Transport powers ‘most important priority’ for West Midlands mayor, residents say

A consultation into the powers of the new West Midlands elected mayor has found transport and employment are the top priorities for residents.

The consultation received over 1,300 responses after it was launched in July, and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is now submitting its conclusions to the government.

The proposal that received the strongest backing from residents was that the mayoral WMCA should have powers to deliver “an efficient integrated West Midlands Transport Network, more funding and more effective and coordinated improvements of road networks between constituent councils and partners”, with 79% of respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing.

This was followed by 77% of respondents saying that the mayoral WMCA should have powers “to deliver better skills and training”, and 71% saying it should deliver “low emissions and clean air zones”.

Almost 70% said the combined authority should deliver more and better homes, and 65% said it should maximise the benefits of High-Speed 2 (HS2).

Birmingham recently became the first city to announce its intention to capitalise on HS2 investment with a major 30-year investment planned for the site around Curzon Street station.

Strikingly, financial devolution was the lowest priority among residents, with only 54% backing the idea of the mayor being able to raise funds through powers such as a council tax precept and a business rates supplement.

Councillor Bob Sleigh, chair of the WMCA, said: “The summary of consultation responses shows broad support for how a mayoral combined authority will work to deliver the first devolution deal.

“A condition of our first devolution agreement was an elected mayor. We have accepted this because of the significance of the agreement to the region’s economy – an extra £36.5 million a year to the region over the next 30 years – which will unlock an £8 billion investment package.”

The £1bn West Midlands devolution deal is the largest granted so far. It was approved by Parliament despite peers calling it “disjointed and confused” and pointing out that the idea of an elected mayor in the region had previously been rejected by referendum.

The WMCA – consisting of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Solihull, Walsall, Sandwell and Wolverhampton councils – was originally due to launch in April, but finally opened in June after delays due to opposition from a local MP. It has now received its first £36.5m funding grant.

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