Mayoral candidates are questioned about their plans.
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There are exactly two weeks to go until the West Midlands chooses
its first directly elected mayor.
Potentially, the most influential local politician
since Joseph Chamberlain became mayor of Birmingham almost
a century and a half ago.
So, who get your vote?
All six candidates aiming for the top job with this tonight.
And so too is our studio audience, ready with
the questions for our debate.
A Mayor for the West Midlands.
Welcome to Birmingham's Ormiston Academy.
So, there's an election on.
No, not the general election, we have our own big one right
here for our West Midlands metro mayor and I'm delighted to tell you,
we're joined here this evening by all six of the candidates.
For the Greens, James Burn.
For Ukip, Pete Durnell.
For Labour, Sion Simon.
For the Conservatives, Andy Street.
For the Liberal Democrats, Beverley Nielsen.
And for the Communists, Graham Stevenson.
And that, everybody, is your panel tonight.
And you at home can join in our debate as well on social
media, using the hashtag that's on your screen now.
Let's begin with our first question tonight and it
comes from Graham Slater.
Do we need a metro mayor, or is it just another expensive
level of bureaucracy?
Sion Simon, you stood down from parliament in order to fight
for an earlier mayoral role and you know, you've heard
the evidence of referendums and the rejection in Stoke,
there's no great appetite, as we heard here from Mr Slater.
The most important thing isn't that we have a metro mayor,
the most important thing is that we run our own region.
What this needs to be and it can be if we do it right,
what this needs to be is part of a process of taking back control,
real control, real power, from the London government that has
real control, real power, from the London Government that has
let is down for 40 years in the West Midlands,
and finally starting to run the West Midlands ourselves.
Running our own transport system, our own housing,
our own health and social care, our own education and skills policy.
We can do all that much better by doing it ourselves.
The way that the Government has set out for us to do
that is they are giving as a mayor.
That isn't actually the most important thing.
In terms of the cost, what I've said is at the end of three years,
I'll publish an independently audited super scrutinised report
which sets out exactly how much it cost and exactly what's been saved
and exactly how much has been generated and if we have got
and exactly how much has been generated and if we haven't got
a massive surplus and outstanding value, then I will consider
myself to have failed and I won't stand again.
Peter Durnell, your party was in line with Mr Slater's idea
for quite some time, thinking that it was an expensive
indulgence, a vanity project, devolution from the people
to the establishment, said one of your MEPs.
So, why have you changed your mind?
We don't believe this is true devolution.
In the form that it setup now.
We have a big issue with the authority, rather
than the mayor position.
I said I'll only take 30,000.
I'm not in it for the money.
It is expensive, so I'm actually looking to keep control of the cost
It is expensive, so I'm actually looking to keep control of the cost
of the combine authority which has been running since last summer,
14 million just to set it up.
Who knows how many million per year it's already costing?
I don't believe that it will actually generate the money
in itself to actually pay for itself.
So, I'm saying...
One of the reasons that I'm running is absolutely to keep
control of those costs, to let you know what it's doing.
If you walk down the street, almost no one would be able to tell
you what the combined authority is, how it works, how it's running,
how it's self scrutinising itself, all these things.
One of the reasons I'm running is that.
There are a lot of reasons but that is one of them.
James Burn, you also said...
You also have said that she would live
on something more like a typical West Midlands income.
Isn't that just a piece of gesture politics on your part?
Not at all.
In 2012, people in Coventry and Birmingham voted
against having a mayor and now they have their that they didn't
against having a mayor and now they have a mayor that they didn't
want and didn't vote for.
One thing that is really clear from all the hustings that we have
done is people don't want a mayor.
Mayors can work but the difference between here and in London
is when you vote for a mayor in London, on the same day you vote
for assembly members to speak up for every single area of the whole
region to hold that mayor to account and make sure that mayor is working
for you and for your benefit, you're not going to
have that vote here.
Here, you're going to have a mayor, he'll be held to account
by colleagues of the people running the authority, will meet handful
of times a year with no opposition politicians there at all.
It's a real scandal.
So, a mayor could work and can work but we need more accountability
and more scrutiny and more honesty.
Beverly Nielsen, where talking to people who believe
it is an extra level of unwanted bureaucracy.
Well, I've lived and worked here for 20 years and in that time
I've seen this region overlooked by both the Conservatives
and the Labour Party because I noticed that Sion says,
this is about the London government, he says, letting us down,
but actually it's the Labour Party and the Conservative Party
that have let us down.
What we need is, yes, our fair share.
We need investment, not cuts but what were not hearing
from the Conservative Party is where getting 4 billion
more cuts for 2020.
If were going to fight the cuts, get the investment, we need a strong
voice and we need to make sure that the opportunities are heard.
Would you then take home the full ?79,000 pay packet,
given the austerity that you are saying is all around us.
I don't think it's an extravagant salary, actually.
It's three times average earnings.
It's the average wage for a mayor in America and, actually,
if we really want to get this job done, let's take it seriously.
You're accused there of letting the region down, your party,
you say you would work on performance related pay.
The question we should answer first of all is do we need a mayor
and the categoric answer is yes.
One of the reasons why this region has done relatively poorly over
the last 40 years is that we have not had somebody championing
the region around Britain and around the world.
For the first time, will have an individual
who is responsible for doing that and, if I may say, it's
the Conservative government that has begun to pass power back
to the regions.
What about this suggestion of yours of performance-related pay
which suggests to me a more business mind than a political mind.
And isn't it the job of the electorate decide
whether your good value for money or not?
Of course it is, and that's why I have indicated in my renewal plan
the things we will achieve in our first three years and I'm
accountable for that.
I've also said, though, I'm prepared to put some skin in the game,
in terms of some of my pay being on the table, depending
on the results we achieve.
If you want a man to do the job, it's often said, get somebody
who doesn't really want to do it.
Like many people, I campaigned against the directly elected mayor,
mainly for the reason, we already have already have
government in the West Midlands, we already have councils,
council leaders, this isn't an extra layer of government,
it's an extra layer of fog, designed to create a circumstance
whereby leaders of local councils can do deals with a Chancellor
of the Exchequer operating under austerity government guidelines
in order that they can carry out cuts to welfare and social services
just as they are continuing to do.
I'm standing because I want to campaign against that.
I want to abolish that.
I want to create people's assemblies in every borough so there's a much
more connected kind of democracy between the professional politicians
and ordinary people.
Can I just quickly ask you about the salary.
The 79,000 because some people obviously feel it's too much.
Yet, if you look at the relativities, it's considerably
less than the one suggested for the mayor of Manchester,
certainly much less than the Mayor of London.
Less than the police and crime commission,
which is rather curious, I think.
I don't think politicians should set their own pay,
I think there should be an independent body that sets
the pay and whatever they say is the pay,
I'll take it.
Let me just come back on Graham say, in case people think it's true,
that we already have government in the region.
We don't already have government in the region.
We don't run our own education system.
We don't run our own schools.
We don't run our own skill centres.
We don't have control over our health and our social care.
We don't run any of these things.
And they are huge problems.
We can fix them if we are allowed to fix them ourselves and that's
what this is all about.
Quick word from the audience.
The gentleman in the second row here.
There's been a lot of blame on the Conservatives for this
but only one member of the panel in front of us has actually
been in government.
Why wasn't the power given back when you have the chance
and were in office?
Also, very quickly, sorry you're putting
in the average salary is 28 grand.
I'm nowhere near on ?28,000.
It's not an average salary.
Final word from Mr Slater on this because you asked this question.
What you make of what you've heard?
I still think it's just a waste of money.
And when it comes to casting my vote I'm going to spoil my paper
and write across it "No mayor, please".
And that's going to be it.
Isn't that a great waste of an opportunity that you've got here.
It sends a message back.
I tell you, when they come the votes you may well find
that the overwhelming majority will be spoilt papers and,
if that's the case, that message will go back to central government
and they'll say, look, we do not want a mayor here.
Anybody have any sympathy for this argument that we don't
really need this mayor?
The county council look after the whole of the West Midlands
from 1974 until it lasted in 1986 and it was closed down
because central government didn't like the way
they were spending the money.
Who's going to stick up for the role of having an elected mayor?
Lady on the front row here.
I think we should have the elected mayor, especially with the Brexit
negotiations because we need somebody who can travel to Europe,
the rest of the world and really sell Birmingham
and the West Midlands and get inward investment into the region.
Right, well, we've heard that the opening positions,
if you like, from each of the candidates and, indeed,
from some people in the audience giving a take on this
new mayoral role.
But in which parts of the region will he or she be responsible for?
Who exactly can vote in this election?
And how precisely will the new leader be able to shape
people's day-to-day lives?
Elisabeth Glinka now considers the prospects.
There's no gold chain.
And it's not about opening school fetes.
This mayor will be a directly elected politician making decisions
that impact the lives of three million people.
Two million will be eligible to vote.
Think Giuliani, think BoJo, this person will represent us
to the rest of the country and even the rest of the world.
The metro mayor will cover seven metropolitan boroughs.
And the people of those boroughs have different ideas
about what the priority should be.
I think it's important to focus on training for young people.
I think in proving the railway will be a real good step forward.
I think we need more smaller housing.
Somebody really needs to grab the bull by the horns
and say to the world, here we are, guys, come and see us.
It's a big job with some big responsibilities.
Overseeing the budget worth ?8 billion over 30 years.
They'll be responsible for training at colleges and also
Housing will also fall to them.
Including compulsory purchase powers.
And they'll control the region's transport budget, with final say
over bus franchises, roads, and trams.
In greater Manchester, the elected mayor will also take over the job
of the Police Commissioner and responsibility for
health and social care.
It's hoped that here in the West Midlands,
the mayor could also get these powers after the next
election in 2020.
The election takes place on May the 4th and it's
using the supplementary voting system which means that
as well as your first choice, you also get a second preference.
Whomever wins, building a reputation and the standing
of the West Midlands has got to be key amongst their priorities.
Yes, it's one starting pistol after another
at the moment, isn't it?
Let's get on to our next question which comes from Mohammed Arlene
and it's from transport.
Investing in transport is fundamental if we are to get
West Midlands moving again.
What are your plans, including reducing congestion,
especially on our motorways and your views about
nationalising the M6 toll?
Right, well, Andy Street, you've said that congestion
in the West Midlands is dreadful, or appalling.
I'm not sure that restarting the super Prix Road race
would improve congestion in Birmingham but what's your
solution to the obvious gridlock in our part of the world?
So, the long-term answer has to be about investing in public transport.
We've got to get people out of their cars and give
them an alternative.
So, we've talked about reopening disused railway lines,
we've talked about extending the Metro, and we've talked
about genuine boss prioritisation.
about genuine bus prioritisation.
But the real question underlying all this is how we going to get
the funds necessary to do that?
And I would put it to you, if you look at the failure of this
region over the last few decades, the local Labour leadership has
not won the investment to invest in our transport.
I am going to be able to get that investment.
That is my my clear commitment.
I want voters to think who is most able to win that
investment for our region.
So, it's a reproach to your party, the local decision-makers here.
I'm glad that Andy has been a bit more party political than usual.
He normally presents itself as an independent
but you're not an independent.
And it's because he's a Tory that he opposes
the nationalisation of the M6 toll.
Business across the West Midlands is in favour of it.
It is a no-brainer.
Congestion costs, according to Greater Birmingham
and Solihull Chamber of Commerce, West Midlands businesses
at least 2 billion a year.
Black Country Chambers of commerce, they say it's their number one
priority and it is a fact that if the government nationalised
the M6 toll and made it free, that would take tens of thousands
of vehicles a day of our motorways and local roads
in the West Midlands.
And he doesn't want to do it because the Tory government
in London doesn't want to pay the one off 1 billion pounds,
although they announced this week they've got ?6 billion for roads
in the south of England.
It is typical.
Pete Durnell, Ukip called for a while for nationalisation
of the M6 toll but you've gone in for some toned down
version of that, just subsidising HGVs, haven't you?
That was actually a little while ago and I've spoken to a few people
who actually took me all through the statistics.
So, I've actually change that position.
My position is, it's always been Ukip's policy that we want
that road nationalised.
We don't agree with toll roads.
We think all roads should be free for everyone to use.
What I have said since then is, if I had ?1 billion, or 2 billion,
people disagree how much it would cost.
And you gave that to me, it probably wouldn't
be my number one priority.
To spend it all on the M6 toll road.
I would look at a lot of pinch points across the region
as a priority, rather than that because, bluntly speaking,
round about peak times 90 - 95% of HGVs already use the M6 toll.
It will have benefits that it's not going to solve
our congestion problem.
Graham Stevenson, do you think public ownership is the fundamental
answer to our problems?
I've always said a Communist is a socialist who really means
what he says and I read Mean what I say I say that I want to not
only nationalised the M6 but also bring into public ownership,
owned by the local council, every single bus company
in the West Midlands.
Now, you don't need to pay huge sums of money to nationalise the M6 toll.
We could do what government did in 1946, the departing Chancellor
of the Exchequer only paid off the last bit of it quite recently.
The bank of England was bought by providing low interest long-term
bonds, that could be done in this case.
We wouldn't have to pay a penny now, we could defer it till later.
We're against toll roads, we're against making people pay
twice to use something that they already pay for.
APPLAUSE Just on driving the multimodal shift,
the first thing is, we have perfectly good plan for transport
for the West Midlands it is massively underfunded,
even with the additional monies coming through that
We need about 700 million a year more than we are receiving
in order to be competitive.
The Conservative government that hasn't given is that funding over
the past term of this government is responsible for this,
can give us the money and can find at the drop of the hat the money,
22 billion, to get the access into Heathrow.
APPLAUSE Tricky issue this, isn't it for you, James,
given that, obviously, transport has an environmental cost
and, yet, we've got the cost of the congestion that
we're all agreed is such a block on economic development.
How do you square the circle and find an affordable answer?
It's a real problem because congestion doesn't just
cost businesses money for being stuck in traffic.
Actually, it's causing gigantic levels of air pollution,
we're seeing about 3000 people in our region every year dying early
because of air pollution.
The simple fact is, we do not have a good enough public transport
system that most people can use every day.
We do not have that.
We need more funding.
I respect a lot of what Andy says but I would see it very
differently around funding.
We voted in a government who said they would cut funding
and that's what they've done.
There isn't a magic pot of money.
Until 2030, over the life of this combined authority deal,
they are saying we will give you ?7 billion.
At the same time, will be ?37 billion worse off
because of government cuts.
The money is not there.
This is a real problem.
No matter who is mayor, government is not going to give out free money.
We've heard a lot about the toll road.
Specifically, can I just pursue for your position
on how you stand on that?
I think I would open the toll road when there
is congestion and traffic, perhaps on the M6, but if I think
it's ?1 billion there's better things to do,
for example there's 115 kilometres of railway lines that are disused
throughout the entire region.
They run alongside and near roads.
People like going on trains.
So, let's use that money to reopen those disused railway lines and get
people moving within the region.
The concentration on the M6 toll is understandable, given
the impact of traffic congestion.
Is it an example of market failure here?
Government failure and market failure together?
We've got to look at actually what the real issue is here.
The issue is very clear.
The issue is people travelling to destinations
within the conurbation, not travelling around
So, I'll absolutely clear, every investment decision
as about a choice.
It is not the right use of the money to nationalise the M6 toll
and we should actually subsidise people travelling around our
and actually subsidise people travelling around our
conurbation not into destinations within the West Midlands.
Let me be clear, Patrick, I'm certainly not saying
that we in the West Midlands should pay for that road.
The government should nationalise that road precisely
because it is people going around the West Midlands...
I'm going to bring the audience in at this point.
There is a gentleman on the back row over there who has been trying
for some time to get in.
Is it on this question of public ownership?
Nationalising or even the re-nationalising,
as Jeremy Corbyn wants to do with public transport,
is breaking EU law, is it not?
How much of a problem is that going to be?
So, if you wanted to renationalise the M6 toll road,
or renationalise the railways, anything like that, we would have
to wait until we formally leave the use until that
to wait until we formally leave the EU until that
could actually be possible.
Any support for taking the M6 toll into public ownership?
What's the view generally, so far as that question is concerned?
I have to ask whether it is actually feasible,
given the legislation and so on.
We are obsessed with the M6 toll, most people, most voters
in the West Midlands are worried about the absence of bus services.
We were told that deregulating and privatising bus services
would mean more buses and they'd be cheaper and they'd
be more plentiful.
No, they're not.
All that happened is, they swapped public monopoly
for private monopoly.
We need, not just a complete freeze on fares, we need an massively
reduced fare before we can start ordering people not
to use their cars.
I'm going to move it on now...
I'm going to move it onto the next question
which is about housing, which is, again, another
of the primary responsibilities of the metro mayor, so-called.
Although some public policy analysts would like the mayor to have an even
bigger role than the one suggested at the moment.
The question comes from Dan Jones.
Dan Jones, your question on housing.
How would the mayor ensure that more affordable housing is created
across the region without negatively impacting on-screen space?
across the region without negatively impacting on green space?
Bearing in mind, James BUrn that you got a precise example
there in Solihull of a proposed development coming up on green belt.
Big issue, big talking point there.
And the pressure for affordable housing.
How do you answer it?
There is a housing crisis.
Let's be clear.
As a local councillor, I get at least two phone calls every
single week from people in tears because they find themselves
homeless and there is literally nowhere to go.
You walk through the streets of Birmingham and the number
of rough sleepers has risen unbelievably in five years.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have a house.
The reason this has happened is because we haven't
built enough houses, we've left the market to it.
In the region, we need to build between ten
and 15,000 houses per year.
We are building between three and 4000.
We are building between 3000 and 4000.
The main reason for that is government has not stepped
in to build houses since the 1980s, to make affordable housing
and we've seen prices rocket.
We need a giant investment of government
money in-house building.
money in house building.
Until we see that, were not going to end the housing crisis.
People are going to go homeless and, quite frankly, if the government
cannot provide homes to its citizens, it is
failing in its basic duty.
Sion, you got yourself into some hot water with voters in Solihull
recently by saying that James's town had a big role to play
in providing new homes.
What would you say to people there?
What I was actually saying then wasn't what was reported
but was precisely the answer to the question.
It sounds a bit boring but what we need is a regional spatial plan.
It's absolutely essential.
That is a power that the mayor doesn't have.
What does it mean, precisely?
What it means is, you've got this whole big region,
seven different local authorities, another one stuck on the outside,
and scattered across this region there is employment land,
and there is housing land, and there are brown field sites,
and greenfield sites and there are places where more jobs
are going to be an places where more people live
and there are all the questions of connectivity between them all.
Now, you have to plan all of that together in one plan and the fact
that we haven't got a plan like that and the fact that most developed
regions in the world have got it, means that we can't attract
investment into our region.
So, we have to have spatial plan before we can do anything,
before we can put the right things in the right place.
Then we can build more council housing, we can enable the building
of more social housing, of building housing of other kinds,
we can clean up the private rented sector and we will get investment
in to the private house-building sector, as well.
And it will lower the price in the private sector.
If you're serious about the West Midlands and you believe
in our region, you have to have a plan that
puts it all together.
Pete Durnell, you've been majoring on brown field development and,
indeed, refurb of derelict areas but surely that's not
going to be enough.
It's a question of the green belt if we're going to deal
with this, isn't it?
I accept to a certain extent what Sion is saying but you can
have a spatial plan as much as you like, what the spatial plan
will tell you is there's a lot of land on the west side
of Birmingham, in the Black Country, which is available for development.
OK, it might cost quite a bit of money because it's brownfield,
it may have pollution, or whatever.
If you go along to East side, around Coventry, Solihull,
there is a huge shortage of land.
There is not enough Brownfield land there so you have two choices.
You either build up with high-rise or you have to go
across and the only way you can go across is on green belt.
So, that is the situation we're in.
A bit of green belt development is inevitable, Beverley?
Well, I think there's a couple of really important points here.
Firstly, the builders of social housing, affordable housing,
have been starved of thecash that they require to invest in order
to build the housing stock for affordable homes
by the Conservative government, cutting the rents for social
housing associations, cutting the new homes bonus
and the right to buy which means as fast as we build affordable
homes, we sell them at a massive discount
and were not replacing them.
So, what do we need?
We need more money, as James is saying, we need to lift the cap
on the housing revenue account, enabling others to borrow more
in the region, and we need to pull the money straight down from housing
and communities agency.
In terms of greenfield and brownfield development, the land
commission that was commissioned by the combine authority recently
commission that was commissioned by the combined authority recently
came out with a detailed report stating very clearly that
unless we use very sensibly some of the greenfield land
that is already allocated through the local area plans
for development, we will not reach our target and we cannot spend
all our time remediating.
Andy Street, what Beverley is saying there is that the ambitions that
you've expressed an housing are trapped, in effect,
by the limitations and failures of government policy
by your party in office.
And I don't accept that.
The question was how were going to build more homes,
including affordable homes.
And the answer is, in my plan, I've committed very clearly
to doubling the rate of house-building and the tactic
that will be used and the policy that will be used very clearly
is brownfield first.
Now, everybody says that but, if you look around this area,
you will all know hundreds of derelict sites that have laid
derelict for 10-20, 30 years.
It's a wonderful example of failure in the past and what this
is about is using new money that is there to clean the site
and then develop them out.
What I'm standing for is a person that will change
what has gone before.
So there are more homes built.
Were then do you stand on this great argument
going on between Andrew Mitchell who has got this proposed 6000
development of housing in Sutton Coldfield and Sajid Javid,
the Communities Secretary, who is promising tough
decisions on this?
It's very straightforward.
We should never have got to that point at all.
Because, quite simply, the reason we are at that point
is we have failed to do exactly what I have been talking about.
So, what I've said is that will never happen again in that way.
We shouldn't be building on the green belt, we should be
building on the rich belt.
Fancy asking a bunch of accountants, financiers, estate agents,
developers, what shall we do to develop our housing and building
policy in West Midlands?
Of course, they're going to tell us the land that they want,
the land that they don't currently have, the land they prefer to have.
What I'd like to see is a massive expansion of council house building
so that every single 16-35-year-old has a home that they want.
And every single 40-plus-year-old is paying reasonably for mortgages
and or rents that's the kind of massive change that we need.
We can only do it by introducing a land tax and by controlling
the land in our area.
Let's go back to our questioner, Dan Jones, you've been
patiently listening to all that, what you make of the answers you've
I'd like to take Andy Street to task on his commitment to
redevelop brownfield sites, which is very commendable,
but the commitment needs to be about developing it for housing.
In the area in which I live we have lots of brownfield sites, we
have a massive one that was meant to be
going for Tesco, Tesco have now
pulled out and that's a prime location for housing, and I would
like to see housing there, not another Asda, a supermarket coming
in that we don't need.
We do need affordable housing and that's what
I'd like to see.
For the final word on this subject to the man in the blue
shirt, just near the front, here, if you could?
Thank you so much, Patrick.
Briefly, if you would.
Yeah, very quickly, it's indirectly but directly directed to something
that you said.
I'm with an organisation called Let's Feed Brum.
Six nights a week, on the streets of Birmingham, handing out
sandwiches and hot food to the homeless.
It is a growing crisis, it does need looking at, and whoever
wins as mayor I invite you to come and join me for one hour to come out
on the streets of Birmingham, meet some of them and see what we can
directly do to help these people.
Your invitation has been heard by all the candidates, so I'm sure they
If you are just joining us, you are watching
A Mayor For The West Midlands, it is our BBC Midlands debate
from Birmingham's Ormiston Academy.
You can continue this discussion right
now on social media using the hashtag WMMayor.
I'm going to move on to our next question.
You have a question about the early impact of
the new mayor, don't you?
It's a new role, I'm just interested in what will have changed for me or
my children after your first 100 days in office.
Pete Durnell, you have talked as others have about
making an initial, clear impact, so how do you intend
to set about this?
Actually, I have not promised great things after 100 days.
I think it would be wrong to do that.
I think we always have to remember here that
the mayor with very few exceptions
has to work with seven council leaders.
It is not a presidential position, you cannot say, right,
I want this done, and it happens.
That is not the way it works.
You sit in a cabinet with seven council
leaders and it is a collaborative decision on almost everything.
The thing that I would be doing for the
first 100 days quite honestly is finding out what is going on,
because I don't think anybody really knows what is going on
in the combined authority.
I've seen some of the reports and I can't...
She wants to know how her life will be affected.
It seems you're saying it's not going to be affected very
much at all.
In 100 days, no, it isn't.
Because the mayor will have to get to grips with all the stuff
that is going on already, find out whether is being spent, find out how
far the plans have got, all this sort of stuff.
Because, essentially, people don't know and I
Beverley Nielsen, would you have an instant influence
on her everyday life?
Yes, yes, absolutely.
I'm very clear actually that I would introduce universal
fare so we would have the opportunity to buy a ticket that is
I am very interested in last mile solutions so I'm talking
about park and ride with Sprint buses so we can clean up the air,
very quickly change, start giving people choice, and of course I'm
going to introduce my Beverley's Bikes right across
the West Midlands.
Sion Simon, your 100 days promise?
One of my commitments is to cap bus and tram
fares at ?4.40 a day.
Can you do that?
It's a deregulated market.
Give me a minute, Patrick.
Give me a minute.
?4.40 a day applied automatically and electronically
like they've been doing in London and similar regions for years and
And free public transport on bus and trams for 16 to 19-year-olds
in further education.
Now, some people, Patrick has just revealed
himself to be one of them, say to me, you don't really
have the powers to do that at all.
I think that I can probably do that in 100 days.
And I think that, going back to the previous
gentleman's point, about the absolutely shameful
scandal of homelessness
in the West Midlands, going back to that, we're not going
to solve that problem in 100 days, obviously not.
But I would like to think that we can start to make a
difference in 100 days.
I would like to think that you, sir, will feel
the difference in 100 days in having a mayor
in the West Midlands who actually cares about and wants
to solve that problem and does come down to see you and is asking you
what do you need, how can we help,
because it is a disgrace to our region that we have people sleeping
and dying on our streets in a rich country like this.
Your 100 day pledge.
One thing I would say is a very respected from Pete
throughout the campaign is honesty.
I agree with this spirit of what Sion and Beverley are saying but it
is not deliverable in 100 days.
What I think you can do in 100 days
is change direction.
At the moment we are set on a course for a
trickle-down economic plan that invests a lot in wealthy areas
and hopes it trickles down for everyone else's benefit.
That hasn't worked in the last 25 years, it's not going
to work now.
So the first thing I would do in my first ten days would
be to appoint a deputy mayor to make sure everyone benefits
from the economic plan...
No, the mayor has to have a deputy mayor it is in the
So I would make sure that deputy mayor is in charge for
every decision that comes to that cabinet, saying will face benefit
ordinary people, yes or no, if no how do we change it?
And what is your key policy within that?
Can you just hit the bull's-eye with the
One in three children in the West Midlands living in poverty.
It's that high.
That has to change.
To change that, we need new economic plans.
And what we have got to do is make sure that these plans come about.
Well, the general election, actually creates the
possibility for addressing the issue of municipal ownership
of bus and tram sector.
The Tories have currently got a bill in the
Lords which will probably fail which would prevent
that from happening.
If, therefore, it's possible to proceed after the
election of a mayor with the new municipalisation of bus
services, I think major companies like that which produces the
electric taxi owned by a huge Chinese conglomerate would be very
interested in the manufacturing of electric buses and electric trams.
Instead of bringing them from Italy on a low loader across a motorway,
all the way across Europe...
You could spend a lot of money on this.
There's a lot of money being consumed, isn't there?
We've already worked out throughout the campaign
there could well be an introduction of a West Midlands bond but one of
the things about this crap devolution deal is that the mayor
would need to go back to whatever government we have after the general
election and say it needs to be re-negotiated.
Before we can get people out of their cars, we have to
provide massive carrots.
We can only do that with really serious money.
It's an interesting question.
I've been reflecting and I think the answer is,
I'd choose something that costs no money at all but actually
illustrated what this job is all about and it's all about leadership.
So, the thing I would choose is that in the first 100 days I would make
sure we had a Brexit summit which brought
gether big businesses that have got a lot
at stake, which employ thousands of people.
And get them together with key government ministers who are
negotiating a future deal.
And there are really practical matters in that
deal that are going to affect our prosperity.
For example, our automotive companies
are talking about whether they are able to move goods between European
countries in the supply chain.
That needs to be tariff free.
When the Prime Minister was last here, I was
briefing her and the Secretary of State for business on that.
It's those practical matters that come
from a new leadership role.
That's what I mean by speaking up for the region.
It's interesting because...
We'll come onto some Brexit related matters in a moment but it's very
interesting just to go back to the person who post this
really quite challenging question.
I'm just wondering what you are making about
what the candidates have said so far on this.
I'm not impressed by anyone who says 100 days is no time at all.
So what would be your choice?
If you could rule the world and the, let's say, not the world
but the West Midlands, what would be your big initiative,
your big idea to make an instant impact?
The instant impact is to change the way
we approach house-building, for instance.
I think the UK has been stuck in this format of government,
managers, house-building, the house builders
there are plenty of other areas within Europe
where is not managed in blocks by individuals.
Woman in blue in the middle of the audience.
I'm just interested in your pet ideas,
pet suggestions, if you could absolutely
have a word in the ear of the incoming Mayor and say
this is what you want.
I'm not sure I have a pet idea but talking from a project
management perspective, if you are a mayor,
why not look at the job as a project?
Why don't you look at the plan back from the day your
mandate finishes and why not to be able to deliver in the first 100
days at least one or two points, be that important or not.
I don't see why not.
Very briefly, if you would.
I actually agree with Sion.
The first 100 days priority would be to
sort out some of our homelessness.
It's shameful to society what's happening with our homeless people.
I don't agree we can change the way we do
housing in 100 days
but I absolutely agree with Sion that we
need to sort out the homeless crisis.
As I said, we are going to move on and it is Brexit and all
these use and challenges that go with that,
the burning issue of the day.
Davinci has a question on Brexit?
How will you use Brexit to boost the economy?
Now, that is the question for you, Beverly.
Of course the Liberal Democrats have made
anti-Brexit very much your signature issue and you've talked about
leading everybody through the challenges and uncertainties.
What's your answer?
I think it is a risk for our economy.
I think the danger is that if we do not have tariff
free access that we have tariffs imposed on the imports used in our
cross European supply chain we make 30% of all cars here but my whole
approach as mayor would be around investing in our home grown
businesses, so building up the manufacturing businesses,
businesses that start here and pulling through
those businesses young talent that we are equally skilling up and
training in this region and not losing them as part of the brain
drain because we have the highest
proportion of students in this region.
Our human gold mine.
I want to see them going into our businesses and driving and powering
the next generation of growth because we're on the verge
of a transformation.
I don't agree with my colleagues who say that we're
promising too much because what's the point of a mayor if you're not
actually going to change things.
I don't agree for a minute that this is about being restricted
by the devolution powers.
This is about an individual who is going to work with
everybody in this region, have grand ambition,
15 years hence, start with
the end in mind and work towards it will stop we pass the 1 million mark
with electric vehicles last year.
20 million will be sold by 2025
and 100 million by 2030.
Electric vehicles, battery power, new renewable energy
and life sciences and nano sciences, that is going
to power growth for us.
Beverly Nielsen is saying there that she has
got an idea for get over the challenges of Brexit.
At the same time spelling at least a certain
amount of disaster, at least uncertainty.
Essentially, Beverly wants to give everything to
I'll tell you now, our councils are deeply in debt
every single one of all southern councils are deeply in debt.
They are getting cut back every year.
I know my own Council of Sandwell
has put pretty much every green area up for sale.
So that's the kind of state that we are in.
To pretend that we can actually spend loads of
money on lots of things is unfortunately not realistic,
in my opinion.
In terms of Brexit, I'm passionate about Brexit.
I believe the opportunities that were going to
have with trade with the world essentially massively outweigh any
I do accept there is some uncertainty but I've spoken a lot
with people in the chambers of, as and actually businesses
are quite excited about it.
They are thinking in different ways, they are going to
work in different ways.
It is not all doom and gloom and uncertainty
by any shadow of a doubt.
Is it doom and gloom for you?
Brexit is going to happen.
We've all got to shut up and get on with it, basically.
And I think there are opportunities.
Actually, there is a massive opportunity to build
a more home-grown economy.
At the moment, if a supermarket opens in the area
for every pound that you spend there, 50p is
sucked out of our economy.
Sorry, 95p is sucked out of our economy.
If a local shop opens, every pound spent there,
50p remains in the economy.
This is our chance to build a more home-grown economy,
trading with each other, based on small businesses, based on West
Midlands people being employed by West Midlands businesses which
operate for the benefit of everyone seeing more money staying here,
flowing around here and actually using that to address
things like poverty.
This is a real opportunity and one we must take.
Brexit is happening and it's in our grasp
to make what we can of it.
Sion Simon, you sit as a member of the European
Parliament so you see issues from both sides of the travel, so to
How do you bring that experience together
to answer the question?
Let me answer.
Great question and, if you don't mind me
saying, cracking name, Da Vinci.
The first thing we need is a seat at the table.
The Tory government has been progressing as one
and they've done nothing about it.
They are negotiating a London Brexit
that suits Conservative government in London.
It's all about financial services, it's not about
manufacturing, they don't care about how engineering base,
Dave tried to destroy it once in the 70s and 80s already.
They're not interested in our higher education institutions
which are crucial part of our economy.
We need a West Midlands seat at the table because actually
it's not about how Brexit or soft Brexit, what we need and what we
need to deliver is a West Midlands Brexit.
Andy Street, do you take up the point there that Sion
was making, particularly at Jaguar, Land Rover, who are very worried
about access to their principal markets which are indeed our
neighbouring European partner nations at the moment.
All right, they sell big in China and all
around the world but that's the big worry that they have.
They say that they want clear, open access
which is in question.
That of course is what I said in response to the
previous question, my 100 day priority was ensuring that would
happen and making sure the Prime Minister and others actually
understood what is at stake for the West Midlands.
Can you make them deliver a tailor-made solution?
You make sure and I have done it personally, discussed with the
chambers of commerce and then make sure that the issues are understood
by the government ministers.
That's why you need a powerful mayor.
Can I answer the question with more broadly.
I want to put a thought to you.
The thought was very much is their opportunity in this?
My general approach to this is yes.
I want to reflect on my business experience here in answering that.
I was leading John Lewis at the time of
the global recession and everyone said disaster, terrible.
But in every adversity, opportunities.
Fundamentally I disagree with Sion.
The most challenged part of our economy is the financial services
sector in London.
It means that the government are looking particularly
at areas like this.
They've got a rich manufacturing future
and we're thinking with them...
That might be what they're telling you
that if you read what they're doing, it's all about
defending financial services.
They don't say a thing about manufacturing.
That is not true.
They've invested in the London taxi company In Coventry.
They've invested in electric vehicles, they're investing in
research and development.
I'd like to know, Andy, how you're going to guarantee tariff
free access when we have absolutely said we are leaving
the single market.
I did not say I guaranteed it.
What I said was that we make sure our negotiators understand
what is required.
That is the commitment I gave.
Until 2009, the UK had its own seat at the
World Trade Organisation and that was consolidated into an EU seat
dominated by a committee of France and Germany running things.
The next thing, a trade deal with China was
concluded whereby solar panels were supplied
by EU, to China, a massive emerging market
of air conditioning. A big thing in China.
In consequence, factories in the West Midlands
closed, factories in Germany expanded.
Now, I think it's possible to make a change.
I spent a half a lifetime as president of the
European transport workers Federation.
I've been in the EU, I know what they do.
I know how it's stiched up.
I negotiated with transnational corporations like OCI
and quarry, which have been mentioned.
I think it's possible to work on the fact that the EU needs
as as much as we need them but the world needs is even more.
I think we can get a revived manufacturing
capacity in the West Midlands on the back of Brexit.
That clearly struck a chord.
I'd be very interested to know which of you think is Brexit
good or bad for the West Midlands?
Give me your views?
Got a view on that?
I think it'll be very good for the West Midlands because
the focus will be to bring back investment and talk to all the
overseas world industrialists to get investment back
into the West Midlands. So the focus will be there.
Gentleman towards the back of the audience there.
OK. I run a small business
and most of my work actually is in Europe so I'm
bringing money into this country.
I'd like to know what going to be done for the small businessman.
I know it's really important that all
of the big companies but what about my small business, if they
introduced tariffs, if we have problems with access to countries,
my business is finished.
Yes, at the back of the audience on this side.
You've been talking about investing in manufacturing
and financial services in the West Midlands.
For example, Deutchebank are in Birmingham, HSBC are coming
Would it not be an idea to try and attract these London
centric companies, services, et onto the West Midlands
following the HSBC model?
All right. Interesting stuff.
I am now going to move on to rather a pointed question.
One which is often bandied around.
Fairly or unfairly.
It's about Birmingham's place in the world.
Many people feel that Birmingham
lost the second city status to Manchester.
One of you candidates will be successful
and hopefully putting Birmingham back on the map.
I'd like to know how you propose to do it.
From Coventry, are you bothered about where
Birmingham sits on the map?
I moved from Coventry to Birmingham in about
1972, so hopefully I am an immigrant that accepted in the city.
What's pre-evident to me is the European Union has treated us
as a declining region.
We got lots of nice things in the city
centre, in Birmingham, I know people who say,
you come from Birmingham, but a bit of crap place, isn't it?
"No, it's changed a lot recently.
It looks really good."
We've got lots of nice glitzy stores and
statues in the city centre but the districts, the outlying
districts are not doing as well and we need
much more into education, into training into helping young people,
get a ladder on life and that's really where it counts.
That's what I want to see out of this process.
It's a devolution deal that hasn't really done
well for Birmingham and if it does
what it seems to be trying to
do to make Birmingham the
dominant partner in the West Midlands it won't do well for all of
the others, as well, including my beloved Coventry.
Talking about glitzy stores, possibly John Lewis
which you had a relationship with?
The question is that is seen as part of the ambition of
second city status and yet you've got to cascade the wealth around.
If I may be slightly cheeky in answering the question, first of
all, I don't want to be second in anything and we spend far too long
obsessing about this.
That's perhaps why you said it was a slightly
I'm actually much more interested in how we
compete with Berlin , Barcelona and Boston.
That is what this is really all about.
But if we take the debate that you have put on
the table, the truth is
that we are doing far better than Manchester,
fastest-growing city in
Britain, the best inward investment, the best
export performance, the best quality of life.
So all those things are there and I am pleased to
have played my part.
The issue, though, is we have lost the PR game.
So what the mayor has to do is get out there
and tell the story, and that is exactly what you learn
as CEO of a company.
Pete Durnell, as a Black Country man, does it matter
about Birmingham, Manchester and all the rest?
It does matter.
Absolutely, we all want to see Birmingham succeed, but we don't
want to see what has happened which is other parts of the region
actually falling into disrepair.
I see in town centres all across the Black Country
which are gradually going downhill, and one of the
reasons the Black Country voted a big vote to come out of the EU was
they felt that they had been left behind in a massive way.
And it is absolutely essential for the mayor
to promote Birmingham, promote Coventry, to go out there and do it
across the country, across the world.
But at the same time you also need to be fair to the other regions.
Don't let them be left behind.
Don't just wait for the trickle-down effect from the great
things that are happening in Birmingham or Coventry.
One of the big things I'm promoting is
reinvigorating the town centres, buying up disused offices, the
mayor has the actual ability to do that, turn them into a living space
inside town centres, create a nice environment there,
but also gives the opportunity to local businesses
to sell into those people.
So let's get the towns back up
on their feet again.
Sion, Pete suggests maybe we're worrying a bit too much about
Maybe focusing too much on the second city.
Answering the question, Andy said we are doing
great, we are doing better than anywhere else.
Let's be clear, some people are doing great.
You are not doing so great if you're one of the
people dying under a bridge in Birmingham.
You're not doing so great if you're one of the 1500
people who are homeless in Coventry or one of the 27.5% of young people
that is unemployed in Wolverhampton.
Those people are not doing so great.
However, let's also be clear,
my family moved to Sandwell in 1975.
I am massively proud to be from this region because this is the
best place in the world.
This is an extraordinary place, where we built
the first steam engines, the Spitfires that won
the Battle of Britain, the first...
We are all in agreement that it is a wonderful place!
We are in agreement but we don't talk about it,
we don't celebrate it.
The region of Shakespeare and Elliott and Elgar
Extraordinary achievement, a fabulous place.
When did you ever hear that?
When do we ever say that to each other?
And that is what this job is about.
It's about combining the poetry and the genius of the West
Midlands with understanding that people dying under bridges
is not the kind of society that we ought to be.
Is Birmingham falling behind Manchester?
That is a ridiculous question.
Birmingham and the West Midlands is so much better than
Manchester it is unbelievable!
We have heard again and again,
Beverly Nielsen extolling the virtues of what is made
I was going to say that I haven't just talked about going to do
something about promoting Birmingham and the West Midlands, I have been
doing it for the last 20 years.
20 years ago I promoted West Midlands First,
it was all about the firsts we have invented here.
From radar, thermal imaging, liquid-crystal display, of course
launching the Industrial Revolution, Coalbrookdale, Abraham Darby, and
changing the world not just once, twice,
three times, but now we are going to do it again.
And this is the thing that I think is really
It is not just about Birmingham alone.
It is about the whole of the West Midlands,
how by coming together we are the greatest region in the UK.
And we are going to change the world again
with our great ingenuity, our creativity and our
innovation and design, Patrick.
And Birmingham Made Me is part of it.
Yes, so we've spent the last few
months literally travelling around speaking to audiences across the
West Midlands, and the common theme is a concern that this won't work
for them, they will be forgotten, whether you live in
the Black Country or in Solihull or Coventry or Birmingham,
everyone shares that concern.
Another thing is people are very proud of their areas,
but they are really frustrated.
They have restricted because they feel left
behind, they feel the plans aren't working for them, and they are
frustrated about a loss of identity.
And so we need to bring back pride by rebuilding places, by
rebuilding high streets, by rebuilding strong local economies.
And also the mayor is covering 3 million people, no mayor
with the best will in the world can understand the needs
of every single place. It cannot happen.
That is why we need to broaden it out, to stop
it being run by exclusively older white men, to start involving
more people from more communities, from more areas, to make sure this
authority understands the needs of everyone across the region
and can meet those needs.
Is the mayor principally a champion at home
and abroad for Birmingham, the West Midlands?
How do you get the message across?
Because if you go to China, for example, you see
Birmingham on the map but you don't see the West Midlands on it.
How'd you go about that?
You decide the right name for
the right occasion that you've got, and if you've got a formal occasion
it's the West Midlands combined authority, that's the name given,
end of subject.
I'm sure that when you go on a trade mission you do use
Birmingham as a name.
OK, good question.
I'm going to throw it quickly to the audience because
time is getting short.
The gentleman on the front row here.
How do you see Birmingham in this conversation?
I would seriously like an answer to this.
It is a two-way street.
You came here today, we have heard what
you have to say, you have all had half an hour or so to listen to us.
Isn't one of you brave enough to acknowledge that you have learned
something from what we've said
in the last half hour or so, any of you?
I'm sure they all have.
I'm sure it has been an education for us all.
Because, with a certain amount of regret, this, ladies and
gentlemen, is where I'm going to have to call time on tonight's
discussion, which I'm sure has been very informative.
I would like to thank particularly the panel
and indeed the audience for all your questions -
we could have gone on all night.
And of course you too can continue this debate on social media
at home, using the hashtag - #wmmayor.
And finally from me a quick word - on Sunday Politics Midlands this
weekend we will have plenty of things to talk about, won't we,
with the county council elections also coming up in two weeks'
time, and of course that snap general election?
That is all at the later time of 3:10pm this Sunday afternoon,
here on BBC One, after the London Marathon.
But from all of us here, good night.
Happy New Year!
TV: She'll be safe and snug.
The six candidates for new role of mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority debate the issues and answer questions from a studio audience. Presented by Patrick Burns.