I was invited by Unite members to a meeting about elected Mayors this evening.
I began by describing how I had been a trade union member since I was 21 and was a Unite-supported MP. It was a massive privilege to represent Birmingham Erdington in parliament for nine years, but I came to believe that Birmingham needed to seize this historic opportunity to take decisions about Birmingham here in Birmingham.
The main focus of the meeting was on jobs. I explained how I believe the council should buy Brummie or British whenever possible to keep Brummies in work. The council often claims it’s hampered by EU laws. However France, for example, spends a far higher proportion of public money domestically than we do. Without, apparently, being hampered by EU laws.
We also talked about how the council can use its contracts to reward good employers. It’s clear that the powers of elected Mayors, considerable to start with, will grow over time. I am confident that the control of JobCentre Plus, Work and Pensions and many of the skills budgets will eventually be devolved, meaning solutions for Birmingham will be invented in Birmingham.
We also talked about the role of councillors and how I believe that the Localism Act should have required elected Mayors to give real powers and budgets to local communities through councillors. But how good elected Mayors will do that as a matter of course. I asked the members to let me know what they think about the 10 point plan I launched last month.
Thanks to Unite Birmingham (finance) Branch members for inviting me along and for hosting a really good discussion about our city.