After months of debate and commentary, voters in Birmingham will go to the polls on Thursday 4th May, 2017 to vote on who the new mayor of the West Midlands should be. The candidates are: Labour’s Sion Simon, Conservative Andy Street, Liberal Democrat’s Beverley Nielsen, UKIP’s Pete Durnell, Green candidate James Burn and Communist candidate Graham Stevenson.
Prominent policies that have emerged during the campaign include increasing youth employment, developing a proper transport system within the West Midlands and ensuring that there are enough houses to meet increasing demand.
The two favourites for the position of mayor, per the polls are Labour’s Sion Simon, and Conservative candidate Andy Street. They agree on the key issues, but disagree over how to handle them.
Sion Simon would convene a board of leaders in education in the West Midlands and receive their advice about the best way to approach improving education within the area. He would then implement their suggestions in order to create what he believes to be a more effective and skilful workforce.
Andy Street, on the other hand would meet with teachers and education experts, canvas their opinions and then mould their suggestions to his view of how things should be improved. He would also implement a digital boot camp, to help increase the digital skills of young people in the West Midlands, followed by introducing apprenticeships and youth employment schemes aimed at giving young people a foot on the ladder.
Simon and Street follow a similar path to their fellow candidates Beverley Nielsen and James Burn who would issue bus and metro passes at affordable rates to encourage people to travel by public transport services. They would also propose increasing the metro lines within Birmingham itself.
The issue of increasing the number of houses within the West Midlands is where candidates differentiated themselves. Some like Mr Street believe that houses should be built on the green belt and the brown belt, whilst others such as Mrs Nielsen were in favour of using brown belt sites.
There are still two days left before voting takes place, so there is still time for undecided voters to make up their mind. This election is an important one for deciding the present and future direction of the West Midlands. Make sure to get out and vote for the candidate that you think most benefits you!
By Vivek Rajkhowa