Metro Mayor Profile: Andy Street – West Midlands
A successful businessman, appearing mild, practical and not too overtly party-political, Andy Street made the ideal candidate for the Conservatives in a region where Labour ought to have significant base support. Street had a successful decade managing John Lewis, overseeing a 50% increase in sales. He was also Chairman of the Greater Birmingham LEP. His Tory credentials are in little doubt though – he was President of Oxford University Conservatives Association and told Conservative Home that a win in the West Midlands would ‘thrust a knife into the Labour party’s heart.’
Andy Street’s priority areas
Housing: working towards building 165,000 new homes by 2030, with a £200m fund to regenerate and decontaminate brownfield sites. He has talked of a ‘brownfield’ first approach, in contrast to Sion Simon. Street also today announced his intention to create a task-force to tackle rough sleeping in Birmingham.
Tackling social issues: through committing the West Midlands to be a leader in social enterprises, and using co-operative and mutual models far more widely in public services, for example in care homes.
Business: with pledges to grow Business Improvement Districts, supporting flourishing high streets, and working with the government to expand Birmingham Airport
Read Andy Street’s manifesto here.
After the Government poured a million pounds and much of its senior leadership into Street’s campaign, they will be delighted it has paid off, winning by just 3,000 votes in the end. In a race that came down to second preferences, Sion Simon will be criticised for a campaign that focused on the core Labour vote. The ‘progressive alliance’ – Labour, Lib Dem and Green candidates – won 52% of first-preferences, yet the Lib Dems and Greens did not in sufficient quantities opt for Simon in their second preferences.
Street will no doubt be the Government’s poster-boy for devolution, and will in many ways have a more daunting task than the other Metro Mayors – working with three LEPs, and a mix of non-constituent and constituent local authorities in the West Midlands Combined Authority. Of the eight constituent members, six are Labour. Whether Street can chair it successfully will be fundamental to the success of his leadership.