West Midlands wins second devolution deal 'in principle' - The Solihull Observer

West Midlands wins second devolution deal 'in principle'

Solihull Editorial 23rd Nov, 2017 Updated: 23rd Nov, 2017   0

A second devolution deal for the West Midlands has been “agreed in principle” with the government.

Mayor Andy Street and the combined authority will use it to try to unlock so-called “productivity barriers” to economic growth, with funding for transport, housing and training.

Delivering the Autumn Statement, chancellor Philip Hammond said the second West Midlands deal will include £6million for a housing delivery taskforce, £5million for a construction skills training scheme and £250million allocation from the previously announced Transforming Cities fund to spend on transport priorities.

The government is also set to provide £2million towards developing the Coventry-Leamington rail line.




The announcement comes after the chancellor met with West Midlands Conservative MPs in Westminster last week.

Conservative MP, Dame Caroline Spelman, (Meriden) organised a joint letter, signed by more than 30 cross-party Midlands MPs, backing Mr Street’s call for further devolution and urging the Treasury to provide “additional funding and the devolution of powers to the region”.


Tweeting his support for the chancellor’s Announcement, Mr Street said yesterday,  “Delighted with the confirmation of the second @WestMids_CA  Devolution Deal by the Chancellor. Detail will be made available tomorrow [tweeted: 22.11.17]”.

Dame Caroline said, “The chancellor is right to give local people more power and democratic accountability over the decisions being taken which directly affect the communities in which they live and I congratulate our Mayor, Andy Street, who has worked tirelessly to secure a second package of further devolution”.

“I am particularly pleased that as part of this deal the government will prioritise investment in improving our existing transport links as well as building new infrastructure, thus helping us to meet local housing demand and relive pressure on the green belt by ensuring that brownfield land is remediated and better connected in order to make it attractive to developers, future owners and tenants.”

Among the other measures included in the devolution deal are:

The confirmation of £250m for transport infrastructure which will be used for the extension of the Midland Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill. This includes support for the transfer of ownership of the non-operational section of the Round Oak to Walsall railway route.

* Establishing one of the first Skills Advisory Panels that will create new local partnerships to plan investment in skills around local labour market needs.

* A proposal to combine the Police and Crime Commissioner role into the responsibilities of the Mayor in time for elections in 2020.

* The creation of a digital hub in Birmingham as part of the TechNation programme and a share of a £2million pilot for Coventry and Warwickshire for ultra-fast broadband roll-out.

* Approval for the Housing First pilot to take place in the West Midlands, a new approach to tackling rough sleeping in the region.

* A commitment to work alongside government to identify new funding opportunities to deliver high quality cycle infrastructure to achieve the aim of raising levels of cycling across the region to 5 per cent by 2023.

* A commitment to work with the WMCA, Urban Growth Company and HS2 to ensure the maximum benefit from UK Central in Solihull.

* Funding to develop a business case to create a Regional Integrated Control Centre to improve resilience on the road, rail and tram networks.

* Continuing support for the work of the Mental Health Commission Thrive West Midlands.

 

Mr Street said: “This second devolution deal is another important step in empowering our region, giving us more tools to create and sustain growth that everyone can access and benefit from.

“It is also the result of the commitment of all members of the West Midlands Combined Authority to work together for the good of the whole region.

“This deal sets out our intention to produce a Local Industrial Strategy which, alongside the forthcoming Housing Deal, will produce a joined up approach to jobs, housing, skills and transport investment.

“The support for automotive technologies is particularly important. The West Midlands has the potential to lead the world in this future industry. We are in a global race and need the full support of the government if we are to win it.

“We have ambitious plans – working with Coventry City Council, Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the University of Warwick – to return car production to Coventry, and the government’s support will be a huge help in this.”

Cllr Bob Sleigh, Deputy Mayor of the West Midlands and Leader of Solihull Council said: “The first devolution deal in November 2015 was a really important milestone for the region, creating the West Midlands Combined Authority and agreeing to the election of a Mayor.

“This second deal is an encouraging step on from there. We now immediately begin the process of working on the different parts of the deal and, crucially, begin implementation. This is not the end of the journey, it’s the start of a new way of working with government.”

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