And they are off, not at a gallop mind, BUT we are starting to hear from our Metro Mayor candidates.
First out of the trap was Sion Simon for Labour, a current MEP and ex MP for Birmingham Erdington. Followed by Beverly Nielson, local businesswoman for the Lib Dems. The Tories, who think they have a real chance here in the West Midlands, used the Tory Party conference held here in Birmingham to launch their candidate Andy Street ex MD of John Lewis and chair of the Birmingham and Solihull LEP. The Greens have selected James Burn, leader of the opposition on Solihull Council. They creatively staged their launch in the London Assembly to highlight just how tokenistic this form of devolution actually is in comparison with what is happening elsewhere in England let alone the UK.
The Metro Mayor election will take place on May 4th 2017 with voters from the conurbation’s 7 local authorities engaged. While a number of rural districts have joined the combined authority as non-constituent members, none as yet are signed up to raise a precept on local council taxes and therefore elections to this post are not taking places outside the conurbation this time around.
The first husting of many took place at the Sustainability West Midlands conference with 3 of the 4 candidates showing up. There was a transport debate on 5th December where the M6 toll became centre stage and a point of major disagreement.
These are the early shots in what could be a fascinating contest in which there is a genuine race so expect some high profile visits to the region over the next few months.