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07.09.15

West Midlands Combined Authority submits £8bn devolution bid

The councils seeking to form the West Midlands Combined Authority have submitted their bid to the government, including demands for an £8bn devolved package of funds focused on transport, skills and growth.

The seven councils are open to having an elected ‘metro mayor’ in return for the extra local powers, though say they are still discussing the appropriate governance structures.

“We are keeping an open mind on those issues and consider them an intrinsic part of the negotiations,” a spokeswoman said.

Business groups wanted to call the new authority ‘Greater Birmingham’, but this was vetoed by leaders of other councils keen not to be ‘swallowed up’ or dominated by the city. The seven councils involved in the bid are Birmingham, Sandwell, Walsall, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Solihull and Coventry.

Coventry leader Cllr Ann Lucas said when the proposals were announced: “This means power moving from Whitehall to the West Midlands – not from Coventry to Birmingham.”

Conservative leader of Solihull council, Cllr Bob Sleigh, who chairs the shadow combined authority board, said: “We are optimistic that our submission to see powers moved from Westminster to the West Midlands will bear fruit. We recognise that the government will be considering all budgets in the light of the upcoming Spending Review and that there may be benefits in agreeing an early deal.

“We are ready to rise to the challenges regional devolution will bring to the region. We will maximise the opportunities it offers to improve the outcomes for local people, our businesses and our shared future.”

The councils say the exact details of their devolution bid “must remain confidential”, but offered these details in summary:

  • Significant devolution of funding and financial flexibilities to support a locally controlled 10-year investment fund totalling about £8bn. This will be used to take forward a transport investment plan and explore means of increasing the supply of new development land
  • Implementation of the HS2 Growth Strategy, including regeneration around the Curzon and Interchange HS2 stations
  • An integrated new employment and skills system for the West Midlands, supporting school leavers, helping more people into work and providing skills to match the needs of local businesses
  • Transformation of public services for ‘troubled individuals’, including support for people with mental health and reforms to the criminal justice system.

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