Tory mayor tells prime minister to end austerity Street in surprise attack on Government policy as he welcomes party to Birmingham
CONSERVATIVE West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to put an end to austerity as the Tories prepare for their annual conference in Birmingham.
In an exclusive interview with the Birmingham Post, Mr Street backed council leaders and police chiefs who warn they cannot cope with any more funding cuts.
He said: “The enough”.
Mr Street is to welcome Tory activists to Birmingham on Sunday, when he delivers a speech on the first day of the party conference at the ICC.
It is little surprise that he has been given a high-profile role at the gathering. Tories were delighted when he won the mayoral election last year, and Theresa May regularly namechecks him in the House of Commons.
But he admitted he was about the impact of cuts region’s services.
Chief Constable Dave Thompson has warned that West Midlands Police is close to “breaking point” as a result of cuts in grants from central government.
David Jamieson, the force’s Labour Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), has also been an outspoken critic of the cuts. And the National Audit Office, the official independent cuts have gone far worried on the spending watchdog, says West Midlands Police has suffered bigger reductions as a proportion of its total budget than almost any other force.
Mr Street said: “It is right, what has been said by the chief constable and the PCC, that the settlement for the West Midlands has been less favourable than for other areas.
“I hope the Home Secretary is able to win the case for better investment for West Midlands Police.”
He echoed West Midlands council leaders – most of them Labour politi- cians – who warn that cuts to their budgets are putting services at risk.
“I do also think it is right to say that the cuts have gone far enough.
“It’s not reasonable to expect that this continues.”
West Midlands businesses such as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) have issued dire warnings about the potential impact of leaving the EU without a deal that will allow them to continue importing components from Europe.
Mr Street urged his party to back the Prime Ministers proposed “Cheq- uers” deal, saying it was vital in order to protect West Midlands businesses – and he said Tory critics of the deal were “wrong”.
He said: “They are very real, those warnings, because it is definitely true that a company like JLR needs the frictionless movement of goods to be able to continue with their manufacturing process.
“I think the government has heard them. The Chequers deal does try to respond to those warnings. I still believe the Prime Minister is right to try to defend that.”
But what about Conservatives who have attacked the deal? “I disagree with them. “I have been very clear that given the nature of the economy, the dependence on manufacturing, the dependence on exports, we in the West Midlands do need the type of deal that was put forward by Chequers for our economy. And I’m still four square behind that.”
Theresa May has made it clear that she’s ready to take the UK out of the EU without a deal if her plan is rejected. Mr Street is reluctant to speculate about what this would mean for the West Midlands, saying: “That is the negotiating position at the moment. But obviously if it becomes apparent that there really is no movement then we will have to consider.”
Perhaps a “People’s Vote” could keep the plants safe by reversing the decision to quit the EU? Mr Street is not keen.
The settlement for the West Midlands has been less favourable than for other areas
“The people have spoken,” he says. “The idea of going back to a second referendum or a third referendum...”
His voice tailed off but it was clear he regards the prospect with some horror.
One of the questions facing the Conservative Party is whether Theresa May should be allowed to lead them into the next election, or whether she should stand aside some time after Brexit takes place next March.
Mr Street is reluctant to get involved in that debate, and insists he backs the Prime Minister “at the moment”.
Asked if Mrs May should stand down once Brexit takes place, he says: “I think it is too soon to say. If the Prime Minister pulls off a good deal, if the party unites behind will move on to implementing deal.”
This will allow the Conservative Party to start focusing other issues such as housing, industrial policy and social policy, says Mr Street.
He argues the Government is already doing a lot of good work in these areas, but finds it hard to talk about its successes because debate is dominated by Brexit.
“It is far too soon to judge who should be leading through that.
“At the moment I’m four-square behind the Prime Minister as leader of our party.
“If anyone asks me, there is no vacancy for leader, and we’re all behind her for next week and for the negotiations she is leading.” it, it that
Mayor Andy Street
> West Midlands mayor Andy Street is to speak at the Tory conference