Dear Editor, I’m pleased to see that Digby Jones will still be lending his support to the campaign for a “yes” vote in Birmingham’s forthcoming mayoral referendum, even though he would prefer to have a “super mayor” for the whole of the West Midlands.
Digby rightly identifies the importance of coordinating regional policies, especially in vital areas like transport and economic development. But I think he’s wrong to suggest this will only happen if we have a big regional boss banging heads together. Effective leadership of the region isn’t just about singlehandedly imposing your will on others; it’s about fostering greater cooperation between local councils, businesses and communities. A mayor of Birmingham, elected by the city’s 700,000 voters, would be uniquely placed to foster that collaboration, playing a key role as a member of the Local Enterprise Partnerships, Integrated Transport Authority and other regional bodies.
Crucially, a Birmingham Mayor would also have responsibility for some key services that a regional “super mayor” would not, such as housing and education. If we are serious about ensuring that our young people have the skills to compete in a harsh jobs market, or are able to find affordable homes to raise their families, then these are things that a mayor needs to be able to influence.
Digby says we need to lift our ambitions. He is absolutely right. Birmingham is a great city, but we could do better. Ambitions can only be delivered through effective leadership. An elected mayor would provide that leadership and that is why it is so important for Birmingham to vote “yes” on May 3. I will be campaigning for a “yes” vote in May – and if the people of Birmingham agree – put my name forward for the Labour nomination.
Gisela Stuart MP, (Labour, Edgbaston)