In May 2017, Birmingham is going to get its first ‘Metro Mayor’. That’s the job Sadiq Khan now does - and the job Boris Johnson used to do – for London.
But aside from Brexiteering, getting stuck on a zip wire and starting the London night tubes (thanks a lot, Boris) I’m not sure exactly what a Mayor does.
As Birmingham has the largest student population in the UK, we need to stand up and make sure that the student voice is heard in the election of the first Metro Mayor of Birmingham.
First of all then – a Jargon Buster!
WMCA: West Midlands Combined Authority. This is also referred to as the ‘Greater Birmingham Combined Authority’ or ‘Greater Birmingham’. It is a combined authority for the West Midlands metropolitan county in England.
Combined Authority: This is a type of local government agency, created in areas where they are considered likely to improve transport, economic development and regeneration. The first one in the country was Manchester, and now the West Midlands region is getting one too.
Metro: This means metropolitan. Basically it covers the wider Birmingham area, so not just the city centre. For us it will include the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton and the large towns of Sutton Coldfield, Dudley, Walsall, West Bromwich, Solihull, Stourbridge and Halesowen.
Devolution: The movement of power from the centre to a more local area level.
Non-constituent authorities: Non-constituent members of a combined authority can sign up to more than one combined authority and have less voting rights than constituent members.
What is a Metro Mayor?
A Metro Mayor is the chair of a combined authority that has agreed to a Devolution Deal (Birmingham!) and is voted in by the electorate in the combined authority area (those registered to vote in Birmingham!). These combined authorities are made up of several local authorities. For us they are:
•Birmingham City Council
•City of Wolverhampton Council
•Coventry City Council
•Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council
•Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
•Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
Non- Constituent Authorities:
•Cannock Chase District Council
•Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
•Redditch Borough Council
•Tamworth Borough Council
•Telford and Wrekin Council
Wait, I thought the mayor was the man (usually!) with the fancy gold chains who opened new libraries?
Yep, me too! That’s a Lord Mayor. Lord Mayors are ceremonial positions held without decision making powers.
So, what will our Mayor do?
The Metro Mayor position was created as part of former chancellor George Osborne’s plans to devolve powers from London to more local areas. These powers include areas such as transport, training and skills, and strategic planning. However, they come with a price - the area has to accept having one person elected to take responsibility for them: the Metro Mayor.
A directly-elected Metro Mayor will have powers and responsibilities to make strategic decisions across whole city regions, in contrast to existing city mayors (which are also directly elected) or local council leaders that only make decisions for, and on behalf of, their local authority.
How will having a Mayor affect me as a student in Birmingham?
Honestly, until the candidates release their manifestos (which will be early in the New Year) it’s hard to say exactly how. The powers they have and what they do with those powers, however, will have a massive effect of student life in the metropolitan of Birmingham.
- The mayor will manage transport which will obviously affect students, particularly commuters and workers! I’m hoping for more Sunday trains from Selly Oak!
- The mayor will manage ‘training and skills’ which will have a massive effect on education in areas even beyond university.
- The mayor also has responsibility for strategic planning. This is a nicely vague term to mean the long term plan for the metropolitan area of Birmingham. It will most likely involve housing which again, will obviously have a massive effect of student life in Birmingham.
- It’s also worth remembering that many Birmingham students choose to remain in Birmingham after they have finished studying so the Mayor will have a long term effect on many people too!