NEWS: West Midlands has its first Labour Mayor as Richard Parker wins by narrow margin

Pics sourced from candidates and Erdington Local archives

The West Midlands has a Labour Mayor for the first time.

Labour candidate Richard Parker narrowly beat the two-term Conservative Mayor Andy Street, the only man to previously hold the role after winning the first contest in 2017.

Due to a recount and technical difficulties, the announcement at Birmingham International Convention Centre was delayed by over seven hours.

This was also the first time the Mayoral election was decided by the First Past the Post voting system, unlike the second preferences style poll in previous elections.

But once the final results were verified, Labour’s Richard Parker clinched 225,590 votes to the Conservative’s Andy Street’s 224,082 votes – in an astonishingly close result.

Independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob, who Erdington Local was amongst the first to profile in their race for West Midlands Mayor, was the clear third place choice – clocking up 69, 621 votes.

Reform UK’s Elaine Williams came fourth with 34, 471 votes.

Coming in fifth was Gravelly Hill resident and Green Party candidate Siobhan Harper-Nunes, who earned 31,036 votes.

Ms Harper-Nunes fought a fierce campaign without major backing or finances from her national party, and previously told Erdington Local she believed “just running is winning” as it allowed her to place what she felt were important issues on the agenda.

To read a full our LOCAL PROIFILE with Siobhan Harper-Nunes, click here.

The Liberal Democrats came in last with Sunny Virk convincing 12,176 people to put a cross next to his name.

There were 4,757 rejected ballots in the Mayoral elections, compared to 23,000 in the Police and Crime Commissioners election which was announced earlier in the day and saw Labour’s candidate Simon Foster re-elected.

The results from both elections, held on 2 May, mean this is the first time since the West Midlands Mayor and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) offices were created that the same political party holds both offices.

However, the result in the race for West Midlands Mayor could have been a more conclusive for Labour without the impact from independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob – who galvanised communities across the West Midlands who felt anger over Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on refusing to call a ceasefire in Gaza last year.

Mr Yakoob won his third place through on a prominent social media, anti-Labour, pro-Palestine, George Galloway backed campaign, that only began four weeks ago but was helped by experienced ex-Labour councillors and members.

However, one the votes were counted, and recounted, the job of West Midladns Mayor and Chaor of the West Midlands Combined Authority went to Labour’s Richard Parker. After being declared the next West Midlands Mayor, MrParker said: “This is the most important thing I will ever do.

“This week people voted for the person and the party. They recognised that a Labour mayor can make a positive difference in this region.

“I believe a Labour Mayor working with a Labour Government will get this region back to its best again.”

Acknowledging his party’s massive loss of trust of the Muslim community, who voted for Mr Yakoob in unprecedented numbers for an independent candidate, Mr Parker further pledged to: “Build back trust within the Muslim community.”

Offering warm words to his vanquished opponent, he added: “Andy Street. You’ve led this region through a number of great challenges.

“You deserve credit through building up the combined authority into the powerhouse it is today, through the economic shocks and for leading this region when it came out of covid.

“I absolutely believe that whilst our politics are different, Andy, we both have the best interests of the West Midlands at heart.”

Mr Street responded: “I wish you all strength and wisdom as you take over the reins.

“It has been my honour to serve and to lead this place for the last seven years. I hope I’ve done it with dignity and integrity and I hope I’ve bequeathed to Richard a combined authority – and indeed a role – to which young, aspiring leaders will want to aspire one day.”

Whilst the delayed results to the count were coming in, there was frustration online as the West Midlands Combined Authority live election stream cut out after a day of gaffes, glitches, and technical difficulties which meant viewers could not see the speeches of Mr Street, Mr Yakoob, and other candidates.

However, after the final count was in Mr Yakoob told Erdington Local: “This has been an incredible four weeks. Imagine if we had started three months ago, we started with what people called was just a TikTok campaign.

“Well, we got nearly 70,000 votes and almost lost Labour what should have been an easy victory.

“Thanks to everyone for voting, I believe I got more young people registered and voting than any other candidate.

“Thank you for everyone in Erdington who supported my campaign, we had plenty volunteers from Erdington, and it looks like a lot of voters too.”

An official poll card for government elections and a UK photo driving licence as prove of identity.

Mr Yakoob added: “You wait till the General Election; I will be back.”

The next General Election is set to be held before January 2025.

The turnout for the West Midlands Mayoral election was 29.8% across the West Midlands, and in Birmingham it was 28.5 per cent.

For more on Richard Parker visit www.facebook.com/RichardParkerWM

LOCAL PROFILE: Siobhan Harper Nunes – Erdington resident and Green Party candidate in the West Midlands Mayoral election

Profile pics and campaign artwork supplied by Siobhan Harper-Nunes

As people across the West Midlands get ready to vote for their next Mayor, heading to ballot boxes across the region on Thursday 2 May, Erdington Local caught up with Green Party candidate and Gravelly Hill resident – Siobhan Harper-Nunes.

West Midlands Mayor Green Party candidate Siobhan Harper-Nunes believe she can “make a difference” and by getting important issues on the agenda “just running is winning”.

The 64-year-old charity founder, who was last seen by voters when she stood for the Birmingham Erdington seat in the 2022 parliamentary constituency by-election, is standing in the upcoming West Midlands Mayoral elections to get the two issues she cares most about on the agenda.

As people prepare to cast their vote on 2 May, Harper-Nunes told Erdington Local: “Child poverty and the climate change agenda are so important to this region. And they are both linked.

“I know Andy Street would not have been talking about net-zero unless there was a Green candidate in the last two elections, now I want him and (Labour’s candidate) Richard Parker to talk about child poverty.

“I am standing because I cannot bear to see how so many people from so many different communities are being left behind. When each election comes around the ‘haves’ have got even more than the ‘have nots’ and it just cannot continue like this.

“How are people working full time but are finding it difficult to feed their kids, it is just not right.”

Ms Harper-Nunes helps charities get funding to carry out vital work in the community and has worked both in the public and third sector raising money, including helping the Institute of Social Enterprise and NCVO National Council of Voluntary Organisations.

In 2007 she also founded Shakti Women – an organisation that supports women in both personal and professional development through coaching and training – and is currently Vice-Chair of Birmingham Race Impact Group.

She said: “I see it every day during my day job, on the front line of dealing with poverty. No candidate talks about child poverty in the West Midlands and how it is getting worse.

“The candidates talk about these big shiny projects. But in my experience no-one cares about these projects, what they care about is why they can’t pay their bills, if their children can get free school meals, and why there is no affordable housing anymore.”

An official poll card for government elections and a UK photo driving licence as prove of identity.

A prominent theme raised by several candidates of this year’s Mayoral election, held on Thursday 2 May, is how to address Birmingham’s often debated Clean Air Zone and net-zero targets.

Both the Reform UK candidate Elaine Williams and independent Akhmed Yaqoob are demanding the scrapping of the Clean Air Zone, claiming it is hitting business and the poorest drivers unfairly.

However, the Green candidate is happy to tell people why they are needed.

Harper-Nunes explained: “Yes, I might have done the Birmingham Clean Air Zone differently, but it is important it is kept. Every year in the West Midlands there are 300,000 preventable deaths due to poor air quality, so of course we need Clean Air Zones.

“In Birmingham a third of the population do not even have a car, so it is not like these green policies are hitting the poorest. But these Clean Air Zones will make a difference and are making a difference every day, so of course I will defend them.”

A Gravelly Hill resident, living just off one of the country’s busiest motorway interchanges, Ms Harper-Nunes also believes Erdington is the perfect example of where a high volume of traffic has caused poor air quality.

She said: “I live in Erdington, and if I had my way I would put a Clean Air Zone around Spaghetti Junction. I was knocking doors in Gravelly Hill and there was not even the need to take an air counter with me, you can just see by the grime on the windows how bad the air quality is around Spaghetti Junction.

“Local children are breathing that in every day, at the very least the surrounding area needs trees planting to counter-act the awful air quality.”

For the green agenda to really work Harper-Nunes believes public transport also needs to be a viable alternative for people to stop them using their car as much.

She added: “We need our public transport system to work properly, we need it to be efficient. We need the buses, trains, and trams to work when they are supposed to.

“And we need it to be cheap, cheaper than using a car – and if it needs to be subsidised to be free than even better.”

Siobhan Harper-Nunes is a mother of four and has four grandchildren, which is another reason why she is standing in the West Midlands Mayoral elections on 2 May.

She told: “I want my grandchildren to live a ripe old age, in a world worth living in. We need to start fighting climate change now for that to happen.”

Believing she has the skills to be the next West Midlands Mayor, Siobhan Harper-Nunes has already impressed in hustings for the upcoming election, making a strong stance against Labour candidate Richard Parker and the incumbent Conservative candidate Andy Street.

She added: “The campaign has been challenging in a lot of ways, but I am enjoying it. I can see I am making a difference in the campaign… the other candidates are taking notice.

“So for me, in a lot of ways, just running is winning.”

For more on Siobhan Harper-Nunes and her campaign to become the next West Midlands Mayor visit www.siobhan4wmmayor.co.uk

For more on the West Midlands Mayoral election visit www.wmca.org.uk/mayor-of-the-west-midlands-more-information-about-the-role/west-midlands-elections-2024-our-region-our-voice

NEWS: Erdington MP calls for General Election after Liz Truss resigns as Prime Minister, as Erdington reacts to PM stepping down

 Words by Ed King

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton has called for a General Election following the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss yesterday.

Liz Truss publicly stepped down as Prime Minister, addressing media and crowds outside Number 10 Downing Street on Thursday 20 October – claiming she was “unable to deliver the mandate” she had been elected by the Conservative Party to push through Westminster.

Following widespread reaction and speculation across the county, Erdington’s MP Paulette Hamilton told Erdington Local: “It’s been 45 days of chaotic and disastrous leadership.

“The Conservative Government under Liz Truss has crashed our economy so badly that working people in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale are facing an average mortgage increase of £413 a month.

“The mess that the Tories have created is of their own making. The damage they have done could take years to fix, but it will be people in our community picking up the pieces.

“The Tory party can no longer be trusted to decide who runs the country. A General Election is the only way to end this nightmare.”

The recently elected Labour councillor for Castle Vale, Ray Goodwin, also mirrored the message coming from the Erdington MP and Labour Party leadership.

Cllr Goodwin told Erdington Local: “I find it quite shocking that the country is in complete turmoil, families are worried about food or fuel. An economic plan is in tatters, which nearly bought the country to its knees.

“Services so under pressure by families in crisis, the sort of leadership that the labour party in Birmingham has shown by announcing emergency funding and a cost of living emergency, this is needed nationally.

“This is why I believe the only solution left, is to let democracy take place and a General Election must now be called.”

Outside of the political arena, voters across Erdington were also reacting to the news of Liz Truss’ resignation – as the Conservative Party face yet another leadership election and fight to reassure the public they are united enough to lead the county.

Castle Vale resident Terri-Anne Coope said: “I feel all this yo-yoing in London is just causing more uncertainty in the local area, people are already experiencing political fatigue.

“And a lot of the services in Erdington and surrounding areas are provided by charities, volunteer, or community interest groups – the looming idea of more Government cuts to services is just going to put more pressure on those who already volunteer their time for free.

“Those groups also have to pay bills too, so unless there’s money to support this I can see vital community services having to reduce the services they offer or scrap them completely.”

Sue Spicer, former Chair of the Castle Vale Community Housing Association, told: “As an ex Prime Minister she is possibly entitled to a payment of £115,000 each year for life when she was only Prime Minister for about 45 days.

“When the general public are worried whether they can afford to eat or keep warm this absolutely scandalous, if it does happen. I also can’t believe that there is a call for Boris Johnson to come back as PM but then again, I am not sure who would be the person for the job from the current government.”

Outside of the Castle Vale estate, Erdington ward resident Sue Bicknell added: “I think we have become the laughing stock of the world.

“My worries about local area are that there will be less money for services that are needed and the middle is society will be squeezed, e.g. the families that do not qualify for benefits and have to pay for everything themselves but are less well off than some on benefits because of this.”

Following the announcement of Liz Truss’ resignation as PM, the Government has announced there will be another Conservative leadership “in the coming week”.

Erdington Local approached Erdington ward councillor and leader of the Birmingham Conservatives Robert Alden but has yet to receive a response – which will be published in this article, or elsewhere at Erdington Local, if received.

OPINION: Why I am Green – Siobhan Harper-Nunes

Local resident, local campaigner, founder of Shakti Women, and Green Party candidate in both the recent Erdington by election and local elections, Siobhan Haper-Nunes talks to Erdington Local about her belief in social justice and how the Green Party are ‘not just about green spaces’.

“I am the proud daughter of two exceptional people. My parents met when my father left Guyana and came to England to further his education. My grandmother then ran a boarding house in Wheelers Road, they met and married and returned to Guyana with my brother.

“My father schooled himself as a boy, studying by candlelight to become the youngest pupil teacher at 9 years old. Over the course of 20 years, he went on to become the youngest headteacher and later was appointed Minister for Education.

“My father could recite all the great English poets and birthed my love of this country. My mother was the only daughter of an exceptional Irish woman, the 21st of 21 children, determined to give my mum a better life. Mum was a campaigning white woman who in Guyana became a journalist, writing about local community issues. She gave me my love of life, my eye for beauty and majesty, and together they birthed my interest in social justice.

“As a young woman all I cared about was fun. It was only after I had my son and returned to school, that my interest in society began to take shape. I studied social administration and took courses in comparative social policy, where I saw by looking at how things were done in other places, that there were sometimes more effective ways.

“I became addicted to research and landed two research fellowships, one at Birmingham and the other at Keele University. My first job at Birmingham City Council (BCC) was in the Crime and Community Safety team, looking at different ways to bring down crime in places like Handsworth, Aston, and Kingstanding. My role was to help community groups work up their bids for funding projects to make an impact.

“I was then transferred to BCC central and became the New Opportunities Fund (now Big Lottery) Officer. My role was to attract and manage external funding, I was also responsible for the Neighbourhood Renewal Budget and worked closely with local councillors to ensure these funds went to local groups.

“I saw more opportunities to empower local groups, so I wrote the blueprint for the External Funding Unit and was given £250k to set it up. My job was to bring all the national funders to the communities of Birmingham. I trained bid writers who were bringing in an average £3million in external funds to each ward we worked in, but many councillors did not see the benefits of money going to community groups, not ward budgets, and this small thinking frustrated me. After all my hard work I eventually experienced burnt out.

“I found myself attracted to green open spaces as they calmed my soul. I realised that life was not just about work, it was about quality of life, about the quality of our relationships, being connected to our community and feeling a sense of responsibility for the quality of our environment.

“I joined the Green Party because it epitomises my values. It’s not just about climate change and sustainability. It’s about a vision for a better way of life where social goods are valued more than consumer goods and people who provide them are rewarded. Where decisions are made not on traditional economics but on the principles of social and ecological justice.

“Yes, it worries me that we are doing things to the planet that are causing fatal climate change, but at a local level we are sometimes operating as if all people need is material goods. Our quality of life must be central to our decision making and that’s what the Greens stand for, that’s why we’re not just about green spaces but services such as health, education, social care.

“I am continually in awe of the beauty and majesty of the world. Injustice hurts my soul, the problems we as a society have created hurt me to the core. But no one can do this alone.

“I want to see a stronger community fabric and have started working with a number of local groups to help them deliver on the projects which are important to them. I also want to help local people to strengthen their sense of community by setting up or growing their own local neighbourhood groups.

“The Green Party isn’t just another political party. Green politics is a new and radical kind of thinking where society is transformed for the benefit of all”.

To see the Green Party’s Core Values, visit www.policy.greenparty.org.uk/core-values