The Leaders of Birmingham, the Black Country, Coventry, Solihull Councils plus the Leader of Lichfield Council, alongside the Chairs of three regional Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) met today (Monday 01 June) in Birmingham with the Chancellor, George Osborne, former Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Heseltine, Local Government Secretary, Greg Clark, and Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones.
In a joint statement, the seven leaders from Coventry, Birmingham, the Black Country and Solihull said: “Our discussion with the very top of Government today was both positive and productive. We were encouraged to be as ambitious as possible and to move forward at pace. We were also reassured that we are trusted to deliver what is best for our citizens and the national economy.
“Lord Heseltine summed up the mood of the meeting when he impressed upon us that we were being invited just to “get on with it” and that we had the full backing of the Chancellor and Secretary of State who would do all they could to help us deliver our plans.
“George Osborne shared our commitment to make a real difference for the people and businesses of the region and, in turn, the country as a whole. He supported the emphasis on the added value – ‘the economic plus’ – to be gained in terms of jobs, skills, investment and transport from working together.
“We emphasised our intention to deliver on five initial priority areas, including a shared investment vehicle. Our recognition that strong economic growth will rebalance the economy, not only for the region, but for the country as a whole was welcomed, as was the importance of linking this to the reform of public services in order to improve quality and reduce the overall level of public spending.
“Government is clearly saying that we should be highly ambitious and that ministers will match that, with the Chancellor encouraging us to be in the vanguard of the devolution deals that will be agreed by the new Government. We also received a clear message that we are trusted to deliver what is right for the people of our region that we serve.
“Whilst there was a broader discussion around elected mayors and any future name of a Combined Authority, the Chancellor’s position was not prescriptive and there was a recognition that the present focus was properly on the articulation of the ambition and benefits for the region, as well as forming the Combined Authority itself.
“We will clearly continue our dialogue with the Chancellor, the Local Government Secretary and the senior civil servants in both the Treasury and Communities Department. Further, we will now be ramping up our discussions with the district councils across the three LEP areas, business leaders and other key partners.
Notes to Editors:
1 Those attending:
Rt Hon George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Rt Hon Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Marcus Jones MP; Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Local Government); The Rt Hon the Lord Heseltine CH
Sir Albert Bore, Leader, Birmingham City Council; Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader, Wolverhampton City Council, and Combined Authority Chair; Cllr Sean Coughlan, Leader, Walsall Council; Cllr Peter Lowe, Leader, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council; Cllr Kevin Maton (for Cllr Ann Lucas, Leader, Coventry City Council); Cllr Darren Cooper, Leader, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council; Cllr Bob Sleigh, Leader, Solihull metropolitan Borough Council
Cllr Mike Wilcox, Leader, Lichfield District Council
Ninder Johal, Black Country LEP; Jonathan Browning, Chair, Coventry and Warwickshire LEP; Steve Hollis, Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP
2 Five initial priorities for a combined authority:
Enterprise Zones; early work to extend both the geography and time frame for the existing Black Country and Birmingham Enterprise Zones to drive investment and growth.
Skills; a fundamental reshaping of our approach to improving skills and employability, across councils and agencies, in order that we deliver a step change in productivity levels and further reduce the welfare bill.
Business support and foreign direct investment; to attract and support business growth, combine the multiple interfaces with local businesses and UKTI through a ‘one door’ approach that will build on the programmes and partnerships the LEPs have in place.
Transport; a Single Economic Impact Assessment for transport across the CA, to drive a case for investment that will improve mobility, accessibility and business efficiency.
Single Investment Vehicle; a CA wide fund that will attract public and private sector capital and will have broad application but will, in first instance, target unlocking brownfield sites across the conurbation for housing and commercial investment.