Public Accounts Committee comes to the region

Parliament comes to the region next week when City of Wolverhampton Council hosts the Public Accounts Committee’s West Midlands Devolution Conference, next Friday, October 21.

The event, in the council chamber, will examine devolution and its implications.

It will take the form of four panels of speakers with Q&A sessions, each addressing themes relating to devolution: the economics of devolution and growth, regeneration, High Speed 2 and centre-local relations.  

Leader of the Council, Cllr Roger Lawrence said: “I’m delighted to welcome the Public Accounts Committee to the City of Wolverhampton.

“This is a great way to put our city on the national political map and raise its profile amongst national politicians. It also demonstrates our commitment to supporting an open and transparent political debate on devolution.

“As a key member of the newly-formed West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), I’m looking forward to helping the committee understand the city’s perspective on, and strong support for, devolution.

“We believe that by drawing down more power and funding from Whitehall to the West Midlands we are creating the UK’s strongest partnership for growth. 

“The WMCA came into force in June this year and will see the city getting a slice of a devolution package that will unlock £8 billion-pound worth of investment.  We will also benefit from the collective investment fund and money for land remediation. 

“Wider still, in the post-Brexit world, the Midlands Engine will play a critical role in helping to raise the city’s international profile.  Our recent visitors from Anqing in China visited us because of the recognition this city is getting as part of the Midlands Engine.

“Our mission is simple: more jobs, more opportunity and more growth for the region.”

The Wolverhampton conference will be opened by committee chair Meg Hillier MP, who said: “Devolution is intended to create opportunities for local communities and to enable those with the best local know-how to create more responsive and efficient services.

“However, with Mayoral elections scheduled for May next year, many details essential to implementing these deals are still unclear.

“The clock is ticking and in the race for the tape it is crucial the best interests of the public are kept front of mind.

“Taxpayers must be assured safeguards are in place to ensure devolved funds spent on their behalf are being used wisely; that acceptable service levels are maintained, and that wider benefits will materialise.

“Transparency, accountability to Parliament and the public and the push for greater value for money must not be lost in the establishment of new structures and platforms.

“We look forward to hearing the experiences and perspectives of colleagues and stakeholders in the West Midlands when we further explore the local and broader implications of devolution on October 21.”

In the 18 months to April 2016, 10 devolution deals were agreed over the transfer of powers, funding and accountability for policies and functions from central government, including for the West Midlands.

Speakers and attendees on October 21 include Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee ; Rob Marris MP; Martin Reeves, Chief Executive, Coventry City Council and Chief Executive of the WMCA; Tom Walker, Director (at CLG) of the Cities and Local Growth Team; Professor Diane Coyle, University of Manchester; Katie Trout, Director, Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP; Sarah Whitney, Founding Director, Metro Dynamics; Rachel Egan, Head of Employment and Skills, Solihull MBC; Paula Deas, Operations Director, Coventry and Warwickshire LEP ; Sarah Middleton, Chief Executive, Black Country Consortium Ltd; Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council and Portfolio Lead for Transport, WMCA; Liz Peace CBE, Former, CEO at British Property Federation; Jan Britton, Chief Operating Officer, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Chief Executive, Sandwell Council; Prof Colin Copus, Professor of Local Politics, De Montfort University; Dr Arianna Giovannini, Lecturer in Local Politics, De Montfort University; Martin Reeves, Chief Executive, Coventry City Council and Chief Executive of the WMCA.

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