Readers of this newspaper (front-page exclusive May 24 “Blueprint for Birmingham”) now have a flavour of the ambition that the LEP has, in terms of a “deal” being discussed with Government about devolving powers and funding decisions to the local area.
We should trust the LEP leadership and are fortunate indeed with the calibre of this, in particular the private sector leadership. What does seem clear however is that the LEP proposals do meet the test of added-value described by our senior civil servant visitor from London. Perhaps the real question is now Government’s appetite for letting go and trusting the LEP to deliver.
This might bring us back to where we started. I asked our visitor how Birmingham is perceived these days in the corridors of power? Are we now showing the leadership required?
The reply can be interpreted in a number of ways. We were reminded that the perception from London for decades has been that Birmingham has under-performed against our potential. Changing this will not happen overnight.
So, are we making progress and just need to keep at it? Or does the vote against a mayor mean the job has just got harder? My view is that we have made enormous progress over the last two years. The LEP partnership has reinvigorated the leadership, with the private/public sector combination working effectively together. Plan B without a mayor was always going to centre upon strengthening even more the support we all should give to the LEP.
We have a leadership team that is compelling. We have a new leader of Birmingham City Council with excellent links into neighbouring geographies like the Black Country. We are setting up robust governance as part of giving Government confidence to do a devolution deal.
The mayor is dead. Time now to maximise the team around us and to bring alive the LEP’s ambition to make greater Birmingham the easiest city in Europe in which to set up and run a business. That ought to deal with London-based perceptions once and for all.
* Jerry Blackett is chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce