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01.06.16

Getting the wheels in motion in the west midlands

Source: PSE Jun/Jul 16

Martin Reeves, CEO of Coventry City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), explains why the future is bright for the region as the plans to move powers from Westminster to the West Midlands gather pace.

June is an exciting month for the WMCA as it started operating officially as a new body from 17 June, there are also plans for a major public launch this month. 

As a combined authority we have moved incredibly quickly. From launching our Statement of Intent in July last summer, to achieving the largest devolution deal in the country so far and to attracting support from a range of district and county councils, we are pretty much good to go. 

Undoubtedly, our combined authority will deliver the best opportunity for economic regeneration this region has ever had. But more than that, we are rewriting collaboration as we work alongside partners from the public, private, educational and voluntary sectors. These really are exciting times. 

Initially the WMCA consisted of the seven metropolitan councils of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton alongside the three LEPs covering Birmingham & Solihull, the Black Country and Coventry & Warwickshire.   

The LEPs have now been joined by Cannock, Nuneaton & Bedworth, Redditch, Tamworth and Telford & Wrekin Councils. Shropshire and Warwickshire unitary authorities and Stratford-upon-Avon and North Warwickshire district councils will be joining later in the year.

Significant commitment 

At the end of last year the Treasury made an annual commitment of £40m to the WMCA for 30 years. This will support an overall investment package that will unlock £8bn and help create an estimated 500,000 jobs.  

And it’s not just the big numbers that make for exciting times. The combined authority will be handed devolved powers to run transport, economic regeneration and skills, as well as delivering public sector reform. With commissions in relation to mental health and land already up and running, and a productivity commission coming online soon, there is plenty for the new body to be getting on with ahead of any further, anticipated devolution deals. 

If the past year has moved apace, then the next 12 months look to be super charged. We are committed to delivering unprecedented economic growth and to closing the productivity gap between the West Midlands and the rest of the country. 

Our Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) crosses the three local enterprise regions and will truly be our bible of delivery for economic growth. We’ll be going public with this in the next few weeks and there is a lot of interest in it already, especially from businesses who want to know some of the practicalities and how they can actively get involved moving forward. 

Next steps 

The WMCA is planning a public launch on 28 June at the Vox Conference Centre, Resorts World, in Birmingham. It’s working with Movers & Shakers to stage the event, with UKTI and it is in association with Bilfinger GVA.  This will be an opportunity for leaders from the public and private sector to get together, and engage and debate on some of the key issues for the West Midlands region.  

I’m really excited about the next few months. June will be incredibly busy as we become a proper vested body and we go public with our launch event. We’re also gearing up for our consultation on mayoral powers that will go live from 27 June, before the election next May. We’re hoping this will be a real opportunity to engage with a whole host of people who we haven’t spoken to before. I expect the mayor to be a big talking point! 

Ultimately, the WMCA offers us the opportunity of a lifetime to make real change to the economic landscape of the region. We want to make a big impact on a national scale and offer improved lives to the people who live and work in the West Midlands. We know that collectively we have the skills and knowledge to make that difference, and we are itching to get started to make things happen.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Details for the one-day conference on 28 June can be accessed at:

W: www.westmidlandsforumforgrowth.co.uk

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

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