Council leaders have welcomed the chancellor’s promise of new spending on infrastructure to close the regional productivity gap and his recognition of the benefits of devolution.
In his Autumn Statement on Wednesday, Philip Hammond pledged new funding for transport and infrastructure and said discussions with London and the West Midlands on possible devolution of further powers were continuing.
Cllr Bob Sleigh
Cllr Bob Sleigh, chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority, said: ‘The building blocks are clearly being put in place for greater powers to be devolved once the West Midlands mayor is in place next year.
‘There is still some way to go on further devolved powers and talks remain ongoing with the Government but the measures announced today are extremely positive.’
Cllr Sleigh said he was particularly encouraged by Mr Hammond’s plans to allow mayoral combined authorities in England new borrowing powers to reflect their new responsibilities.
‘We await to see the full details but anything which allows the locally elected representatives to obtain funding and then to decide best where it should be spend it to be welcomed,’ he said.
Philip Atkins, vice-chairman of the County Councils Network (CCN) said: ‘The Government quite rightly put infrastructure and productivity at the heart of the Autumn Statement. This echoes calls from CCN for a broader, more inclusive economic policy that reaches all four corners of England.’
‘Our submission made the case for investment in infrastructure, housing and transport in county areas, and we welcome today’s announcements. There are also indications that Government are listening to our specific concerns over Local Growth Fund allocations; we will continue to work with Ministers on this.
‘While counties are the largest contributor to the national economy, our areas faced long-term challenges around housing, lower levels of productivity, and growing infrastructure gaps.’
He added: ‘Counties’ ability to drive forward long-term growth is exemplified in the hard work of England’s Economic Heartland, and commitments to infrastructure they received today.’
Cllr Neil Clarke MBE, chairman of the District Councils’ Network (DCN), welcomed the announcement of additional infrastructure funding to unlock barriers to housing delivery.
He said: ‘To help rebalance the national economy, new mayoral borrowing powers granted to combined authorities, and further devolution of powers for adult education and employment support services to London and Greater Manchester, should be more widely available as part of devolution deals to other parts of England.’
Marie-Claude Hemming, head of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said: ‘CECA is delighted that the Chancellor has committed to driving growth through infrastructure, and particularly welcome his focus on innovation.’