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Is transport the first step in Bore’s vision for Greater Birmingham?

Is transport the first step in Bore’s vision for Greater Birmingham?

🕔08.Aug 2013

In a radical step the leaders of seven West Midlands councils, collectively the Joint Committee, have agreed to form a new regional Integrated Transport Authority.

The new ITA will take responsibility for transport strategy, decide which schemes will be given priority and seek new investment for transport in the region. The board has also invited the chairs of each LEP – Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Black Country and Coventry and Warwickshire – to join the board. Centro will remain as the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive and continue to deliver transport projects across the region.

This follows an announcement last month that National Express West Midlands and Centro have signed a £81m Partnership Plus agreement to transform bus travel. London-style smartcards and hundreds of new buses will form part of a wide-ranging transport package worth more than £80 million set to transform bus travel in the West Midlands.

Birmingham City Council Leader, Sir Albert Bore has consistently called for greater strategic and economic unity across the region. By creating a level of governance for the region that disappeared with the end of the West Midlands County Council in 1986, today’s move will certainly stoke the fires of the regionalism debate.

The new Integrated Transport Authority could pave the way for similar region-wide governance structures such as a super-LEP to take charge of economic, planning and housing strategy.

Bore has called geographically close LEPs ‘self defeating’ in bringing investment to the region. If the councils were to find a way to agree to merge the Greater Birmingham and Solihull and Black Country LEPs, the local leaders will have forged the country’s largest economic partnership covering a population of about three million and with a GVA of more than £50 billion.

A Greater Birmingham, Solihull and Black Country LEP has been said to better reflect the ‘real economic geography of Greater Birmingham’ and would create a formidable economic block to rival Greater Manchester and other regional super structures.

Certainly this pattern is emerging in the North-west and the North-east. Four more combined authorities, like Greater Manchester, are in the process of being formed. West Yorkshire, bringing together Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, and Wakefield is expected to be up and running by April 2014, while a plan by Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield to form a South Yorkshire combined authority and a proposal by Newcastle and six other councils to form a North-east combined authority are still on the drawing board.

Local political leaders in these areas have made it clear that they are opting for combined status out of pragmatism rather than any great commitment to the idea of regionalism; they see this as only way to persuade the Government to devolve powers and budgets, and bring investment to the region through LEPs.

While Bore’s calls for greater unity have been rejected by leaders such as Walsall Cllr Mike Bird, today’s move certainly sets a precedent for regional governance.

RJF have a “Transport Insights” briefing paper available. Please contact for details.

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