Midlands councils join forces

By on 09/09/2009 in News

Councils in the West Midlands are today being given new freedoms and powers to work together to improve employment, skills, housing and transport in their regions, announced Local Government Minister Rosie Winterton.

The issues that affect people’s lives like jobs and housing do not stop neatly at council boundaries. Councils increasingly need to join forces across their borders to mastermind regional solutions for getting more people back in to work, raising skills levels, or developing new transport links.  The Government is helping local authorities to work together to do this through new Multi-Area Agreements (MAAs). 

Today councils are signing up to the next wave of MAAs – giving them new powers to devise their own plans and spend money as they see fit to tackle the most pressing issues in their regions and drive economic recovery.

The agreement sets out new responsibilities and autonomy over employment and skills for a new local government coalition so they can best decide how to help people out-of-work get off benefits and into work or training.

Councils from the Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country City region will work with the Regional Development Agency, the Learning and Skills Council and Jobcentre Plus to deliver a number of targets by 2013.

The agreement aims to:

• Reduce the percentage of people receiving out of work benefits in the City Region – moving over 26,000 individuals out of the benefits system and into sustainable employment and training;

• Increase the number of adults with level 2 qualifications (equivalent to five good GCSE grades) across the City Region by twelve per cent (equivalent to 163,000 people);

• Increase the number of adults across the City Region, with level 3 qualifications (equivalent to three A' levels) by eleven per cent (equivalent to 145,000 people);

Rosie Winterton said:

“People who have grown up without getting enough qualifications and skills are at a massive disadvantage in the jobs market. Today we are giving Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country the opportunity to get to grips with this problem and mastermind a regional solution for raising skills and getting more people in work.

“The Multi Area Agreement will see these areas take control locally of their budgets and jobs and skills programmes to target those most in need. In the long-term this will drive forward our ambitions to reduce welfare dependency and increase economic competitiveness by bringing in a more skilled workforce.”

Chair of the City Region and Leader of Birmingham City Council Cllr Mike Whitby, said:

“The signing of our Multi Area Agreement is a significant step in our efforts to tackle long-term unemployment, and increase skills. Through real partnership working, joined-up across our City Region and beyond, our partnership is levering in new funding and accessing new powers to address one of the most critical issues facing the country.

“We now look forward to working closely together with partners to ensure that national and regional employment and skills monies are targeted on the areas of greatest opportunity and greatest need -  enabling us to get even more people off benefits and into skilled jobs than if we were working separately.”

Regional Minister for the West Midlands Ian Austin added:

“The employment and skills market – for work, training and education – does not respect local authority boundaries, with people constantly crossing borders and it is therefore critical authorities work together.  Building on the significant success of past City Region work I am confident the MAA will allow us to help individuals in those neighbourhoods most affected by unemployment, by directing spending and support where it is most needed. 

“The West Midlands region has the largest proportion of working-age population with no qualifications of any region of the UK and this MAA has a vital role to play in changing all that.  The only way we will compete in the future is with a highly skilled workforce so the businesses can innovate more, exploit new technologies and capitalise on new ways of working.  A Joint Investment Plan will deliver the MAA proposals by co-ordinating effort and ensuring economies of scale.”

The 'Multi-Area Agreement (MAA) – made up of Birmingham City Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, Walsall Council, Wolverhampton Council - is a single contact between authorities designed to deliver strong economic growth by improving skills and reducing long term unemployment. Government ministers travelled to Birmingham today for the signing of a historic regional council contract.

Today's signing is part of a co-ordinated cross country effort that will see five other partnerships signing similar agreements with central government.

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