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24 hours to first Public Debate as Mayoral race steps up

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The race to become West Midlands Mayor steps up tomorrow evening (Tuesday, 7th March 2017) as the first of the Public Debates featuring all five of the main candidates takes place at the Black Country Living Museum.

Around 200 people are expected at the Worker’s Institute building, with nearly half of the audience made up from members of the public who submitted a question to the Express and Star newspaper. Keith Harrison, the paper’s editor, will chair the Public Debate along with Kevin Johnson, Managing Director of Urban Communications, the firm behind West Mids Elects.

James Burn (Green), Pete Durnell (UKIP), Beverley Nielsen, (LibDem), Siôn Simon (Labour) and Andy Street (Conservative) will line up for 90 minutes of audience questions, expert challenge and cross examination.

The Public Debate is scheduled to start at around 6.30pm.

On the evening, the Public Debate will be streamed live by the Express and Star via Facebook Live at:

Social media users can also engage with the Public Debate using the hashtag #wmmayor. The Express and Star will be tweeting @ExpressandStar and the organisers @westmidselects.

Among the organisations supporting the Public Debates are the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), which the successful candidate will go on to chair, and the University of Warwick.

Martin Reeves, CEO at WMCA said:

“The West Midlands Combined Authority must do all that it can to raise awareness of the Mayoral Election on May 4. The WMCA must also commit and be seen to commit to broaden and deepen engagement across all of our communities and stakeholders. We will use a variety of media and engagement approaches to explain and clarify what the Mayoral Combined Authority will mean for the electorate across the 7 Metropolitan areas.

“So as part of this critical engagement programme, the WMCA is pleased to support Urban Communications’ Mayoral Public Debates.  We are making history as we move to elect the first ever Mayor for the West Midlands and these events will offer all candidates an opportunity to share their visions for the future.”

Professor Simon Swain, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement at the University of Warwick, commented:

“The emergence of the WMCA and the role of Mayor are significant developments for our region. Increasing awareness of the opportunities an elected Mayor presents and the election on 4th May are essential, so we are delighted to support this unique series of Public Debates. The events will also give us an opportunity to bring issues like skills, research, productivity and industrial strategy to the fore.”

Also in the audience will be members of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce. Centre for Cities, the think tank largely credited with developing the Metro Mayor policy, will be on hand during the evening.

The event is open to coverage by all media.

More details on the events and the election, including the Rules for the Public Debates agreed to by all candidates, can be found at

There are still opportunities to be a Partner in the West Mids Elects series of Public Debates and accompanying website. Anyone interested should contact Kevin Johnson:

West Mids Elects Partners include the Express and Star, West Midlands Combined Authority, The University of Warwick, Black Country Living Museum, Black Country Chamber of Commerce, Centre for Cities, Purpose, PSP, Action Starter, BPS Birmingham, The Civic Society, Culture Central, Colmore Business District, Downtown in Business Birmingham, The Lunar Society, Unison and Midlands TUC.