West Midlands Mayor Candidates 2017

In May 2017 people in the West Midlands will be voting for a West Midlands Mayor.

The Four candidates so far are Andy Street (Conservative), Sion Simon (Labour), Beverley Nielsen (Liberal Democrat) and James Burn (Green)

The newly created position will have more devolved power than its Greater Manchester and Liverpool region counterparts and, with four million people, oversees a larger area.

The elected Mayor will oversee spending on big projects and investments in the combined areas of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Solihull, Walsall, Dudley and Sandwell.

We've been speaking to the four candidates about their background, the role and why they think they should be elected:

Tory Candidate: Andy Street

Andy Street has combined a career with John Lewis, with a host of high-profile economic development roles, working with local and national government.

Starting on the John Lewis graduate scheme, he rose through the ranks to become Managing Director.

He has been the Chair of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership since 2011.

Additionally, he has been lead non-executive director for the Department for Communities and Local Government as well as a member of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Group.

Andy lived in Northfield and Solihull until going to University aged 18. Attending first Green Meadow Infants School in Northfield and then Langley Junior School in Solihull, he later went to King Edwards School in Edgbaston.

Andy studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Keble College, Oxford. In 1984, he became president of the University Conservative Association, following in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher, William Hague and many more.

Although his ambition had been to become a social worker, he started his career at the John Lewis Partnership in 1985 as a trainee. He became Managing Director in 2007.

Outside of work, he is passionate about the arts, particularly in the West Midlands. He is Vice Chairman of Performances Birmingham Limited, which is responsible for running the City's Symphony and Town Halls.

In June 2015, Andy Street was awarded the CBE for services to the national economy.

He was named the 'Most Admired Leader' of the year by business magazine, Management Today in 2014. He received the 'President's award' from the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce in for his work in the region.

He also holds three honorary degrees, from Birmingham City University, Aston University and the University of Birmingham.

Labour Candidate: Sion Simon

Born into a Welsh-speaking family, Sion grew up in the West Midlands. His parents were teachers, his mother taught French in Sandwell and his father taught children with special needs in Birmingham.

He lived in Handsworth, Handsworth Wood and Great Barr and went to Handsworth Grammar.

He joined the Labour party when he was sixteen. In the 1992 general election he ran the Europe Desk at Labour's Walworth Road HQ.

Next, he was recruited as a senior manager by Guinness PLC.

He then freelanced for a while, self-employed, VAT-registered small business person.

Eventually, he became a national newspaper columnist, principally on the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator.

In 2001, He was elected MP for Birmingham Erdington, and re elected in 2005 with the biggest Labour majority in the city.

In Parliament, he sat on the Treasury and Public Accounts Committees, was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Trade Minister, chaired Labour's manifesto group on law and order and the all party group on business services.

In the latter years, he was Minister for Further Education in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, then Minister for Creative Industries, at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

He then became MEP for the West Midlands in 2014 and serves on the Employment and Social Affairs committee as Labour's European Spokesperson.

Liberal Democrat Candidate: Beverley Nielsen

Born Worcestershire, she has launched entrepreneurial, pioneering projects to promote the place, people and partnerships needed to grow success for all

Beverley created Birmingham Made Me (BMM) to promote and connect the region's biggest brands, holding an annual Expo showcase, jobs fair and knowledge-networking, supported by a wide range of businesses

Working through Birmingham City University, she established the BMM Jobs Fair, Entrepreneur Shops, Design Competition, and Expo showcases to find jobs for young people, and retain talent in the region.

She founded, IDEA a think-tank aimed at generating greater understanding of the region's economics.

She has promoted outdoor education, and took it into private ownership Chairing, the Outdoor Education Centre for the West Midlands, Malvern Outdoor Elements.

For the past decade, she has been a Director at Birmingham City University, involved in design and business development, creating linkages between students and employers, knowledge and wealth-creation.

Most recently, as Associate Professor, she set up the Institute for Design & Economic Acceleration (IDEA) to establish more clearly the link between creativity applied to market-need in driving economic growth.

For sixteen years she has been a Fellow with WMG at the University of Warwick, and its pioneering work in developing industry-led curriculum and collaborations.

For almost a decade she worked as Director, Aga Rangemaster plc, (a FTSE 250 company at the time) and ran subsidiary business, Fired Earth and gained experience in promoting tourism operators across the Midlands as CEO, Heart of England Tourist Board.

Beverley has twelve years’ experience lobbying as Regional Director, CBI West Midlands. As Assistant Director, CBI North West and Assistant Manager, Brussels, she focused on promoting competitiveness across European markets.

Beverley served as a Lib Dem County Councillor in Malvern Worcestershire during which time she took outdoor education out of Council control.

Beverley lives in Worcestershire with her husband, Robert and three children, Niels, Charlie and Amelia.

Green Candidate: James Burn

Cllr James Burn was elected to Chelmsley Wood ward in Solihull in 2014 with 52% of the vote. He is currently leader of the Official Opposition on Solihull Council.

He has lived in the West Midlands for more than 15 years and has worked across much of the region in the private, public and voluntary sectors.

He is a qualified social worker and currently runs his own small business.

Cllr Burn has been scrutinising the WMCA since its public announcement in 2015

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