West Midlands receives first tranche of multi-million devo funding

The newly-created West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has received its first £36.5m grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The WMCA submitted a bid for £8bn of funds last year. The deal it was ultimately granted is worth £1bn, still the biggest devolution deal so far.

Its launch was originally due in April, but it eventually opened in June after Sandwell council agreed to join it. It was then delayed for another week due to opposition from a local MP.

Cllr Bob Sleigh, chair of the WMCA, said: “The West Midlands is the manufacturing heartland of the UK and a dynamic exporter of high quality goods and services but we believe there is much economic growth that remains untapped.

“That’s why this payment marks the start of an exciting new era in which we will be far better equipped to build on our strengths, improve productivity and skills and deliver the transport infrastructure and new homes our region needs.

“It gives us the tools to drive forward the Midlands Engine, helping to unlock growth, jobs and prosperity and ultimately a better quality of life for the four million people of the West Midlands.”

The WMCA has complete control over how the annual payments, which it is due to receive for the next 30 years, are spent.

It now has power over the Passenger Transport Executive, which replaces the West Midlands Integrated Transport authority.

It is also planning a programme of ambitious reforms to mental health services in the area.

The WMCA is composed of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Dudley, Solihull, Sandwell and Walsall councils.

Cannock Chase, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Redditch, Tamworth, and Telford and Wrekin are non-constituent members with reduced voting rights. Stratford-upon-Avon and Shropshire councils are awaiting formal membership.

Subject to parliamentary process, the WMCA will be led by a mayor, who will be elected in May next year.

The WMCA is currently leading a consultation on the scope of the new mayor’s powers, despite the fact that the role was rejected by a referendum in the area.

The DCLG insisted this week that it will continue to push elected mayors in combined authority devolution deals after reports that it is considering abandoning the controversial policy.

Sajid Javid, the new communities and local government secretary, said: “With these significant powers coming directly from Westminster to the West Midlands, local people will also now have the chance to head to the polls and vote for a powerful new Mayor to put them into practice.”

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