Midlands wants more powers to speed up recovery from pandemic

Andy Street

Political leaders from across the West Midlands are calling on the Government to grant more powers to the region to aid recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

A proposal has been submitted to government to devolve more powers from Whitehall to the West Midlands ahead of a white paper and legislation expected to be published later this year.

The set of proposals include:
More say on how public funds are spent locally
More control over regional transport such as buses and rail
Local design of an affordable housing policy and ability to influence levels of housing benefit
Powers that will help accelerate large infrastructure projects
Responsibility for the skills system for 16 to 18-year-olds including careers service and technical training
Greater involvement in the regional energy market to tackle fuel poverty; and
Ability to shape employment support programmes

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Devolution has unquestionably bettered the lives of people in the West Midlands, allowing us to make our own decisions locally rather than having them made for us from London.

“From full control over the adult education budget to our multi-million pound housing and land fund to remediate derelict industrial sites, devolution paved the way for our pre-Covid success – when we had a record number of homes being built, record numbers in work, and an economy growing faster than anywhere else outside of London.

“The pandemic has of course stalled that progress, but we must now look to devolution to get it back on track. With a greater say over how public funds are spent, more control over our transport systems, and more input into training for those looking to gain employment, new powers would help speed up our economic recovery, whilst also ensuring we can protect and create jobs for local people.

“People who live and work across the West Midlands were a critical part of its success story before the pandemic, and it is just as important they are central to the recovery as well.”

Speaking on behalf of the seven metropolitan council leaders, Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Local councils must be an integral part of this devolution, with the West Midlands operating as a team to achieve shared ambitions. That is why we fully support this drive for further devolution.

“Local authorities have been and continue to be essential to our response to the pandemic. It will not be possible for the West Midlands to rebuild and recover unless all local services are properly funded in the future, enabling health and well-being and local neighbourhoods and communities to be restored.”

The proposals come as the Government considers its latest devolution settlement. The upcoming Local Recovery and English Devolution White Paper is expected to be the first step towards handing down powers necessary to drive recovery at a regional and local level.