Greater Birmingham needs a metro mayor and the candidates should fully represent our diverse region a former Lunar Society chief has claimed.
Waheed Saleem, who chaired the city’s historic club until this summer, has also called on the region’s council leaders to come clean the proposed role of a Metro Mayor following the leak of a document last week.
He calls for a full public debate on the devolution plans, the Metro Mayor and the West Midlands Combined Authority.
The document, a devolution bid to Government, made it clear that a Boris Johnson-style Metro Mayor - running transport, police and strategic economic policy across the seven West Midlands metropolitan districts - is very much part of the plan.
Writing for the Birmingham Mail Mr Saleem, a former Walsall councillor, said that the region should embrace the Mayor. “I strongly believe that a city region mayor with clear powers, responsibilities and funding will be favoured by the electorate and will bring significant benefits to the region.”
He says that visible city and regional mayors, like Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone in London and Michael Bloomberg in New York have transformed their cities and provided clear leadership delivering projects like Crossrail in London.
A mayor and their top team should also better represent our region’s diverse population, in terms of gender, race, class and religion. Council leaders are too often white men he says.
Mr Saleem argues: “It is important that political parties ensure individuals from diverse backgrounds can put themselves forward, making it easier for those who are not the ‘usual suspects’ to seek nominations through open primaries.”
The seven West Midlands Metropolitan councils are joining forces in a Combined Authority under which they will work together on major transport and economy policy. Surrounding district councils such as Tamworth, Redditch and Lichfield may also join as associate members.
The councils are also negotiating a devolution deal with Government which could see billions of pounds worth of funding for transport, mental health services, housing and economic development moved from London to the region, under an elected mayor. The devolution document, leaked last week, outlines a range of demand including to make the M6 Toll Road free at the point of use to ease congestion in the region.