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Homes and cars at heart of second Devo Deal

Homes and cars at heart of second Devo Deal

🕔23.Nov 2017

Details of the second devolution deal between the Government and the West Midlands Combined Authority have been released. Homes and cars feature strongly, reports Kevin Johnson

As well as the measures already announced by HM Treasury during the week and through yesterday’s Budget, there is confirmation that the Government will seek to combine the role of Police and Crime Commissioner into the office of Mayor ready for the 2020 election.

Will Budget Day trigger Street’s Devo 2.0?

The WMCA says that its new Housing Delivery Team – which the Treasury Red Book stated is worth £6m – will help the region unlock the 200,000 new homes needed in the region by 2031, supported by a £5m investment to expand construction skills.

To support jobs growth in emerging technologies, the Deal commits to the West Midlands’ role as “a global centre for new automotive development such as in electric and driverless cars”. This builds, the WMCA says, on the West Midlands’ existing strengths in this sector, focused around Coventry, but with wider benefits to the whole region.

The WMCA recently secured £31m of Government investment to undertake testing of driverless vehicles on key routes in the region, working alongside the private sector. It also has an £80m bid for a battery research and development institute under consideration.

Among other measures included in the Devolution Deal are:

  • Establishing one of the first Skills Advisory Panels that will create new local partnerships to plan investment in skills around local labour market needs.
  • The creation of a digital hub in Birmingham as part of the TechNation programme and a share of a £2m pilot for Coventry and Warwickshire for ultra-fast broadband roll-out
  • A commitment to work alongside Government to identify new funding opportunities to deliver high quality cycle infrastructure to achieve the aim of raising levels of cycling across the region to 5% by 2023
  • A commitment to work with the WMCA, Urban Growth Company and HS2 to ensure the maximum benefit from UK Central in Solihull
  • Funding to develop a business case to create a Regional Integrated Control Centre to improve resilience on the road, rail and tram networks
  • Continuing support for the work of the Mental Health Commission (Thrive West Midlands).

Government confirms £250M for Metro extension

As already announced this week:

  • The confirmation of £250m for transport infrastructure which will be used for the extension of the Midland Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill. This includes support for the transfer of ownership of the non-operational section of the Round Oak to Walsall railway route.
  • Approval for the Housing First pilot to take place in the West Midlands, a new approach to tackling rough sleeping in the region.

Budget 2017: Fit for the next few days?

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said:

This second devolution deal is another important step in empowering our region, giving us more tools to create and sustain growth that everyone can access and benefit from.

It is also the result of the commitment of all members of the West Midlands Combined Authority to work together for the good of the whole region.

This deal sets out our intention to produce a Local Industrial Strategy which alongside the forthcoming Housing Deal will produce a joined up approach to jobs, housing, skills and transport investment.

Chamberlain Files will digest the details of the Deal which will be published on the WMCA website this morning.

At first glance, the cash sums seem modest. Whilst the press release states the Deal “reflects the further transfer of powers and resources to [the WMCA]” there is no mention of moving any specific powers from Whitehall to the West Midlands. That, after all, is what most people would describe as “devolution.”

There are plenty of commitments for Government and the WMCA to work together.

Mr Street and his team will doubtless say that the Deal has delivered on all of their ‘asks’ in their Devo Deal II proposals. They are also likely to emphasise that this is the second deal, but work will begin on the third almost immediately.

Talks to begin immediately on Devo Deal II

Mr Street added:

The support for automotive technologies is particularly important. The West Midlands has the potential to lead the world in this future industry. We are in a global race and need the full support of the Government if we are to win it.

We have ambitious plans – working with Coventry City Council, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the University of Warwick – to return car production to Coventry, and Government’s support will be a huge help in this.

Cllr Bob Sleigh, Deputy Mayor of the West Midlands and Leader of Solihull Council said:

The first Devolution Deal in November 2015 was a really important milestone for the region, creating the West Midlands Combined Authority and agreeing to the election of a Mayor.

This second Deal is an encouraging step on from there. We now immediately begin the process of working on the different parts of the Deal and, crucially, begin implementation. This is not the end of the journey, it’s the start of a new way of working with government.

Pic: Andy Street and Philip Hammond, / John James

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