At the heart of the country, the West Midlands has long been the nation’s economic engine, driving progress and growth. From the birthplace of the industrial revolution to the advances in technology that we see today, our region plays a pivotal role in the economy of the United Kingdom.
Before the pandemic we had the fastest growth outside London. However, with our high concentration of manufacturing and exporting businesses, the West Midlands was badly hit by Covid and will now be adversely impacted by the rising cost-of-living.
This “Levelling Up Growth Prospectus” sets out the tools we need to tackle the challenges of today, while forging a region fit for the future.
Complementing our Plan for Growth, this document sets out our blueprint for levelling up; we need to level up our region, drive forward the new green industrial revolution and leverage private sector investment to get the economy firing on all cylinders again.
Mayoral Combined Authorities are crucial for delivering short-term solutions to ease the cost-of-living, whilst simultaneously tackling the climate emergency and delivering levelling up. We know that levelling up needs strong local leadership and greater devolution to help address these challenges.
But we aren’t alone in this endeavour. The West Midlands Combined Authority, its member local authorities and our partners across the region have shown how effective we can be in shaping the drivers of economic growth, together. Working collaboratively, we have grown an award-winning public transport system, built thousands of homes and unlocked brownfield sites for development, risen to the net zero challenge with pioneering retrofit schemes, and crucially turned around a failing skills system.
But to build on this progress, we need the Government to give us the tools to go further, faster.
The West Midlands has the people, the business, the connections, and the will to supercharge green and inclusive economic growth. With the right tools, we can deliver solutions to some of the region’s toughest challenges.
As the Prime Minister said:
"When the West Midlands succeeds, the country succeeds."
Mayor of the West Midlands"
This West Midlands Levelling Up Growth Prospectus sets out how we are working as a region to tackle the various challenges the region faces and to secure the autonomy we need from government to drive long term inclusive growth, across the West Midlands.
At the time of writing, the country is facing a cost-of-living crisis, driven by high inflation and soaring energy prices. The direct and indirect consequences of this crisis on the region’s residents and businesses could be huge.
For instance, there are an estimated 235,512 fuel poor homes in the West Midlands — the highest rate of fuel poverty in any English region. The people in these homes will be extremely exposed.
But with strong local leadership and a solid track record of delivery, the West Midlands can offer the solution.
Our pioneering retrofit schemes are driving down energy consumption while ensuring our residents and businesses are warm, safe and comfortable. We are currently running two government-funded retrofit projects targeting nearly 1,000 low-income households. With the right funding and resources, we can turbocharge these schemes and bring more people out of fuel poverty.
But this isn’t just about tackling the challenges of today - it’s also about our shared hopes for the future.
We want the West Midlands to be the home of a new, green industrial revolution – and this document calls upon government to match our ambitions with their support, with proposals around local area energy planning to help reduce energy bills and support for innovation in areas such as battery technology.
We also need more flexible funding to build affordable, zero carbon homes and unlock stalled investment through new Levelling Up Investment Zones.
We need to protect and expand the bus and tram routes residents and businesses rely on, with more control over bus operator funding and investment in the expansion of the Metro network. We need new ways to encourage people onto public transport through mobility credit schemes, new e-mobility powers, and a dynamic role in Great British Railways.
We need further investment to allow us to capitalise on major events such as the Commonwealth Games, to both promote ‘pride in place’ and attract further foreign direct investment.
The Government must lay solid foundations for real recovery with sustainable and fair funding for local government. Through “double devolution” we can unlock a whole system approach to level up the nation. Herein lies the blueprint for how to do that.
"Cllr Brigid Jones
Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council and WMCA Portfolio Lead for Levelling Up"