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Government closing in on West Midlands metro mayor deal, says Osborne

Government closing in on West Midlands metro mayor deal, says Osborne

🕔27.Oct 2015

George Osborne has revealed he is close to agreeing a devolution deal for the West Midlands based on an elected metro mayor.

The Chancellor said talks with the shadow combined authority and three local enterprise partnerships were continuing and he was trying to get an agreement “over the line”.

He made his comments in the House of Commons in response to a question from Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris (Con) during Treasury Questions.

Mr Morris asked:

The Black Country local enterprise partnership has done an excellent job in bringing jobs and investment to the Black Country, but does the Chancellor agree that the time has come for local enterprise partnerships to work together with the West Midlands combined authority to deliver further growth, jobs and investment for the West Midlands region?

Mr Osborne replied:

In the West Midlands we have the real prospect of a further big devolution to the combined authorities with an elected mayor.

We are working with the local authorities, the three excellent local enterprise partnerships and the local MPs. We are close to an agreement, but let us try to get it over the line.

That would give the people of the West Midlands the control over local decision making that we have now given to the people of south Yorkshire, Manchester, the north-east and Teesside.

It seems likely now that the Chancellor will strike a deal with the leaders of the seven West Midlands metropolitan councils and the LEPs in time for inclusion in next month’s Autumn Statement.

Any deal, however, will have to be approved by meetings of each of the seven councils, which may not be straight forward given ingrained suspicion over the metro mayor model.

Many councillors were surprised when it emerged the West Midlands shadow combined authority’s draft devolution submission was based solely on the city region being governed by a mayor who would have powers to levy additional council tax and business rates.

Other proposed powers for the mayor include:

  • Control of a proportion of the Government Road Fund for local priorities such as tackling M6 congestion and making better use of the M6 Toll.
  • Control of a £1.3 billion ten-year transport investment fund. All transport investment funding for the West Midlands would be in the hands of the mayor who would have statutory traffic management duties.
  • Integration of bus and rail networks enabling the mayor to develop a bespoke model for bus franchising, the creation of a single commissioning body for transport infrastructure projects, and development of a rail and bus smart ticketing system.

Powers to be devolved to the West Midlands Combined Authority include control of £200 million land remediation fund to tackle the most “intractable sites” and bring them back in to use and control of a £500 million housing loan fund.

The document sets out a range of “asks” of the Government including cash to kick start the Birmingham HS2 growth strategy with funding to extend the Midland Metro tram from New Street to Birmingham International and to develop new metro routes in the Black Country. An £8 billion investment pot over 30 years is planned.

WMCA is also asking for permission to take control of Air Passenger Duty at Birmingham Airport.

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