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Government publishes long-awaited Midlands Engine Strategy

Government publishes long-awaited Midlands Engine Strategy

🕔09.Mar 2017

Depending on which official press release you read – either from the Treasury or agencies working in the Midlands – the launch of the long-awaited Midlands Engine strategy is either defined as “roaring ahead with ambitious new strategy” or “firing up the Midlands Engine.”

Behind the different headlines – and the bingo card of engine wordplays – sits the uneasy balance between a ‘Made in the Midlands’ strategy, or one gifted to the Midlands from our friends in Government.

The Strategy includes “significant” investment in skills, connectivity and local growth, while it sets out how the Government plans to drive the region’s “huge potential” and promote it to the world. It builds on the Government’s recent launch of a “modern Industrial Strategy” and announcements to the reforms of technical education.

The Strategy sets out how the Government will:

  • Invest £392M in the Midlands from the Local Growth Fund. It will support innovative projects including creating a global hub for space technology in Leicester and it will also be spent on transport improvements including £25M to tackle congestion and improve major employment sites in the Black Country and £12M to improve road connections around Loughborough. Today’s plans feature the Local Growth Fund investing £12M to develop Black Country Garden City. This is in addition to the £1.5Bn of Local Growth Fund investments in the Midlands that have already been announced.
  • Invest £20M in a flagship Midlands Skills Challenge to improve employment prospects for people living and working in the region. This will include providing additional work coaches, language training and testing innovative approaches to lifelong learning.
  • Commit an additional £4M to support the operation of the Midlands Engine Partnership over the next two years.

Alongside the Midlands Engine Strategy, the Government has also published the Midlands Transport Strategy which it says identifies the key infrastructure investments that will “better connect Midlands towns and cities and deliver the extra road and rail capacity at the nation’s crossroads that whole the country needs.”

Connectivity, it says, is a key theme for the Midlands Engine, playing a “vital role in boosting economic growth.”

Midlands Connect has been tasked by the Government to identify transport initiatives to unlock the growth potential of the Midlands, presenting its final strategy to Westminster this week following 18 months of “detailed, evidenced-based work.”

It comes as the Chancellor announced a pot of £23M to tackle pinch points in the region as part of his Spring Budget yesterday. £90M was awarded to the North.

Key transport infrastructure projects have been set out, which together have the “capacity to unlock billions in untapped economic potential and create 300,000 Midlands jobs over the next two decades.”

The Government says it has already confirmed £17M of funding to develop its proposals, which include the potential for up to ten additional trains per hour into central Birmingham.

The launch of the Midlands Engine Strategy comes just days after legislation for HS2 was passed into law and less than two months before the election takes place for the first Mayor covering the West Midlands Combined Authority area.

The Strategy includes the formation of a Midlands Trade and Investment Programme, which will include events in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The Department for International Trade is hosting the inaugural Midlands Engine Trade Summit today, bringing together up to 400 delegates from businesses from across the region to help them “seize global opportunities and grow their businesses” at the Vox Conference Centre, part of the Resorts World Birmingham complex.

Meanwhile a delegation from across the Midlands, comprising ten local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and almost 50 public and private sector partners, will travel to France next month to showcase £14bn worth of development projects at property festival MIPIM 2017. The delegation is said to be the largest of its kind to represent the UK at the event.

Sir John Peace, Chair of the Midlands Engine, said:

We have come together across a wider geography than has been attempted before – to deliver a collective view of what the Midlands can achieve. We are confident in our physical, economic, commercial and cultural assets – and in our people -and our potential to contribute more to the success of UK plc.

We believe that with the right investments in place the Midlands can raise its performance to match global cities like Singapore, Shanghai and New York. We can grow faster and generate more wealth, helping the government to create an economy that serves everyone well.

The Government sets out in the Midlands Engine Strategy what more it believes we are capable of achieving when we organise as a region and how they will support us. We will consult widely amongst our partners, particularly among young people who will live in the future we work to create.

We will publish an ambitious vision of the Midlands of the future. A vision of a Midlands that thinks big, acts big, and aims higher, through a realistic plan to make it happen.

We sit at the heart of the UK’s transport network and therefore an investment in this region’s transport will have a remarkable benefit to the whole country and create a positive ripple effect to boost the development of industry, skills and infrastructure.

This strategy will help to secure the further infrastructure funding needed to lay the groundwork for improved connectivity across the Midlands, bringing the East and West closer together and opening the region’s businesses to the world.

If this strategy is fully realised the Midlands, together with Government, has an opportunity to use HS2 as a catalyst for growth and create a transport network that can deliver a once in a generation opportunity for long term economic success not just for us here, in the Midlands Engine, but across the UK.

The Treasury announced that Philip Hammond will visit the region today, which rather made it sound like a member of the Royal Family would be dropping in on a far-away dominion.

The Chancellor is quoted as saying:

The Midlands has enormous economic potential and it is more important than ever that we now build on its existing strengths to make sure it fulfils it.

The Midlands Engine Strategy is an important milestone, setting out the concrete actions we are taking, where we are not only investing in what it does well but also tackling some of the long standing productivity barriers in the region including skills and connectivity.”

The Midlands has enormous economic potential and as we lay the foundations of a stronger, fairer Britain outside the EU it is more important than ever that we now build on its existing strengths to make sure it fulfils it.

The Midlands Engine Strategy is an important milestone, setting out the concrete actions we are taking, where we are not only investing in what it does well but also tackling some of the long standing productivity barriers in the region including skills and connectivity.

It is a vital part of the government’s work to create an economy that works for everyone, and all parts of the country.

Communities Secretary and Midlands Engine Ministerial Champion Sajid Javid was given two lines in the official Treasury press release, saying:

Backed by millions in investment, this new strategy will help create more jobs and boost skills in the region. It will also showcase to investors here and abroad everything the Midlands Engine has to offer.

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