Cutting down on car use, raising the region’s profile on the global stage, and supporting more people to move into jobs should be top of the new West Midlands metro mayor’s to-do list when they take office in May this year.
This is according to new analysis published today by the think tank Centre for Cities, which sets out three policy priorities to help the new metro mayor hit the ground running from the start of their term.
Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said: “The West Midlands’ metro mayor will face many challenges when they take office, including acting on their campaign pledges, preparing the city-region for Brexit, and establishing the new mayoral office. To make a success of the role, it’s vital that the mayor acts quickly to address the biggest issues that the city-region faces.”
The Centre for Cities analysis includes one ‘quick policy win’ to set the tone for the mayor’s time in office, along with two long-term strategic priorities for the city region:
Alexandra Jones said: “Traffic congestion is a big problem across the West Midlands, especially in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. By announcing their intention to address this problem on day one, the new mayor can demonstrate their ambition to have a tangible impact on behalf of local people in their initial months in office. In particular, the mayor should avoid the temptation to scrap the M6 toll, and instead use scarce public resources to improve bus and rail travel across the region – for example, by making it easier to use the Swift smart travel card across all networks. Not only will this help cut congestion, it will also make it easier for people to access jobs and amenities across the West Midlands.”
Alexandra Jones said: “Around 61,000 people in the West Midlands are currently looking for work, and employment in the region is nearly 10% lower than the national average. Tackling this problem should be the top long-term priority for the mayor, who should focus in particular on improving skills among local people. One way to do so is to encourage more big firms in the region to work with schools, FE colleges and universities to equip more people with the skills they need to move into work.”
Alexandra Jones said: “Raising the profile of the West Midlands internationally will be vital in ensuring the region can compete with Greater Manchester and other places, and that local businesses can flourish in the years to come. The mayor has a big role to play in this by acting as a spokesperson for the region on the global stage, forming networks with other cities across the world and taking firms on trade envoys on behalf of the West Midlands. This will be crucial in attracting more foreign investment, helping local firms in all sectors to export internationally and boosting jobs across the region.”
Alexandra Jones continued: “There’s a lot at stake for the new mayor, and showing that they mean business from day one will not only be vital in building trust with local people across the West Midlands – it will also be crucial in achieving their vision for the city-region and securing the long-term future of the mayoral office.”
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NOTES TO EDITORS
Centre for Cities is a research and policy institute, dedicated to improving the economic success of UK cities. We are a charity that works with cities, business and Whitehall to develop and implement policy that supports the performance of urban economies. We do this through impartial research and knowledge exchange. For more information, please visit centreforcities.org/about
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