Saturday, 6 May 2017

In the people's interest? West Midlands Combined Authority

Andy Street explains what the West Midlands Mayor does
Last week we voted for a West Midlands mayor to lead a new government imposed authority against the will of the people living in it, in the name of devolution.  Yes folks, that's right - and what is more incredible is that the Conservative Party candidate representing the government was voted by us (collectively) to become the new West Midlands mayor to lead the new 'Combined Authority'.

Just five years ago Birmingham voters rejected the elected city mayor plan with a whopping 57.8% - that's 120,611 of us in Birmingham - didn't want a mayor.  At the time former Labour MP Sion Simon quit his Birmingham Erdington seat to stand as an elected mayor.  He said it was, "a massive gamble" and he was "very disappointed".  Five years on Sion Simon's campaign to become the first elected West Midlands mayor has failed

Andy Street's win sees the party of Government take on new powers and functions which were formally a combination of Government and Local Council responsibilities.  In the name of devolution?

Although Birmingham voted for Sion Simon, as did Coventry, Wolverhampton and Sandwell, Andy Street was ahead in Dudley, Walsall and Solihull.  A 'huge vote in Solihull handed the Tories a 6,201 vote lead over all'.  With a turnout of 26%, 238,628 of us voted for Andy Street, either as a first or second choice of mayor.

The 'West Midlands' only technically came into existence  in 1974, under the Local Government Act of 1972.  There are references to is as one of five "Special Review Areas" named in the Local Government Act 1958, and it's existence was recommended by the Redcliffe-Maud Report commissioned Harold Wilson's Labour government.  However, the Conservative Government of Ted Heath were ultimately responsible for the creation of 'West Midlands' county.

More recently both Andy Street, Sion Simon, Labour (possibly unwillingly) and Conservative Parties - have some responsibility for the creation of the 'West Midlands Combined Authority' - delivering 'the co-ordinated decision-making needed for modern economic governance'.

The history of West Midlands is not one of devolution.  From it's conception as an area in need of special attention, to a more recent attempt to stoke the Midlands engine, it has been a history of Government intervention.  Besides burdening West Midlands people with the increased cost of a new layer of governance, the West Midlands Combined Authority appears to support an increasingly paternalistic approach to Governance, with increased powers falling into the hands of the few.

 Andy Street saw the opportunity, spent one million pounds and has become the most important decision maker in our region.  Our 'devolution' plans have led to fewer people and central Government take more control of our lives. 

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