LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer spoke about a "new chapter" for the Black County and West Midlands at a virtual event.

The leader joined an event marking the launch of MP Liam Byrne’s campaign to become West Midlands Mayor, as well as Simon Foster's campaign to be the next Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

Speaking to those watching the livestream, he said the upcoming Mayoral and PCC elections in May were "absolutely vital" for the Labour party.

Mr Starmer said: "In Liam we have a really great candidate – we have a tireless campaigner for social justice and someone who is absolutely passionate about the issues that matter in the region.”

“You won’t get anyone who is more forward looking than Liam.

"This can be a new chapter for the West Midlands.”

In a question and answer session, Mr Starmer also discussed Labour's recently announced British Recovery Bond scheme in response to the pandemic, which would "release money that can then be used to rebuild the West Midlands as well as other regions."

"We need to build a secure long-term economy. The bond is an example of a long term investment", he added.

Mr Byrne says he wants to increase well paid jobs as well as focus on turning the region into a “global capital of green manufacturing,” if elected mayor.

He said: “We know that our region has been the hardest hit of any in the country. We have to now stand determined to make sure Covid doesn’t take our future."

He later said Labour's message has been getting through to voters in the Black Country, because they have taken the time to listen to residents about their ambitions for the future.

Mr Byrne also said he has spoken with Black Country business leaders who say they have had power cuts because the "grid is in such a poor state."

"How on earth are we going to thrive as a manufacturing region in the future when we've got businesses having power cuts, he said.

"This idea of green industry zones where we have onsite renewable power, ready access to green skills, is one of the things that we think we can do to drive a manufacturing renaissance in the future. Skills are the new coal in the industrial revolution of the future."

He also targeted "failing" kickstarter and apprenticeship schemes as areas for change to provide more opportunities for youngsters. He says plans to manufacture Very Light Rail (VLR) - energy efficient rail vehicles - in Dudley could provide a boost for the Black Country and beyond.

West Midlands PCC election candidate Simon Foster outlined his three main priorities at the event - to rebuild community policing by placing extra community officers in every West Midlands ward, to reduce violent crime including knife crime, and to improve community safety.

He said: "We all know the elections of the 6th of May are a must-win for us in the West Midlands. But that means we must rebuild that red wall brick by brick by brick.

"We need visible proactive community policing in the West Midlands.

"I'm committed to working tirelessly to do what it takes to save lives.

“The prevention of crime is always better than having to deal with the consequences of crime."