Housing and Industrial Strategy at the forefront of new West Midlands Devolution Deal

Funding to create a Delivery Team to drive an ambitious house-building programme and investment in high-tech economic sectors forms the focus of a new deal with government published today.

Today’s second Devolution Deal between government and West Midlands Combined Authority reflects the further transfer of powers and resources to a body at the heart of a region responsible for almost a third of all new private sector jobs in the UK over the last 12 months.

The deal recognises that the region is outperforming others in terms of start-ups and economic growth, and lays the foundations to further improve this performance.

The new Housing Delivery Team will help the West Midlands unlock the 200,000 new homes needed in the region by 2031 and is supported by a £5m investment to expand construction skills.

It puts the region at the vanguard of accessing the £44bn earmarked for housing and infrastructure by the Chancellor in his budget.

To support jobs growth in emerging technologies, the deal commits to the West Midlands’ role as a global centre for new automotive development such as in electric and driverless cars.

This builds on the West Midlands’ existing strengths in this sector, focused around Coventry, but with wider benefits to the whole region.

The WMCA recently secured £31m of government investment to undertake testing of driverless vehicles on key routes in the region, working alongside the private sector and has an £80m bid for a battery research and development institute currently being considered.

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 £2m 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% 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.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, 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.”

The full devolution document can be viewed here.

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