Lord Michael Heseltine and John Lewis Partnership's managing director and chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, Andy Street, gave a rousing call to arms, championing elected mayors and city regions to over 1,000 delegates at the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group's annual dinner and awards at Birmingham's International Convention Centre last night.
Former cabinet minister and long time advocate of elected mayors, Lord Heseltine (pictured above, centre), said he wants to see people who "thump the table" for England's cities. Talking of giving power back from Whitehall to local authorities, Lord Heseltine said: "We must not give up. It will be a struggle." Then he asked the audience, "are you up for it?"
Lord Heseltine added: "I believe the government has opened the door for cities to be heard and Birmingham is going to have one hell of a battle. The barons of Whitehall are not going to give their power away." Referring to the referendum on elected mayors next week, Lord Heseltine added: " I want to see a 'Yes' vote next week. If you want to change the nature of power in Birmingham the you have to do something about it. We need a revolution to revert power back to England's great cities."
Meanwhile, JLP's Street (pictured, far left)confirmed that he had been with deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in London today presenting Birmingham's City Deal.
He said: "it was a rotten thing celebrating our success on the day that the UK confirmed it has gone back into recession."
Street confirmed that £2bn was currently being invested in Birmingham's city centre from the public purse on schemes such as the redevelopment of New Street station and the new Library for Birmingham. He added: "a year ago the LEP had no money and now here we are with £1bn to spend over the next seven to eight years. We want to take more control of public and private sector funds for the region."
He said that an underlying thought would be to "generate a a public/private partnership with the private sector and politicians coming together."
BCCG president Michael Ward, added: "On May 3 the residents of Birmingham will be able to say yes to having the opportunity of appointing a mayor of this city.
Ward said that he believes the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP's access to central government, without interference from Whitehall, is "unprecedented" and gives the region an opportunity to shape its future.
Pictures via Flickr.com EG Focus and Birmingham News Room. Also www.yestoBirminghammayor.com