Birmingham’s appointment with history: the perils and pitfalls of an elected mayor

* Birmingham Skyline from the west Selfridges ...

The political scene in Birmingham could be transformed over the next six months as the city moves slowly but surely towards being governed by an elected mayor.

On the other hand, it could be a case of more of the same if voters reject the idea of having a mayor in a referendum.

Paul Dale examines the timetable, and the perils and pitfalls ahead.

May 3: One-third of Birmingham City Council seats will be contested at the local elections.

Voters will also be asked whether they wish to move from a council leader and cabinet system, which is the current arrangement, to a mayor who would be chosen once every four years directly by everyone in Birmingham who is registered to vote and bothers to do so.

May 4: At about 4am on Friday May 4, Read the rest of this entry »

Sion Simon to offer mayoral olive branch to sceptical Birmingham trade union leaders

Birmingham City Council House by Yeoville Thom...

Birmingham Council House

Sion Simon will promise city council trade unions a “new age of partnership working” if he becomes the elected mayor of Birmingham.

In a speech to Birmingham Trades Council, Mr Simon will pledge to mend the fractious relationship between union members and council leaders since 2004 that has prompted protests over a range of issues including a pay and grading review and the removal of bonuses for blue collar workers.

The scrapping of a 50-year-old bonus system left some workers more than £5,000-a-year out of pocket and resulted in strike action by refuse collectors.

Mr Simon, who hopes to win the Labour Party nomination to run for mayor, is also expected to give further details of his “Buy Brummie” campaign which would safeguard jobs by committing the council to purchase goods and services from local firms whenever possible.

In his speech, Mr Simon will say Read the rest of this entry »

Byrne talks strategy while Simon gets back to basics with buses as Labour’s mayoral tussle hots up

Bus on Colmore Row, Birmingham, England.

Labour’s internal battle to select a candidate to run for mayor of Birmingham is rapidly developing into a clash of contrasting styles, between Sion Simon’s man of the people approach and Liam Byrne’s grasp of grand strategy.

The differences were noticeable at a Vote Yes to Birmingham Mayor rally at the Town Hall, where Mr Byrne was at pains to hammer home his experience as a former West Midlands Minister and the role he played in knocking heads together to secure approval for the redevelopment of New Street Station.

The subtext here is obvious enough: “I already have the experience a mayor will require. Please select me as your candidate.”

The Hodge Hill MP went on to outline Read the rest of this entry »

Politics ‘too important to be left to politicians’, warns Warwick Commission mayoral study

City Council, Birmingham

Birmingham Council House

The most comprehensive study yet conducted into the role that elected mayors could play in major cities poses a huge number of questions, but the general drift of a University of Warwick report is that answers are only really likely to emerge as the new system develops.

Ten cities including Birmingham will vote in referendums on May 3 to

Read the rest of this entry »

Labour’s back-room mayoral fixers a ‘cynical kick in the teeth’ for democracy in Birmingham

Sion Simon

It is certainly unpalatable. Unthinkable even. But could each of the two main political parties in Britain really enter the contest to select a candidate for mayor of Birmingham with a shortlist of one?

Although it would be a cynical kick in the teeth for democracy and localism there is a growing possibility that, for very different reasons, both Labour and the Conservatives might end up presenting their members with no choice at all over who they put forward for the powerful mayoral role.

On the Conservative side, there is only city council leader Mike Whitby. Said to rule the Birmingham Tory party with a rod of iron, Coun Read the rest of this entry »

Cameron boosts chances of Birmingham getting a mayor – but has he handed an opportunity to Liam Byrne?

David Cameron's picture on the 10 Downing Stre...

Birmingham’s mayoral debate has moved a long way in a comparatively short space of time.

A few months ago talk was confined to how on earth enough people would be persuaded to vote yes in the referendum when the Government stubbornly refused to specify the additional powers and budgets that cities would gain if they opted for a mayor.

There were desperate-sounding hints from Ministers that cities voting against a mayor could still qualify for “City Deals”, based Read the rest of this entry »