Business leaders back campaign for elected mayor in Birmingham

BUSINESS leaders in Birmingham have thrown their weight behind the campaign for an elected mayor in the city.

The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce has formally endorsed the plan and urged others to follow suit. However, the business body has said clarity is still needed on the breadth of powers for the new role.

The chamber’s elected council gave their backing by an overwhelming majority yesterday. The vote came ahead of a visit to Birmingham by Cities Minister Greg Clark and mayoral advocates Lord Heseltine and Lord Adonis.

Mr Clark announced that a referendum to decide if the city wanted an elected mayor would be held on May 3.

If the answer is yes, an election will take place on November 15 – the same day as an election for a city police commissioner.

Chamber president Michael Ward said: “There was a clear message from the chamber council that it is in favour of an elected mayor for Birmingham but wants clarity on devolved powers.

“The challenge now is for the chamber to lead the campaign on behalf of the city’s business community and others.”

He said Mr Clark’s message had gone a long way towards explaining the government’s position on devolved powers.

“He said the government would expect an elected mayor to tell them what powers were required. He added that there would be a power shift on issues like transport, capital expenditure, skills and apprentices and homes and communities.

“This was extremely encouraging and we shall by working to get this message over to Birmingham businesses and the wider community,” added Mr Ward.

The chamber had previously kept its powder dry on the issue while it lobbied the government. It said it now believed the government was serious about devolving power to the city.