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Street pushes for £7.5m tax hike to fund running of mayor’s office and transport schemes

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midland’s Combined Authority (WMCA), has proposed a £7.5m yearly tax increase across the region, partly to pay for the running costs of his own office.

The policy would account for a £12 annual increase on a band D property on top of the rates set by member councils – as the combined authority looks to maximise the £36.5m funding that it will be provided by the government this year.

WMCA says around £2 of each payment will go directly to the running of Street’s office, with the other £10 earmarked for congestion plans, such as cycling, parking and the local Sprint bus system.

Street said the proposal was “vital” in ensuring the region continues the economic recovery he says has been ongoing since the CA took charge.

“The region is making exceptional progress and we must ensure this continues and help with our work to tackle homelessness and other important areas of work,” he commented. “The precept will be vital in ensuring we can continue our region’s economic recovery.

“But, I am conscious also that we need quick action to tackle congestion and this is what the majority of the precept will be used for, particularly encouraging cycling and giving commuters a viable alternative to driving.”

Transport has been a central theme across policymaking in all the combined authority regions, with Greater Manchester CA mayor Andy Burnham announcing an overhaul of the region’s network at the end of last year.

Mayor hails launch of West Midlands Railway

In addition, Street welcomed the launch of West Midlands Railway services in December – an important breakthrough because of the link between the private train operator and the WMCA which gives the authority a say over the local rail network for the first time in recent memory.

The current plans will see £3.4bn of tram extensions, as well as new suburban rail lines, cycle lanes and motorway improvements, funded largely through the new precept.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, WMCA lead member for finance and investment, said: “Since the launch of devolution by the government, the constituent and non-constituent members of the WMCA have worked hard to establish an organisation that is delivering real benefits for the West Midlands.

“This has resulted in substantial inward investment into the region of public sector money that would otherwise have been swallowed up by Whitehall.

“The WMCA has achieved a lot in a very short space of time. It requires funding to keep that work going and this figure represents superb value for money.”

Most of the direct government funding that will be saved by implementing the £12 precept is expected to be used for major infrastructure projects such as the Midland Metro, Sprint and skills development plans.

After being discussed at an authority meeting next week, the proposed budget will then go before the WMCA budget scrutiny task group, which will report back to the board on 9 February.

The full proposed budget documents can be read here.

Top image: Matthew Cooper

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