Mutual Mayor for the Midlands?

Andy Street may not be a name you are immediately familiar with, but if he gets his wish on 4th May 2017, he may find there are many more eyes on him.  In October last year, Mr Street left his position as boss at one of the most renowned of employee owned companies in the UK, John Lewis Partnership, in a bid to become the new Mayor of West Midlands.

Employee Ownership is something he has lived and breathed for the last ten years so it should come as no surprise that Mr Street would like (if elected) to bring the model or a variant of it, to local services under his umbrella of authority such as social care, transport and public services.  The Bookies favourite firmly believes that as councils come under ever increasing pressure to reduce costs, new business models must be adopted. 

We all know that one of the key drivers behind the success of John Lewis is that the partners (employees) all have a stake in the business which encourages commitment and engagement which leads to better service for customers; so how does Street see this transferring?  His proposals include spinning off existing services into new mutually owned operations or social enterprises (mutuals are fully or majority owned by their members while social enterprises work to support communities or the environment) thereby giving workers a stake in their performance and their futures, providing funding for new mutuals and social enterprises to compete for contracts and allow existing mutual, social enterprises and charities to take on public work.  Labour intensive work such as adult skills teaching, mental health and transport are specific areas where Mr Street believes that the differential effort afforded by this type of ownership and service delivery could make a substantial and lasting impact for all.

A society with more economic equality is something that has long been mooted, and it seems Mr Street is willing to put his reputation on the line to try to deliver it if he becomes mayor, saying that he will be the first mayor in the UK who will have performance related pay:

“Almost everyone has to deliver against targets in their jobs. And many people are paid on their ability to produce results. I have been used to this in John Lewis and the role of Mayor should be no different.  This role is important. It gives the West Midlands the opportunity to tackle the big issues affecting everyone, and together achieve my aim of making this region the UK’s economic powerhouse.”

It seems that his background as a business person who can deliver results rather than a career politician is finding him favour amongst his community, though any further comparisons to Trump are strongly rebutted!  Indeed, he feels that the realisation that the role of mayor is a ‘one person for a specific job’ not a party popularity contest alongside a manifesto of positive ideas has garnered him further support in recent weeks.  He has learnt from the likes of Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone and Sadiq Khan that representing your city rather than your party is key to winning cross party support and voters.

There are interesting times ahead for the West Midlands if Mr Street wins, and potentially, a blueprint for other cities to follow suit.