Many of my constituents have asked my opinion on elected mayors. A referendum on whether to have a directly elected mayor for Birmingham will take place on 3 May, and I wanted to take this opportunity to explain why I will be voting ‘yes’ in the local Mayoral Referendum. Clearly such a decision would have an impact in Sutton Coldfield - the question is will it be helpful for us in this town.
The Coalition Agreement set out this Government’s commitment to creating directly elected mayors in the 12 largest English cities outside London, subject to confirmatory referendums and full scrutiny by elected Councillors.
I have confidence that for Sutton, an elected mayor in Birmingham can help provide strong and visible local leadership, increasing accountability for local decisions. A mayor would provide the opportunity for Birmingham to transform itself for the better and this could well be beneficial for Sutton Coldfield.
The Government is committed to transferring power from Whitehall back to communities. Directly elected mayors mark another shift in this landmark transfer which lets local people decide what is best for their area. Subject to the endorsement of local voters, elected mayors can help provide the strong, democratically accountable leadership to maximise the potential for economic growth and investment in cities, bringing real benefits for residents and businesses.
The Prime Minister recently announced a new Mayors Cabinet that will ensure elected mayors have a voice at the heart of Government. The Cabinet will provide city mayors with a direct route to the Prime Minister and other Senior Ministers and provide a forum for cities to exchange ideas, highlight new innovations and lobby for the interests of their city.
As Councillor Mike Whitby, Birmingham’s experienced and effective Leader said, “There is a strong tradition in Birmingham of good local governance. The new governance structure around an elected mayor has the potential to open up enormous opportunity for Birmingham. As an experienced hand at city governance I can sense the prospect of a fundamental shift in how our great cities are empowered to deliver their full potential.”
At this moment in time the imperative has never been greater - UK cities can deliver the growth that the UK needs. Birmingham has undergone a renaissance over the past eight years and the city has built a formidable base to drive forward its reputation and drive forward the UK growth agenda.
I am soon to take part in a debate organised by the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce in co-ordination with Birmingham Metropolitan College on this issue. I maintain that it is a local decision as to whether Birmingham should have an elected mayor. If Birmingham votes in favour of having a mayor at the referendum, then an election will soon be held to elect the city’s first mayor for a four year term. So the question is will this improve local governance in Sutton Coldfield and boost the quality of Birmingham for long term benefit. My conclusion, on balance, is yes.
It also builds on the Conservative commitment to localism which will see more decisions which affect Sutton Coldfield being made in Sutton by Sutton’s elected Councillors thus rolling back the years when a Labour government and before that a Labour-controlled Birmingham ignored Sutton Coldfield and refused to invest in our Town.