Tory mayor tells prime min­is­ter to end aus­ter­ity Street in sur­prise at­tack on Gov­ern­ment pol­icy as he wel­comes party to Birm­ing­ham

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Jonathan Walker Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.