What big challenges is West Midlands mayor Andy Street facing?

Andy Street gives his victory speech. Image: Getty.

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Europe’s cities.

The Centre for Cities, as regular readers will know, recently launched its new metro mayor data dashboards. These, if you’ve not had the pleasure, enable you to sort through some of the data on each of the newly en-mayor-ed city regions, and see how they compare to the national average. That, in turn, should give some insight into the kind of things clogging up the in-trays of the newly elected mayors.

So – let’s start with the big one. What kind of problems will be facing Andy Street in the West Midlands?

Well, for one thing, the region is facing a bit of a skills gap. The proportion of the population with no qualifications has fallen in recent years (it was as high as 20.7 per cent in 2001); but it’s still at 15.5 per cent, nearly twice the national average (8.3 per cent).

The region’s schools are performing below the national average, too. (Progress 8 is a way of measuring pupil progress in any individual school; the details don’t matter too much for our purposes.)

On the upside, it has significantly more apprenticeships than the national average – a result of the region’s industrial heritage, one assumes.

You can see that in its unusually high goods export numbers, too:

(Services don’t look so hot.)

The region’s earnings are rising steadily, but still lower than the national average:

The West Midlands has significant unemployment problems, too:

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Okay, let’s get onto the good stuff. One big area of responsibility for the new mayors will be public transport. In the West Midlands, one of Britain’s most car-based areas, there’s clearly a huge job to do on that score.

For one thing, the number of bus journeys made in the conurbation has basically been in free fall:

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So, better bus franchising should be high on the agenda.

More depressing, in some ways, is that the number of light rail journeys has basically flatlined.

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Anecdotally, they started climbing last year after the Midlands Metro was finally extended into Birmingham city centre.

The region’s air pollution is slightly higher than the national average:

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Which isn’t too bad, for an industrial area – but probably does suggest that getting people out of their cars might help.

So, to sum up: more skills, more trams, better buses and better schools please, Andy. Now get to work.

You can explore the data yourself here.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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A voice for the city: how should mayors respond to terror attacks?

Andy Burnham speaking in Manchester yesterday. Image: Getty.

When Andy Burnham, a former British government minister, won the election to be Greater Manchester’s Metro Mayor recently he was probably focused on plans for the region’s transport, policing and housing – and, of course, all the behind the scenes political work that goes on when a new role is created. The Conversation

And yet just a few weeks after taking on the role, terrorism has proved to be his first major challenge. Following the horrific bomb attack following a concert at one of Manchester’s most popular venues, he quickly has had to rise to the challenge.

It is a sad fact of life that as a senior politician, you will soon have to face – and deal with – a shocking incident of this kind.

These incidents arrive regardless of your long term plans and whatever you are doing. Gordon Brown’s early tenure as UK prime minister, for example, saw the Glasgow terror incident – which involved an attempted car bombing of the city’s airport in June 2007. Just four days into his premiership, Brown was dealing with the worst terrorist incident in Britain since the attacks on London in July 2005. Andy Burnham now finds himself in a similar situation.


Giving Manchester a voice

For Burnham, as the mayor and messenger of Manchester, an attack of this scale needs a response at several levels.

There is the immediately practical – dealing with casualties. There is the short term logistical – dealing with things like transport and closures. And there is the investigation and (hopefully) prevention of any follow ups.

But he will also need a “voice”. People look to particular figures to give a voice to their outrage, to talk about the need for calm, to provide reassurance, and to offer unity and express the sadness overwhelming many.

Part of the thinking behind the UK government’s enthusiasm for elected mayors was a perceived need to provide strong, local leaders. And a strong, local leader’s voice is exactly what is needed in Manchester now.

There is a certain choreography to the response to these events. It tends to go: a brief initial reaction, a visit to the scene, then a longer statement or speech. This is then usually followed by a press conference and interviews, along with visits to those affected. I say this not to be callous, but to highlight the huge demand the news media places on leading political figures when tragedy strikes.

‘We are strong’

As expected, Burnham made a speech on the morning after the attack. It is probably better described as a statement, in that it was short and to the point. But despite its brevity, in nine paragraphs, he summed up just about every possible line of thought.

The speech covered evil, the shared grieving and the need for the city to carry on. He also praised the work of the emergency services, and highlighted the need for unity and the very human reaction of the local people who provided help to those affected.

Andy Burnham on Sky News. Image: screenshot.

Burnham now has the task of bringing people together while there is still doubt about many aspects of what happened. A vigil in the centre of Manchester was rapidly planned for Tuesday evening, and there will be many other potential initiatives to follow.

Incidents like this tend to leave a large and long-lasting footprint. The effects of the bomb will last for years, whether in concrete reality or in people’s awareness and memories. And Burnham must now lead the effort to ensure Manchester emerges from this shocking incident with cohesion and strength.

Paula Keaveney is senior lecturer in public relations & politics at Edge Hill University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.