Opinion – Could mayor Andy do better?

Sutton Coldfield deserves better than naked electioneering during pandemic

As the coronavirus held us in its deadly grip this year, I have held my tongue as government and local leaders grappled with the horrendous number of fatalities caused by this terrible disease, writes Bill McCarthy.

But with a figure of approaching 70,000 dead, more, depending on which figures you look at, due mostly to government incompetence and the catastrophic consequences for business and jobs, I can hold my tongue no longer.

Why? Well, just the other day we what I can only describe as a propaganda sheet dropped through the letterbox, extolling mainly the virtues and achievements of West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

My local the Butler’s Arms, on Lichfield Road, being a classic example of keeping customers safe with ingenious and ground-breaking ideas, at some considerable costs, all for nothing it seems.

This is the mayor who speaks of his contacts with health secretary Matt Hancock, but seems to have little influence. Take the vaccination programme where Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham, our second city let’s not forget, is left off the initial rollout.

He says on a recent Twitter feed: “I expect confirmation this afternoon that vaccinations will begin in Birmingham in the coming days. Disappointing and surprising that the city’s NHS trust wasn’t part of the initial roll-out given its size and record, but I’ve been in contact with Matt Hancock to put that right.”

On an electric bike at Sutton Park and e-scooter in Birmingham

Seems par for the course, just like the cosy phone calls about the tier system and how he was ignored on that score as well.

But back to the four-page sheet called Sutton Coldfield Champion. It goes into great detail about the Conservative mayor’s achievements, together with praising other local Tories, including MP Andrew Mitchell, town council leader Simon Ward and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Jay Singh-Sohal.

The fine print tells you it is published on behalf of West Midlands Conservatives. Which is fine except Andy Street is mayor of the West Midlands, not just Sutton Coldfield. So the Sutton Champion angle is a bit disingenuous, don’t you think? Especially when his Twitter feed says he is ‘Conservative Mayor of the best region in the world’.

Looking at ‘achievements’. It’s a bit like Frank Sinatra. He’s had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

It seems to be a case of ‘pressing’ for this, ‘supporting’ that or ‘maintaining’ the other. Hardly a roll of honour is it Andy? Constantly lobbying on our behalf. Well the lobbying is buttering few parsnips as far as Sutton’s hospitality industry is concerned.

I have to admit an interest here as family members work within that sector. Furloughed if they’re lucky, but not sure if they have a job to go back to, or already out of work, with a bleak future ahead of them.

The efforts to keep Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield in tier 2 failed miserably. The lobbying was so low key, it was invisible. Hospitality venues have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep premises Covid-secure. My local, the Butler’s Arms, on Lichfield Road, is a classic example of keeping customers safe with ingenious and ground-breaking ideas, at some considerable costs, all for nothing it seems.

Meanwhile, the mayor is never shy of a picture opportunity, wobbling around on e-scooters, electric bikes or digging yet another hole, while the hospitality sector tanks. Bit like Nero with his fiddle.

He boasts of having the ear of Matt Hancock, well try the organ grinder, the Prime Minister, rather than the monkey, although I doubt he will get much joy there either.

For the record, Sutton Park was the venue for unveiling the new cycle hire scheme which is due to launch across the West Midlands next year.

The operator, Santander Cycles, has been appointed by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) to offer bikes for hire in Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Wolverhampton and Walsall from next Spring.

Contractor Serco will initially provide 1,500 bikes for hire, of which 10 per cent will be ebikes. Serco? Think track and trace. What could possibly go wrong?

You really need fewer picture opportunities and more concrete action Mr Street.

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