What I’d deliver as Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Mayor

Solidarity is the key to improving people’s lives and it is this principle that will anchor my priorities as Mayor, writes candidate Pete Lowe.

Together, we have an exciting opportunity to deliver a socialist transformation of the West Midlands. 

I joined the Labour Party during the miners’ strike when I was aged 15 as I saw first-hand the damage that the Thatcher government did to our communities, with job losses, cuts to services and the hateful Section 28. 

As a nurse, I developed my union branch, before leading one of the longest strikes in NHS history against plans to implement Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) in Dudley. This dispute led to the negotiation of the ‘retention of employment model’, which protects workers against the threat of PFI to this day. Solidarity is the key to improving people’s lives and it is this principle that will anchor my priorities as Mayor.

As vice-chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in 2016, I worked closely with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to ensure workers were represented at the highest level. We remain the only devolved authority to have trade union representation at board level to this day. 

Decisions that affect workers must be decided by workers. Furthermore, as vice-chair of the WMCA, I introduced THRIVE, an initiative to improve workplace standards for anyone with mental illness. 

I stand on a platform that has been endorsed by five major trade unions, including UNISON, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), as well as the Labour Homelessness Campaign and the largest number of CLPs and local Momentum groups across the West Midlands.

I have stood in solidarity with the Oppose the Public Social Protection Order (PSPO) campaign and we have successfully fought against Birmingham City Council’s consideration of a PSPO, as well as calling on all seven local authority leaders in the WMCA to announce a climate emergency, and I’m pledging to have a climate conference within my first 100 days in office because we need an ‘action not words’ agenda for our region in order to tackle the climate crisis.

I want the West Midlands to be a pioneering region, deliver new, radical policies that will clear the path for the next Labour government and demonstrate what we can achieve when we are bold.

Our team-led campaign gives a voice to local members, community groups and trade unionists, allowing us to offer something radically different: the policies we want to see in action are tailored by the very communities we serve. 

In this spirit, we have together developed six key pledges.

1. All-member policy conference.

We will hold a participative regional all-members’ policy conference within days of selection, where we will invite every labour member to join the policy conversation and shape a manifesto for hope to take down the Tory mayor in May.

2. Tackling homelessness

We will declare a Homelessness Emergency on day one and encourage our seven local authorities to implement a Homeless Bill of Rights to ensure the dignity and rights of all homeless people. We will also implement 24-hour support and accommodation for all homeless people in our region and pressure our local authorities to kickstart a council housebuilding revolution.

3. A regional Green New Deal

We will hold a climate conference within my first 100 days of office to bring together the seven local authorities with the scientific community, trade unions and members of the public in order to build a radical Green New Deal for the West Midlands and deliver a people’s bank to kickstart green investment in our region. 

4. Cutting transport fares

We will cut fares for public transport for young people and WASPI women, to ensure that everyone has full opportunity to participate in our thriving region.

5. Equality, accessibility and inclusion

We will improve diversity on the WMCA board and implement an accessibility charter on public spaces and transport. We will also lobby government to end ‘no recourse to public funds’ policies, so that all people, regardless of their nationality or circumstances, receive the assistance they need.

6. Workers’ rights

We will deliver further worker representation on the WMCA board and continue to campaign unreservedly to repeal the punitive anti-trade union laws. 

I have a track record of delivering for the West Midlands, from protecting workers in our NHS from the threat of PFI as a union rep to ensuring workers are represented on the WMCA board as Vice-Chair of the WMCA. We need a Mayor whose life has been embedded in the communities they seek to represent and whose career has been embedded in local government. 

I believe that my experience makes me well-placed to crucially deliver the radical, transformative change that we want to see. This is about action, not words, for our region and only by electing a socialist and a trade unionist can we ensure that bold words become bold actions and deliver transformative change for our region. 

This is part of a LFF series on the metro mayor elections happening in May, with LFF offering a platform for debate from progressive candidates.

Pete Lowe is running to be Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Mayor. Follow him on Twitter.

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