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Live Reporting

Lisa Wright and John Newton

All times stated are UK

  1. Good night from us in the West Midlands - 'the best place ever'

    And the debate is over.

    We've had Spitfires, Shakespeare, Boston, Berlin and Brexit.

    That's quite a mix.

    The election - amid all that there was one mentioned - takes place on 4 May.

    Our live coverage of the region's news continues online from 08:00 on Friday.

    Thanks for joining us.

  2. 'Ingenuity, creativity and innovation'

    Toning it down, but passionate nevertheless, is Liberal Democrat Beverley Nielsen - she says it's "not just about Birmingham" but the whole of the West Midlands... and how, together, "we are the greatest region in the UK".

    The West Midlands will, she says, "change the world again" with "ingenuity, creativity and our innovation and design".

    And she made her point without even referencing Elgar, unlike Mr Simon.

    Green candidate James Burn rounds off the topic - and indeed the evening - saying: "We have to bring back pride by rebuilding our local economies."

    He says "no mayor can understand the needs" of "every single place", so things need to be broadened out, "to involve more people from more communities from more areas to make sure this authority understands the needs of everyone across the region".

  3. 'West Midlands is the best thing ever'

    UKIP candidate Peter Durnell says he wants to see Birmingham succeed, but its neighbours "shouldn't be left behind". He wants to get "towns back on their feet".

    Then Sion Simon gets excited. Really excited. You can stick your Bostons, he seems to be saying, and Berlin too.... the West Midlands, he says, "is the best place in the world".

    Fellow candidates begin to grin at a gleaming soap box, but he's not in the mood for stopping.

    Host Patrick Burns reigns him in. "We're all in agreement it's a wonderful place." But Mr Simon won't take the hint. Having already mentioned Spitfires and steam engines, he then plays the Shakespeare card.

    There's not a dry eye in the house (probably).

    William Shakespeare
  4. Losing the PR game

    Graham Stevenson, Communist, is first to tackle the question about Birmingham's place in the world.

    It's not the only area under the Combined Authority's remit, but it's refreshing to have another B word on candidates' lips.

    Mr Stevenson says it's all very well having a spangly, new-look Brum, but a mayor must not lose sight of the city's neighbours.

    But Andy Street as good as scoffs at Manchester being the perceived competition.

    He says he doesn't want to be second in anything and is much more interested in how Birmingham competes with Berlin, Barcelona and Boston - yep, we've gone B crazy.

    "We are doing far better than Manchester," he says. The issue, he adds, is Birmingham has "lost the PR game". 

    The audience likes this answer.

  5. Birmingham v Manchester?

    Here's the final question....

    Nigel Waldron says many people feel Birmingham has lost its second city status to Manchester and asks candidates how they intend to put it back on the map.

    Nigel Waldron
  6. Brexit: A West Midlands seat at the table

    Labour candidate Sion Simon says we need a "West Midlands seat at the table".

    "What we need our mayor to deliver is a West Midlands Brexit," he adds. We're pretty sure that doesn't mean a standalone, seceding West Midlands - Brexit means Brexit, but it doesn't meant that.

    Conservative Andy Street says he can get the government to deliver a tailor-made solution for big regional businesses such as JLR.

    Asked by host Patrick Burns whether, theoretically, a Conservative mayor would "make himself a nuisance with a Conservative government", Mr Street replies: "Of course."

    Graham Stevenson, Communist, says the "EU needs us as much as we need them - but the world needs us more. 

    "I think we can get a revived manufacturing capacity in the West Midlands on the back of Brexit."

  7. 'Shut up and get on with it'

    Brexit, Patrick Burns says, is "the burning issue of the day". There's no getting away from it. We're here for a debate about a metro mayor for Dudley, but Europe is always on the horizon. 

    Liberal Democrat Beverley Nielsen says her approach as mayor in a Brexit world would be about "investing in our homegrown businesses" - she also wants to see the nurturing of young talent.

    The region, she says, is a "human goldmine".

    Peter Durnell, the UKIP candidate, says he is "passionate" about Brexit - no surprise there, given his party allegiance - and says he welcomes the "opportunities we are going to have to trade with the world". Businesses, he says, while "challenged" by Brexit, are "excited by it; it's getting them to think in different ways".

    Green candidate James Burn puts Brexit bluntly: "It's happening." 

    "We've all got to shut up and get on with it," he says, calling it a "massive opportunity to bring a more homegrown economy".

  8. The B word is back

    It's the fifth question of the night and the topic is one that seems to be on everyone's lips - Brexit.

    Devinichi Warmington asks how the elected mayor would use Brexit to boost the economy.

    Devinichi Warmington
  9. 'Brexit summit' - and carrots

    Green candidate James Burn says the first thing he would do is appoint a deputy mayor - with all decisions made in the context of whether "ordinary people" are benefiting.

    Graham Stevenson, Communist, returns to his theme of municipal ownership of bus and tram provision.

    Then he says: "Before you can get people out of their cars, you have to provide massive carrots and you can only do that with really serious money."

    Image caption: 'Massive carrot'



    It's the second mention of the B word tonight; this time 37 minutes in - and it's from Conservative Andy Street, who says in his first 100 days he would hold a "Brexit summit".

    He says it would "bring together big businesses" and key government ministers who are "negotiating a future deal".

  10. Finger-pointing

    Labour's Sion Simon wants to cap bus and tram fares at £4.40.

    "Can you do that?" asks Patrick Burns, saying it's a deregulated market.

    And there we have it - the first pointy finger of the night.

    Sion Simon

    "Give me a minute, Patrick," replies Mr Simon, before saying that as well as the fares cap, he wants to see free public transport on bus and trams for 16 to 19 year olds in further education. "I think I can probably do that in 100 days," he adds.  

  11. Beverley's Bikes!

    Beverley Nielsen, the Liberal Democrat, says she would introduce "universal fares" and park and ride with "sprint bus solutions" to clear up the air.

    And then she hits us with Beverley's Bikes.

    BEVERLEY'S BIKES! You know, like Boris bikes, but Beverley ones.

    The smile says it all. But before she can expand, Patrick Burns fires the same question at Labour's Sion Simon and we're left hanging, with only our mind's eye for company.

    Beverley Nielsen
  12. 'Not promised great things'

    "I've not promised great things after 100 days," says UKIP candidate Peter Durnell. "It's not a presidential position." (See, we told you).

    He stresses that the mayor will have to work alongside seven other councils and the role will mean collaboration.

    "The first thing I would be doing is find out what's going on, because I don't think anyone knows what's going on in the Combined Authority."

    And we're back to suspicion over the very set-up on which people will vote on 4 May.

  13. The first 100 days

    The "first 100 days" is the measure by which US presidents' early work is judged - and it's the period in which audience member Carola Lange is interested.

    What do the candidates think they could achieve in this period?  

    I suppose we could have used a picture of Donald Trump here. But here's one of Carola instead. 

    Carola Lange
  14. 'Build on the rich belt'

    Communist Graham Stevenson's answer to housing problems is to "build on the rich belt".

    It turns out "rich belt" means a tax-driven "massive expansion of council house-building."

  15. 'Wonderful example of failure'

    Conservative Andy Street refers to the "hundreds" of derelict sites in the region - a "wonderful example of failure in the past". He wants to clear and develop them.

    But Patrick Burns asks him about the 6,000 homes earmarked for green fields in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham.

    Mr Street says it's a result of the very thing about which he's just complained 

  16. 'Housing in crisis'

    James Burn, Green, says housing in the region is in crisis, with a rising number of rough sleepers and not enough affordable homes being built.

    Labour's Sion Simon offers an holistic approach of sorts. He says a single "spacial plan" is needed to more efficiently assess the region's varied pockets of land. 

    UKIP's Peter Durnell isn't really feeling Mr Simon's idea. And he says greenbelt will inevitably be brought into the equation to solve housing issues.

    Beverley Nielsen, Liberal Democrat, says at some point there must be acceptance of "sensitive use of greenbelt land". 

  17. Housing is the next issue to be discussed

    Our third question of the night is another big topic for the West Midlands - housing.

    Dan Jones in the audience asks how the mayor will ensure more affordable housing is created in the region without negatively impacting on green space.

    Dan Jones
  18. 'Magic pot of money'

    "There isn't a magic pot of money" is the second soundbite of the night - it's from Green Party candidate James Burn who's tackling the tricky issue of finding affordable options to congestion.

    He says he's concerned by pollution-related deaths and the problem is that public transport isn't good enough. But "no matter who's mayor" the government won't be simply "giving out money".

    He says nationalising the M6 Toll would cost the government a billion pounds - and this money could be better spent on alternative schemes, including the reopening of disused passenger rail lines.

  19. "Dreadful and appalling"

    "Dreadful and appalling" - host Patrick Burns reminds Andy Street, Conservative, of the way he's described congestion in the Midlands.

    Mr Street says his plan is to invest in public transport, extend Metro provision and reopen passenger railways lines - and, he reckons, he's the most able among the candidates to win the necessary investment.

    Sion Simon, Labour, goes straight for the M6 Toll issue, calling its nationalisation a "no-brainer", saying it would take tens of thousands of vehicles a day off the region's motorways.

    Amid some party politics between Mr Street and Mr Simon, UKIP's Peter Durnell is less convinced that the M6 Toll is the key to it all - he's more interested in the "priorities" of "bottlenecks and pinch points".

    Beverley Nielsen, Liberal Democrat, says she's less than impressed with government investment, while Graham Stevenson, also calls for the toll's nationalisation - along with bringing bus companies under the control of councils.

  20. Transport is the evening's second topic

    Next up with a question is audience member Mohammed Ali - and it's a biggie for the region, as transport will be one of the mayor's responsibilities.

    Mr Ali wants to know what the plans are to reduce congestion on the region's motorways and the candidates' views on nationalising the M6 Toll.

    Mohammed Ali