The West Midlands will definitely go to the polls in the spring to choose its next directly elected mayor.
The Government has confirmed that local elections will take place in the region on May 6 after they were postponed last year because of the pandemic.
Former John Lewis managing director Andy Street was chosen as the West Midlands’ first directly elected mayor in 2017 and has confirmed he will stand again as the Conservative candidate.
He will be pitted against Labour MP for Hodge Hill Liam Byrne, KPMG chartered accountant Jenny Wilkinson for the Lib Dems and Solihull Council’s opposition leader Steve Caudwell for the Green Party.
The role of a regional mayor was created alongside the inception of the West Midlands Combined Authority which acts as a ‘super council’ for the seven districts of the West Midlands metropolitan county.
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As such, the mayor acts as a figurehead on regional issues such as jobs, skills and transport and a vital link between the West MIdlands and central Government.
There will also be local council elections in Dudley, Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton and for the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.
Ministers had been considering delaying the elections again, this time until the autumn, because of coronavirus.
The Government will spend £92 million to make polling stations safer, with measures such as regular cleaning, hand sanitisers and barriers to keep people apart.
Voters will also be asked to bring their own pen or pencil and wear a mask when entering polling stations while those self-isolating will be able to apply for a proxy vote at short notice.
UK constitution minister Chloe Smith said: “Democracy should not be cancelled because of covid.
“We are publishing a detailed plan to deliver May’s elections in a safe and secure way. This is backed up by additional funding for councils and practical changes to electoral laws to help both voters and candidates.
“Democracy should not be cancelled because of covid. More than ever, local people need their say as we build back better on issues ranging from local roads to safer streets to the level of council tax.”
The announcement comes as the Government is reported to be planning to get Britain “back to normal” in May, with lockdown restrictions easing rapidly from April.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out plans to end the lockdown in a statement in the week commencing February 22.