Mayor of Birmingham campaigner and former Cabinet minister Liam Byrne has handed a wish list of five top powers to a senior Government advisor.
The Labour MP for Hodge Hill has put job creation and local enterprise at the top of his policy agenda as he bids to become the first elected mayor of Birmingham.
During talks with the Government’s senior advisor on elected mayors Lord Michael Heseltine demanded greater powers and funding on business rates, transport, schools, housing and skills and apprenticeships, if the city votes yes to a mayor on May 3.
He said: “We’re on the brink of a jobs crisis in Birmingham unless we act fast. An elected mayor with the powers to take action could make a decisive difference – and fast.
“But the government needs to put an end to the mystery and tell us now the power we can expect.”
“Great Birmingham businesses like Jaguar and MG tell us we can be world-beaters. Our city’s got the potential. So the government needs to put its money where its mouth is, and give us the power to be the best we can be.”
Mr Byrne highlighted a nine per cent rise in Birmingham’s jobless over the last year. He said: “Over 51,000 people are now on the dole – and over half of the city’s unemployed have been out of work for over six months, one of the highest rates in Britain.”
His shopping list of five key powers are:
1. Powers, like those in London, to raise revenue from local businesses to reinvest in the city – or to finance tax breaks for innovative or small businesses.
2. Power to help lead a regional Transport Commission, with integrated powers like TfL, and to unlock Birmingham Airport’s potential to become Britain’s fourth hub airport.
3. Power to lead school improvement, to boost the local skills base and improve ‘coasting schools’.
4. Power over Skills Funding Agency budgets, to help boost apprenticeships and gear skills spending to the needs of local employers.
5. Power over housing budgets, including powers to keep savings from Housing Benefit delivered by getting people back to work, to allow the city to help shift money into building homes - providing much needed construction employment.
Earlier this year one of his rivals to become Labour’s mayoral candidate Sion Simon, handed a 20 page document to Government during its consultation on mayoral powers. His requests included devolving much of the funding spent in Birmingham by Government departments or quangos to the mayoral office. He also wants the mayor to chair the regional transport and police authorities, the health and wellbeing board and the Local Enterprise Partnership.