Conservative candidate and former John Lewis boss Andy Street has been elected as the metro Mayor for the West Midlands, it was announced last Friday.
The result follows the local elections held on Thursday 4th May, which were the first of their kind since 1981. The vote followed calls for devolution of power from Westminster which aims to decentralise British politics, and was held alongside five other elections for metro mayors in combined authorities around the UK.
The result came as a blow to labour and has begun to dispel the idea of the West Midlands as a predominantly labour stronghold. Labour’s candidate Sion Simon lost out on the position by only 4000 votes, and after the final round of voting the election was won with a result of 50.4% to Sion Simon’s 49.6%. The turnout was 26.7% and out of 523,201 total votes, around 7000 ballot papers were spoiled.
The successful campaign ran by the Conservatives is reported to have cost £1 million.
53 year old Andy Street quit his high profile job at John Lewis last year, giving up an £800,000 salary for one of around £79,000.
Mr Street will now effectively act as a representative for the new West Midlands Combined Authority, which consists of the councils of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton, with powers over education, housing and transport and economic investment. He promises to make the region successful, describing the result as the “beginning of a new, urban Conservative agenda.” He also pledges to reduce youth unemployment and invest in transport around the region.
The introduction of the position is the start of a new chapter for the West Midlands region, with not only more power from the central government, but also a Conservative mayor in charge of a cabinet consisting of local authority leaders, the majority of whom are Labour politicians.