A West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) that has plans to become an economic powerhouse and attract investment, increase productivity and create thousands of jobs for the region, published its plans for the future today (06 July).
The WMCA would see Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils working together with neighbouring district and county councils and the three Local Enterprise Areas (LEPs) of the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham and Solihull working together. And with a population of four million, the WMCA would be the largest combined authority in the UK and the second biggest economy area, after London.
Councillor Ann Lucas, Leader of Coventry Council said:
“Across the region we face some critical challenges; skills, transport infrastructure, productivity, land use and public service reform. By working together we can move powers from Whitehall to the West Midlands and start building a Midlands engine in the heart of the country.
“Since the General Election in May there has been unprecedented collaboration between political colleagues in the West Midlands, as well as our LEP Chairs and business leaders to establish this new partnership. Our aim is to consult and work with more partners across the private, public and third sector so that we can establish our Combined Authority in April next year.”
Councillor Bob Sleigh, Leader of Solihull Council, said:
“The establishment of a Combined Authority gives us a unique opportunity to drive forward a series of objectives in support of economic growth and progressive public service reform. We recognise there is a £16 billion output gap between the West Midlands and the national average. We generate around £4000 per person less in wealth than the national average and clearly eliminating that gap is one of our key priorities moving forward.
“Last year the Chancellor spoke about the need to rebalance the UK economy and now, collectively, we are responding in our own terms, through the creation of the West Midlands Combined Authority at the heart of a Midlands Engine.”
Ninder Johal, Board Member, Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership said:
“The Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnerships welcome this Statement of Intent. We recognise the West Midlands is an economy in its own right with 90% of people who live within the three LEP areas also working within these boundaries. In the globally competitive market in which we compete, size matters. Cities are growing and the bigger the city, the faster the growth and we cannot afford to be left behind.
“The creation of an overarching Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) for the Combined Authority will be key to establishing economic and investments priorities and we look forward to working with colleagues in delivering this ‘economic plus’ model.”
Business Secretary Sajid Javid said:
“I welcome the ambition shown today by the new West Midlands Combined Authority and will back them in their mission to drive forward the Midlands Engine. This is a great opportunity to help increase security and opportunity for working people across the West Midlands, and I look forward to supporting local communities and businesses to help achieve this.”
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The WMCA has identified five early delivery priorities:
- Developing an overarching Strategic Plan for the West Midlands
- Access to a Finance and Collective Investment Vehicle
- Getting the transport offer right for the long term
- Creation of an economic policy and intelligence capacity
- A joint programme on skills
The WMCA proposes to establish three major new independent commissions to help shape the future of the Combined Authority. It will be seeking support from government to deliver these commissions. They are:
- The West Midlands Productivity Commission
- The West Midlands Land Commission
- The West Midlands Commission on Mental Health and Public Services
Additional details regarding the early delivery priorities and commissions can be found within the Statement of Intent.