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Manchester devolution guru Emmerich to lead West Midlands combined authority push

Manchester devolution guru Emmerich to lead West Midlands combined authority push

🕔18.Jun 2015

One of the key figures behind the groundbreaking Greater Manchester devolution deal is playing a leading role in developing plans for a West Midlands combined authority, Chamberlain Files can reveal.

Mike Emmerich, former chief executive of the Manchester thinktank New Economy, has been given a contract by West Midlands councils to work on a prospectus for the combined authority.

The document setting out how the region expects to benefit from devolution and making clear the likely impact on jobs and economic wealth, is being drawn up in an attempt to convince the Government to promote Greater Birmingham into the devolution first division.

Mr Emmerich’s new firm, Metro Dynamics, won an open tender process to work up the best way for the West Midlands to take advantage of the Government’s devolution programme.

A spokesperson for the shadow combined authority said Metro Dynamics was selected ahead of two other shortlisted firms, and the West Midlands combined authority prospectus is likely to be launched on July 6.

When he left New Economy in March Mr Emmerich told the Manchester Evening News he wanted to “work with other big cities to try for a better path towards devolution”.

He described New Economy as a “mini economics ministry for Manchester”. Mr Emmerich added:

Over the past eight years, we’ve managed to build something exceptionally unique here in Greater Manchester; a ground-breaking organisation that supports the combined authority through dedicated research, expertise and independent thinking.

He is a former management consultant at Ernst & Young who became a policy adviser with HM Treasury before becoming a senior adviser in the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit.

Mr Emmerich has been credited with being the brains behind Greater Manchester’s extraordinary £1 billion devolution coup which resulted in the combined authority, under a metro mayor, being handed powers and budgets to run economic development, transport, business support, skills and, crucially, some health services.

Chamberlain Files understands that a paving order for a West Midlands combined authority is likely to be placed before Parliament in April 2016. The precise shape of the new organisation is still being debated, with Birmingham, the Black Country councils, Solihull, Coventry and Lichfield confirmed as prospective members so far.

The prospect of a West Midlands metro mayor, until recently unthinkable, is becoming more likely with council leaders said to have conceded that the Government will not grant maximum devolution without the mayoral model in place.

Talks are continuing with district councils in Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire who may be persuaded to join what would easily be the largest combined authority anywhere in the country.

Seizing responsibility for driving forward the skills agenda will be a key priority.

If the West Midlands could up its gamed to match the average skills level for England, the improvement would lead to a 2.7 per cent increase in GVA worth £875 million, according to figures prepared by the council leaders.

An extension of the Birmingham city centre enterprise zone to 35 years would increase an investment pot from £275 million to £1 billion. The cash would be invested by the combined authority board using an economic model to assess what projects give the greatest benefit to the city region.

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