Liam Byrne yesterday asked Lord Heseltine to help ensure a Birmingham mayor is given the powers to get the city back to work. Mr Byrne and Lord Heseltine met yesterday.
Mr Byrne said that last week’s unemployment figures, which show a 9 per cent rise in Birmingham’s jobless over the last year, underline how urgent the city’s job crisis has now become. 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.
Mr Byrne is demanding the government hands an elected mayor the ‘big five’ powers to take urgent action to bring relief to the city’s jobless.
The ‘big five’ powers Byrne argued for 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.
Mr Byrne added that the government needs to set out what powers an elected mayor will have, before Birmingham residents go to the polls on 3 May.
Liam Byrne 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.’
Before meeting Lord Heseltine, Mr Byrne spent the morning visiting MG Motors in Longbridge, together with Richard Burden MP, Cllr Andy Cartwright and community campaigners, Gemma Cartwright and Jess Phillips.