WEST Midlands Mayoral candidate Andy Street has pledged to help Halesowen's Business Improvement District and also try to introduce free wifi in Black Country town centres.

Mr Street revealed he wants to create a Future High Streets Taskforce to make town centres like Halesowen, Cradley Heath and Blackheath vibrant in challenging times.

One of the main ways of doing this will be to support the formation of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) which traders in Halesowen have just formed.

BIDs see businesses club together to fund improvements to their local areas and encourage more people to use them and there are now more than 200 across the country.

Voters of the West Midlands will pick their first directly elected mayor on May 4 who will have powers over transport, housing and jobs.

Conservative candidate Mr Street said: “I know from my time running John Lewis that there is a big difference between a high street which has received investment and is a pleasant environment to shop in, and one which has not had that level of attention.

“People in the Black Country keep telling me is that they are concerned about the quality of the high streets and town centres.

“I am hugely impressed with the work that traders in Halesowen have done in coming together, forming a Business Improvement District and developing a plan of action on how to enhance their town centre."

He added: “I really want to see more town centres take this route and am committed to using my retail knowledge to help this.

“We want high streets with interesting independent shops as well as the brands we all know, and some of these small businesses may turn into the next John Lewis one day.

“I also want to look at more ambitious ideas, for example, the introduction of free wifi hotspots in Black Country town centres and railway stations.

“Our high streets and town centres are the lifeblood of the local economy and a vital part of the community – as mayor I would use my experience to help bring about a renaissance in the Black Country.”