West Midlands leaders agree £1bn devolution deal

 

Leaders in the West Midlands have signed a provisional £1bn devolution deal with government that brings a directly elected mayor to the region from 2017, responsible for a raft of new transport powers.

The Treasury has pledged £36.5m a year for 30 years in revenue cash to allow the proposed West Midlands Combined Authority, once established, to create a £1bn investment fund.

Leaders on the current West Midlands Combined Authority Shadow Board have also agreed the mayor would receive a devolved and consolidated local transport budget for the area including all relevant highways funding, with a multi-year settlement to be decided at the Spending Review.

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Birmingham Town Hall: The heart of the engine

Through the proposed Buses Bill, the mayor would receive powers for the franchising of bus services to help deliver integrated smart ticketing across all local modes of transport - in line with the efforts of Midlands Connect for the whole region.

Chancellor George Osborne said: ‘We have worked with local council leaders across the party divide, and today we are announcing a collaborative way of working that would not have been countenanced in this region even just a few years ago.

‘I want to congratulate everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen but the work is now just beginning to drive the Midlands Engine forward. This is just the start.’

Cllr Bob Sleigh, chair of the shadow board of the West Midlands Combined Authority said: ‘We have moved incredibly quickly to create the partnership between the seven metropolitan councils and our three Local Enterprise Partnerships and we are delighted the Government has recognised this and has rewarded our ambition with the biggest investment package in the country.'

As part of a single local transport settlement to be agreed at the Spending Review, the mayor would also take responsibility for a new Key Route Network of local authority roads, which will be managed through a single asset management plan and eventually shared procurement.

In addition, the shadow board is set to enter into joint working with Highways England and Network Rail on operations, maintenance and local investment through a new memorandum of understanding, to be established by 2016.

The combined authority is also granted the opportunity to put in business case bids to take over control of local rail stations.

The Government also:

  •  Supports the ambition of the HS2 Growth Strategy and the emerging West Midlands Strategic Transport Plan, and commits to funding the Curzon Street Enterprise Zone extension in order to help deliver this strategy.
  •  Commits to funding the Metro extension to Eastside, subject to business case, to support the first part of the HS2 Growth Strategy, and supports the work of the combined authority to develop a delivery plan, encompassing the Metro extensions from Curzon to Interchange and from Brierley Hill, in order to realise the full benefits of HS2.
  •  Will work with the Combined Authority through the development of the second Roads Investment Strategy to explore options for reducing congestion on the strategic road network in the West Midlands.

The mayoral combined authority and the devolution proposals are subject to the final formal consent of the West Midlands Combined Authority Shadow Board, the constituent councils, agreement of ministers, and subject to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill and the proposed Buses Bill.

The combined authority covers the constituent councils of Birmingham City Council, City of Wolverhampton Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council.

A combined authority cabinet would scrutinise the mayor’s draft annual budget and policies and will be able to reject them if two-thirds of the constituent council members agree to do so.

The move follows similar deals in Greater Manchester; South Yorkshire the North East and Tees Valley.

 

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