1. ITV Report

West Midlands Combined Authority Mayor: What you need to know

A list of the candidates taking part in the combined authority mayoral elections. Credit: ITV News Central

On May the 4th, the West Midlands will elect their first mayor of a new combined authority, designed to bring more powers to the region.

What is a directly elected combined-authority mayor?

The combined authority Mayor will be elected by voters in the seven constituent members of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) – Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The Mayor will chair the combined authority and have powers and responsibilities to make strategic decisions across the whole region. This is in contrast to local council leaders who only make decisions for, and on behalf of, their local authority.

Why is the West Midlands having an elected combined authority Mayor?

The new combined authority Mayor is being introduced as part of the Government’s devolution agenda, which allows combined authorities to take on functions over and above those they were allowed under previous legislation. The Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 states that for a combined authority to be given these powers, a combined authority Mayor must be elected for the area.

Who are the candidates?

  • Andy Street (Conservative)
  • Sion Simon (Labour)
  • Beverley Nielsen (Liberal Democrats)
  • James Burn (Green Party)
  • Pete Durnell (UKIP)
  • Graham Stevenson (Communist Party)

What powers will the Mayor have?

The Mayor will control a £1.1bn, 30-year investment fund, an adult skills budget and have compulsory purchase powers over housing and planning. The Mayor will also control the consolidated transport budget, the local roads network, bus franchising and smart ticketing on the transport network.

Previously the majority of these powers lay either with individual local authorities, such as most planning or local transport decisions, or with national decision makers, such as the adult skills budget administered through the Skills Funding Agency.

The combined authority Mayor’s powers are determined by the devolution deal that the West Midlands agreed with government. The majority of city regions around the country are, like the West Midlands, focusing on gaining powers over skills, housing and transport.

Over time, the powers of the combined authority Mayor may increase, as has happened in London.

How will they govern and who will they work with?

The Mayor will chair a cabinet made up of the seven West Midlands council leaders who will each hold a portfolio for which they will be responsible for delivering. Whilst the Mayor will have sole authority over the areas mentioned in the previous question, all other combined authority decisions will be made in conjunction with the council leaders.

However, the council leaders cannot ‘overrule’ the exercise of Mayoral functions.

The Mayor will also be required to appoint a deputy mayor, drawn from one of the constituent authority leaders, to whom the Mayor can delegate powers as they see fit. The deputy mayor will also step in if the Mayor is incapacitated. The Mayor will also be able to appoint one political advisor. The Mayor will be able to hand certain functions to the deputy, or any of the local authority leaders within the combined authority. The Mayor can also hand these functions down to a committee they appoint, made up of members of the combined authority.

Who can vote in the election?

To participate on 4 May, people need to make sure they are registered to vote – the deadline to register is Thursday 13 April 2017.

  • You must be 18 or over on the day of the election (‘polling day’)
  • You must be a British, Commonwealth or EU citizen
  • You have to be resident at an address in one of the seven constituent members of the WMCA – Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton
  • You are not legally excluded from voting

How do I vote in this election?

Once registered to vote, you should receive a polling card through the post at your home address. You are then able to cast your vote in person, by post or by proxy on 4 May.

If you vote in person your poll card will tell you which polling station to attend. Polling stations will be open between 7am and 10pm.

You can find your polling station by entering your postcode into the following websites:

For Birmingham residents click here and enter your postcode into the box marked ‘Find your local services and facilities’

For Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton residents you can use the Democracy Club tool by entering your postcode here

Dudley residents should contact the Electoral Services Office

When going to the polling station it helps to take your polling card with you. However if you forget your polling card you will still be able to vote.

Staff at your polling station on polling day will ask you to confirm your name and address and will then hand you your ballot paper.

If you cannot make it in person to the polling station you can vote by post or have someone do so in person on your behalf, by ‘proxy vote’. You will, however, need to register to vote by either method in advance. Speak to your local authority to do so.

Voters with a physical or visual impairment who are unable to mark their own paper may be assisted by one of the presiding officers.

Do I just mark an X against the candidate I want, like at general or council elections?

No. A different system, called the Supplementary Voting System, is being used to elect the combined authority Mayor. In one of the polling booths at the polling station, read and double check the question you are being asked on the ballot paper.

The ballot paper will list all the candidates standing. Next to the list of candidates there will be two columns.

You will be asked to ...

  • Vote for your first choice candidate by marking a cross (✘) in Column A, and
  • Vote for your second choice candidate by marking a cross (✘) in Column B.
  • You should not mark more than one cross in Column A, and you should not mark more than one cross in Column B.
  • If you have marked a first choice, you can choose whether or not to mark a second choice.
  • If you only mark a cross in Column B, your vote will not be counted.

A result will be known on Friday the 5th of May.

The next election is in May 2020, then every four years after that.

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