leader John Clancy led the discussion about responding to the Government’s consultation on increasing the regional impact of Channel 4 Corporation. Cllr Clancy managed to weave in reference to Countdown, the channel’s very first programme, in looking to the moment when 4’s flagship news programme would start broadcasting from the region.
Oh, how the much missed Richard Whiteley would have chuckled…
The WMCA will now prepare a regional response to the consultation, with Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull all putting forward location options.
The new West Midlands Growth Company is managing the process, with KPMG and BOP appointed to undertake a feasibility study and advise on a possible bid. A report and draft submission will come back before the WMCA Board on 23 June.
The idea of re-locating the broadcaster is not popular with the Corporation’s management, which does not want to move and if forced might prefer Salford/Manchester or Bristol. All eyes will now be on who is the Culture Secretary after the General Election on 8th June.
Mayor Street suggested that the ability of the Combined Authority to agree upon and promote a joint bid would be an important first test.
Coventry leader George Duggins led an item on the recently launched Productivity and Skills Commission Call for Evidence. The deadline for responses is 31st May.
Mr Street also took the opportunity to respond to Stratford council leader Chris Saint in saying that non-constituent authorities would not be treated as second class members. Given the moment came in a run of items led by Warwickshire leader and another Tory who did well last Thursday, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the point was rather academic.
As we’ve highlighted before, if you want even more detail on the WMCA Board papers and meetings, Claire Spencer’s blog and Twitter feed are well worth following.