Details of second devolution deal revealed

Andy Street

Support for housebuilding and investment in high-tech industries form a strong focus for the second devolution deal between the Government and the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Further details of the agreement announced by the Chancellor in his Budget were unveiled today.

A Housing Delivery Team will help the West Midlands deliver the 200,000 new homes needed in the region by 2031. The programme is being supported by a £5m investment to expand construction skills.

The WMCA said the deal placed the region in the vanguard for accessing the £44bn earmarked for housing and infrastructure by the Chancellor in his Budget.

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 on the region’s 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, and has an £80m bid for a battery research and development institute currently being considered.

Among the other measures included in the Devolution Deal are:

• 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.
• 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
• Approval for the Housing First pilot to take place in the West Midlands, a new approach to tackling rough sleeping in the region
• A commitment to work alongside Government to identify new funding opportunities to deliver high quality cycling 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)

Elsewhere, there is also a proposal to combine the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner into the responsibilities of the Mayor in time for elections in 2020.

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.

“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.

“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.”

He said the combined authority had ambitious plans to work alongside Coventry City Council, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the University of Warwick to return car production to Coventry.

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