"We need further devolved powers and funding"

Mayor for the West Midlands Andy Street and Mayor for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham have issued the following joint-statement calling for greater devolution and funding for infrastructure.

As Mayors, we are ambitious for our city-regions, and we are working hard to deliver the revolution in transport, housing and employment for our people. To achieve this, we need Government to support us with further devolved powers and funding, particularly to transform our transport systems.

The respected National Infrastructure Commission’s recent report offered a blueprint to achieve this. Now together as Mayors of our respective city-regions, and regardless of our political allegiances, we believe the time is right to call on the Government to adopt their important recommendations without delay.

City-regions should to be the priority for the country’s transport infrastructure because they are increasingly critical to the UK’s economy and international competitiveness. Cities now work and are judged alongside other cities on the international stage and we need Government’s support to make sure we can compete. 

By 2033, our two city-regions will be connected by high speed rail, with HS2 cutting journey times and bringing investment and jobs. We need to take advantage of that opportunity.

We are already seeing how Greater Manchester and the West Midlands can attract investment, create new opportunities, and grow our populations.

For example, HSBC and the HMRC are creating new headquarters in Birmingham, and GCHQ and Amazon are opening new centres in Greater Manchester to take advantage of the city region’s rapidly growing digital and creative sector.  

We are undertaking pioneering work to transform health and social care, improving connectivity through extending mass transit systems, rolling out 5G and adopting connected & autonomous vehicles.

Cites and city-regions are at the forefront of delivering for our people and our businesses.

But our success has put unsustainable pressure on our transport systems.

Traffic and transport congestion is holding back growth and affecting the quality of life of our residents. Our roads are choked with traffic and some of our communities are blighted by pollution.  In fact, Manchester and Birmingham held the first and third spots respectively in the Commission's recent league table of city congestion outside London.

As Mayors we are taking action and have drawn up further plans to meet these challenges but we do not have all the powers we need to clean up our air and tackle the road and rail issues we face.

We need greater power over the running of the local and strategic road network to allow coordination of roadworks.  Currently we don’t have the ability to introduce civil enforcement of yellow box junctions or the power to introduce London-style lane rental schemes for roadworks by utility companies.

Devolution to the English regions has led to the transfer of some budgets, powers and responsibilities. However, more needs to be done now to accelerate this pace of change.

Devolution is a reality, and there is evidence that our cities and towns are feeling the benefit, with wide support among our residents and improving outcomes.  It has had a profoundly positive effect on the culture of our city-regions and created a new energy and wider a sense of possibility.

The availability of resources for Mayoral Combined Authorities to tackle transport problems fluctuates and there is an unanswerable case for capital spending to be agreed and devolved over a long term period.

Already devolved Transforming Cities Fund has allowed us to grow our Metrolink and West Midlands Metro networks, make long term commitments to walking and cycling infrastructure and is helping us to manage how we tackle traffic congestion.

This approach needs to be built on.

The National Infrastructure Commission has produced an assessment setting out recommendations for transport, energy, water, flood resilience, waste and digital connectivity up to 2050.

It set out a clear and compelling approach to the transformation in infrastructure which we need.  They have called for £43 billion of additional investment in regional city transport, including rail and rapid transit, by 2040.

As Mayors and city-regions we want the Government to act on these recommendations, devolving powers and funding that will empower our areas.  We stand ready to work with the National Infrastructure Commission and others to make our case during the Comprehensive Spending Review next year.

Greater Manchester and the West Midlands need to have the powers and long term funding to develop and implement our plans for integrated transport, employment and housing to support further growth.

Devolution in England is working, building exciting change and is unlocking a new energy – which needs to be further supported - and we are united, in arguing for the ability to shape our own destiny.

It is our best hope of building on the success of our cities and towns.