Just three in ten people in the West Midlands know the name of the region’s mayor.
And only seven out of ten people know the post even exists.
These are some of the findings of a poll by ComRes for think tank the Centre for Cities, in the run-up to the mayoral election on May 6.
The incumbent mayor, Conservative Andy Street, is standing again. Other candidates include Labour’s Liam Byrne as well as Jenny Wilkinson (Lib Dem), Coun Steve Caudwell (Green) and Tim Weller (independent).
ComRes also polled residents in other parts of the country, and found that six out of ten Londonders could name their mayor, Labour politician Sadiq Khan, while more than six out of ten people in Greater Manchester knew their mayor was former Labour MP Andy Burnham.
Mr Street was named as the West Midlands Mayor by 30% residents surveyed. But he has a higher profile than Steve Rotheram, Labour Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, who was named by only 22% of his local residents, fewer than one in four. ComRes found there was confusion between the regional mayor and the mayor of the city of Liverpool, who is the equivalent of the leader of a city council.
Only seven per cent of people in the West of England could name their regional mayor.
If the West Midlands mayor is not well known then perhaps it’s not too surprising. Just 27% of eligible voters took part in the region’s last mayoral election, in 2017. A separate study found just 8% of people nationwide can name the leader of their local council.
The survey also found 80% of people in the West Midlands back giving more power to the office holder. Almost half, 46%, support giving the Mayor more responsibility for providing affordable housing, while 42% back the Mayor having a bigger role in supporting business and 42% say the mayor should have more control over skills and training.
Centre for Cities’ Chief Executive Andrew Carter said: “People in the West Midlands overwhelmingly support shifting power out of Whitehall and down to the city region. Devolving more responsibility for providing affordable housing, supporting businesses and running adult education schemes are all popular with the public in the West Midlands.
“At the 2019 election, the Government backed the principle of more devolution in England yet, more than a year later, we are still waiting to see what its plans are.
“As the West Midlands looks to recover from the pandemic, it is vital that the Government listens to demands for more devolution and gives the next mayor the powers and resources to build back better. People want Whitehall to do less, it’s time for it to listen.”
Mr Street and Mr Byrne both published manifestos last week.
Key pledges from Andy Street’s manifesto
- To create 100,000 new jobs and training opportunities including through a new electric battery Gigafactory at Coventry airport
- To double transport spending in the region
- To “become the home of driverless vehicle testing in the UK”
- Opening new tram stations in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton as well as an expansion into North Solihull, and the “reopening of five rail stations in Walsall and South Birmingham in the next three years”
- Applying “£400 million of new Government funding” to drive a regional “brownfield first” approach to housing
- A “commitment to secure £10 billion of new investment from Government and private investors into the region”
- To build thousands of new homes for social rent and “launch a massive regional programme to improve the energy efficiency of homes”
Key pledges from Labour candidate Liam Byrne include:
- Getting a fair share of funding from central government
- Becoming the “greenest” region in the country, making the West Midlands the UK’s first net-zero carbon region and securing 200,000 skilled green trade and manufacturing jobs
- Backing industry, making the West Midlands a world capital of green manufacturing and doubling apprenticeship numbers with free retraining for people who have lost their jobs
- Building more homes, doubling the number of affordable warm homes but building on brownfield land – former industrial land – not the greenbelt
- Supporting young people and cutting knife crime with youth workers in every neighbourhood
- An extra 450 community police officers to boost police numbers in every neighbourhood
- Investing in community life, such as grassroots sport, parks, art, high streets, markets and festivals
The election takes place on May 6.