Political and business leaders in the West Midlands are calling on the Government to grant further powers and funding to the region to support an ambitious economic and community recovery.
Today (Thursday 24 September) the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in partnership with the region’s local authorities, submitted funding proposals to be considered as part of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, expected later this year.
The proposals cover an innovative range of projects targeting transport and infrastructure; employment and skills; and improving public services for the residents of the West Midlands.
It focuses on those sectors that will help boost the region’s jobs recovery – and on those that have been most severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Key proposals in the submission aim to recharge the region’s position as a national economic leader.
These include a fully coordinated £1.9 billion business growth programme which will deliver a gigafactory, which develops and builds battery power for new technology such as electric cars; and Project GREAT, focused on retaining engineering skills in the region.
Both projects would create huge employment opportunities while cementing the region’s position as a national leader in modern automotive development.
There is also a plan to boost the West Midlands’ cultural offer to attract inward investors and retain skilled talent in a key area of growth.
It would capitalise on the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022 and Coventry City of Culture in 2021 potentially generating or safeguarding 30,000 jobs and a £4 billion uplift to the economy.
But as the region works to secure an economic recovery from the pandemic, plans include support for those people who have been on the front line in the fight against the virus.
One important initiative is the Homes for Covid Heroes – a £50 million project to build high-quality, affordable homes that will principally be made available to frontline workers.
A £13.7 million project aimed at tackling homelessness is also included, building on the ‘Everyone In’ initiative by providing shelter and support for those who have built up unmanageable levels of rent or arrears.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Before the pandemic our region was making good progress, with our West Midlands economy growing faster than any other outside London.
“As our region now responds to the many challenges we face as we recover from the pandemic, our plans are all about protecting jobs – and getting our economy back on track.
“We’ve already received Government support in response to our ‘Recharge the West Midlands’ proposals, with millions for brownfield developments and from the Get Britain Building Fund.
“This submission demonstrates clearly our ambitious plan for our recovery, by securing investment in transport, housing and the high-tech ‘green’ jobs of the future.
“As leaders across the region we have come together to develop this plan – and this ‘ask’ for Government support to deliver it.
“I’m confident that with the funding and powers we are calling for, our recovery from the pandemic will be strong – helping to get the West Midlands economy back on track. With a more prosperous and healthier future for citizens right across the region.”
Cllr Ian Ward, chair of the region’s metropolitan council leaders and leader of Birmingham City Council, added: “The coronavirus pandemic has shown the vital role played by local institutions from delivering food packages; operating test and trace facilities; re-opening schools; and supporting businesses struggling with a lack of footfall.
“These bodies need to be properly funded in order to continue the work which thousands of people rely on.
“This submission is the Government’s chance to properly fund local institutions and invest in areas of growth that can provide the jobs, homes and healthcare the people of the West Midlands need right now.”
Currently, life expectancy in the West Midlands lags behind the rest of England by 3.6 years and the region saw some of the highest levels of coronavirus cases.
The proposals submitted today include an £11.3 million Radical Health Prevention Fund that will provide grants and loans for initiatives aimed at improving the health of residents in the region – including a physical activity fund to get people moving and to tackle obesity.
Cllr Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council and WMCA portfolio holder for economy and innovation, said: “The West Midlands has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, something which we may see again as numbers of cases rise.
“This is an opportunity for the Government to invest in our region and help local leaders respond to and recover from this pandemic, for the health and wellbeing of everyone who lives here.
“The West Midlands will rebuild stronger than ever. As local leaders, we understand the needs of our citizens and the projects that will make the biggest difference. I urge the Government to grant the powers and the funding we need to return our region and its people to full health.”
For further details on all of the proposals submitted to Government see the submission on the WMCA website here