Mayor hopeful Liam Byrne wants the West Midlands to set up its own energy company

Mayor hopeful Liam Byrne wants the West Midlands to set up its own energy company

The West Midlands could set up its own energy company under plans published today by Labour politician Liam Byrne.

He wants a publicly-owned energy firm to help provide solar panels and expand plants which turn waste into energy.

Mr Byrne, who hopes to become Labour’s candidate for West Midlands mayor, said it was one of a number of projects he would oversee in order to create “green” jobs in the region.

His campaign received a boost as he was backed by Clive Lewis, a Labour  shadow Treasury minister.

But he faces opposition from some activists who say Labour should pick a more left-wing candidate to take on incumbent Tory mayor Andy Street in next year’s mayoral elections.

Other parties, such as the Liberal Democrats, Greens and possibly the Brexit Party, are also expected to stand candidates.

Setting out plans for what he called a Green New Deal, Mr Byrne highlighted offiical figures showing the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits in the West Midlands has shot up by 24%, nearly a quarter, over a year.

Liam Byrne

The figure rose from 65,930 in February 2018 to 82,055 in February 2019.

And on average, women in the region are paid 13.9% less than men for every hour worked.

Mr Byrne, Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, said his proposals to boost jobs and wages include:

  • A West Midlands Green Development Corporation to pool investment from central government, housing associations and pension funds to double the speed of building eco-council homes for social rent 

  • A West Midlands Peoples’ Bank to act as a regional investment bank, recycling local savings and helping pension funds drive finance the green and digital economy

  • A municipal energy company to help roll out solar panels, expand waste-to-energy plants and district heat networks, and develop community-owned power generation projects

  • An Office for Community Wealth-Building to coordinate the West Midland’s public sector’s estimated £25 billion of public spending to maximise local job creation

  • Creating the West Midlands part of Labour’s National Education Service under a Commissioner for Education, with a UCAS style service for apprenticeships – and seeking powers from Government to re-found SureStart, the service for parents.

Clive Lewis advised Mr Byrne on the plans. He said:  “I’ve got a real interest in making sure that Labour’s economic policy protects people and the planet.

“Liam understands how important that is going to be in the next ten years.

“The West Midlands needs a leader who is happy to be at the forefront of this and gets how important it is.”

Mr Byrne said: “Our region has always led industrial revolutions. Now we need to be leaders again, putting into action the bold ideas set out by Labour in our last manifesto.”

However, it is clear that he faces opposition from some left-wing Labour activists in the West Midlands as he seeks his party’s nomination to become the mayor candidate.

a hundred members of the Labour Party in the West Midlands have signed a statement calling for what they describe as a left-wing candidate to be chosen instead.

Signatories include regional Fire Brigades Union Secretary Andrew Scattergood, University and College Union NEC member Rhiannon Lockley, Labour’s parliamentary candidates in Walsall North and Halesowen & Rowley Regis, and constituency and branch party secretaries, chairs and officers.

Pete Lowe
Pete Lowe

The statement says: “As socialist members of the Labour Party, we are calling for a left-wing candidate with strong experience in local government and trade union support to put their hat into the ring.

“We also demand that the party makes sure such a candidate gets on to the ballot so as to ensure a broad choice, as in the 2015 party leadership election.”

Labour has not yet officially begun the process of choosing a candidate.

A figure on the left of the party who might stand is Pete Lowe, a Dudley Councillor. He said: “I shall continue to seek the views of those people I value.

“We certainly need a Labour Mayor in the West Midlands, and one with a radical voice who represents the interests of our communities.”

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