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 »

Scale of the challenge: report illustrates size of Brum mayor’s job

A timely report from the Centre for Cities spells out the size of the challenge for any new mayors that appear following next week’s referendum – none larger it seems than that in Birmingham.

Throughout the report’s survey of the education, business and employment challenges in each of the cities, Birmingham sticks out in all the graphs like a lanky teenager. Here’s one, just for example:

The report says:

New city mayors will need to support and respond to the needs of their population. A mayor of Birmingham, for example, with a constituency of 1,036,900 people, would have the second biggest constituency in the country after the Mayor of London.

The Centre for Cities echoes the call of the Warwick Commission on Elected Mayors and City Leadership for the Government to look to introduce ‘Metro Mayors’ whose responsibilities cover geographical areas much wider than those proposed currently.

The think tank also makes the case for mayors to co-chair their Local Enterprise Partnerships and to head up their Integrated Transport Authority. (I report on today that Sir Albert Bore, now Liam Byrne’s running mate for mayor, has said he wants to see the Birmingham and Black Country LEPs united.)

Well worth a read. The full report is here.

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Backbench Labour rebellion prompts hasty re-write of leadership rules in ‘two-jobs Bore’ row

QE Hospital

Sir Albert Bore is coming under renewed pressure to give up his £60,000-a-year job as chairman of the QE Hospital if he becomes the Labour leader of Birmingham City Council.

Amid signs of unease among councillors, he may have to concede that leading Britain’s biggest local authority is a full time commitment and that the post-holder cannot have a second job.

Officials decided to withdraw a nomination form that has to be be filled in by candidates wishing to stand for election as Labour group leader following a dispute over the wording, which was unclear over whether the job ought to be a full time role.

The form simply said the leader should Read the rest of this entry »

Vote Labour for a £686 pay rise, Sir Albert Bore tells Birmingham City Council workers

Victoria Square, in central Birmingham

Birmingham Council House

Almost 3,000 low-paid Birmingham City Council workers will receive an immediate wage rise of up to £50 a month if Labour takes control of the local authority at the elections on May 3.

The party is committed to dismantling the lower scale of a controversial pay and grading review forced through against bitter trade union opposition by the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, by introducing a pledge that no council worker will earn less than £7.20 an hour.

The promise will cost £1.2 million a year to deliver and means that Read the rest of this entry »

There’s be a lot more noise about a Young Mayor for Birmingham over the next few months. Here’s a blog post to get you started.

Yes to a Birmingham Young Mayor

When I was first asked whether I thought campaigning to get a Birmingham Young Mayor was a good idea I was, shall we say, unconvinced. ‘A Young Mayor?’ I thought, ‘Isn’t that just nominal role local councils employ to give them the appearance of tackling ‘youth issues’ without actually having to bother engaging with the people and problems?’. But rather than just shoot down the idea I agreed to do some research and, much to my surprise, I’ve found myself a convert.

So, for all you other sceptics out there here are some excellent reasons why having a Young Mayor is a great idea:

1) They have real influence over the Youth Agenda

Young Mayor’s already exist in the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets as well as in North Tyneside in Newcastle. The age range of Young Mayors varies from location to location but generally falls…

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If Ministers want us to vote for mayors, why make it so hard?

Even allowing for all the undecideds and the “ooh-I’ve-not-heard-anything-about-it”s, opinion polls suggest that several, perhaps even most, of the ten referendums on May 3 could produce Yes majorities for elected mayors. None suggest, though, that there isn’t everything still to play for. Why, then, are Government Ministers, who claim to want this potentially momentous change, making life so difficult for the Yes campaigners?

Two issues come up at every mayoral meeting: What additional ‘hard’ powers would a mayor in my city have? and How do we kick out one who’s no good? With the Localism Act offering little help, and Ministers even less, this blog attempts to provide some at least partial answers. Read the rest of this entry »