Seeking urgent talks with the new PM
— LeaderofBirmingham (@BrumLeader) July 18, 2016
I wrote the blog below for the Chamberlain Files on 18 July.
I’m a proud Labour politician but I’m also a pragmatist and from day one in my role as Birmingham City Council leader I’ve met, worked with and lobbied a number of Conservative government ministers. That’s a big part of my job and I’ll continue to set out the case for Birmingham on a national and international stage.
So, with a new Prime Minister moving into Number 10 Downing St, I’ve wasted no time in writing to Theresa May requesting an urgent meeting with myself and other Birmingham leaders to discuss how our city can play a big part in addressing the post-Brexit challenges the UK now faces.
Our task in any such meeting will of course be to get the best possible deal for the people of Birmingham. But I don’t for one second believe this will be a one-sided relationship. We’re not simply going to Government cap-in-hand asking for favours. We have a lot to offer and I firmly believe a strong, thriving, growing Birmingham is essential for a strong, thriving, growing UK economy – more so now than ever before.
Now, while I accept that the new PM will have quite a lengthy ‘to-do’ list, I feel it is important to make the case for Birmingham in the early days of her premiership.
In my letter I’ve stressed that our great city is well placed to work with her government to grasp the opportunities and to tackle the challenges that the next period holds.
In the short term we must work out a way of maintaining the investment plans that are currently based on EU funding and ensure that long term repatriation of funds comes down to the local level and not just Whitehall.
There must be a voice for the great cities in the negotiations with the EU, as part of the local government representation that Greg Clark has already promised and I would hope the news Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid will agree.
As the Prime Minister herself said when taking up her new office, it is now clearer than ever that we must seek to build an economy, society and democracy that includes all the people. We must urgently address the anger, frustration and isolation felt by many who feel that our economy does not work for them and our politics does not represent them.
It is also very evident that in order to prosper in the challenging economic times ahead and to make democracy more meaningful, we must redouble our efforts to bring decision making closer to local communities. We have welcomed and been active participants in the devolution process spearheaded by George Osborne and Greg Clark. It is vital that the dialogue we have had with officials and ministers on the next steps in that process is moved forward immediately. It is also vital that there is no delay to the legislative process for all the mayoral combined authorities and in key bills such as the Bus Services Bill.
But the political environment post-referendum also calls on us to think far more radically about the potential for redesigning our constitutional settlement as a country, alongside our relationship with the EU. I believe that the Brexit vote was a call for all politicians to take up that challenge and to take seriously the need to reform our over-centralised and out-dated approach to government.
That’s why I particularly welcome the PM’s commitment to creating a plan to help all of our “great regional cities”. Actions of course will speak louder than words and I firmly believe that Birmingham can and should be at the forefront of any such plan.
And we can be creative. Speaking in Birmingham on Monday, Mrs May made a commitment to government-backed project bonds which could be used to boost infrastructure nationally.
Well I also hope she sees the potential for similar localised initiatives to provide much needed investment and kick-start house building.
I’ve been banging the drum for Brummie bonds for well over a decade as a way of linking investment directly to assets in the city – housing, other infrastructure, and long term venture capital investment in our own people in small and medium-sized businesses.
Hopefully the time is now right for Brummie bonds. The time is definitely now right for Birmingham.
Over to you, Mrs May.