Watch: What is the new Deeper Devolution Deal in Birmingham and the West Midlands?
The West Midlands has signed a trailblazing Deeper Devolution Deal with the Department for Levelling Up. We talk to Mayor Andy Street about thwat this really means for Birmingham and the region
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The West Midlands Combined Authority has announced a major Deeper Devolution Deal, securing wide-ranging new powers and budget to level up the region. The deal was unveiled in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget and marks a seismic shift in power and influence from Whitehall to the West Midlands.
Highlights of the agreement include:
- A financial commitment of £450 million as a result of 100% business rates retention for 10 years,
- Up to £500 million in a housing deal to drive brownfield regeneration and deliver affordable housing at pace and
- Up to six levelling up zones with 25-year business rate retention.
In the immediate term, an additional £60 million is expected to act as a springboard for the delivery of the Metro extension between Dudley Town Centre and Brierley Hill, subject to approval of further funding by the WMCA Board.
The Deeper Devolution Deal also offers the West Midlands more influence over key policy areas such as skills, careers, employment support and digital inclusion. This will give local decision makers more freedom and flexibility to support people into work, attain better skills and improve their quality of life.
The WMCA has also secured greater influence over business and innovation policy. This includes areas such as inward investment and international trade, the next round of British Business Bank UK investment funds and the formation of a unique Strategic Productivity Partnership with Government.
The region has also been given unique new measures to tackle climate change in critical areas such as the retrofit of older properties, cleaner and cheaper production methods, and smarter energy systems.
The WMCA is also set to benefit from enhanced transport infrastructure, as the Deeper Devolution Deal includes a future funding commitment for round 2 of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements and a new partnership with Great British Railways to offer greater local oversight and control of public transport services.
Mayor Andy Street on the initial benefits of the Deeper Devolution Deal
Mayor Andy Street says: “So the best thing about the deal is of course, it was one and a half billion pounds of new money in the deal, some of which starts flowing right away. Like £400 million over the next two years for affordable housing, something we’ve never had our hands on before.
“The bigger point though, is that it’s also about trust and responsibility to the principle of devolution, letting people locally take decisions. What the government said in two years time - the next spending review, we will have one single part, a single negotiation with the government across all the money that we spend. So that really is about trusting us to make decisions here.”
Mayor Andy Street on how public transport will improve with the Deeper Devolution Deal
With the deal already signed there is a host of projects that are set to benefit immediately. Mayor Street outlines how the trailblazing initiative will affect two huge transport infrastructure projects in the West Midlands now.
The mayor says: “So there were two things - there was immediate money to complete the Wednesday to Brierely Hill Metro extension. Then there was also confirmation there will be a new round of what we call the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement - bit of a mouthful that the government use there. But that’s a lot of cash that we can then build transport infrastructure in the future. So really important, more will come as a consequence of the deal.”
How housing will benefit
But the deeper devolution is not just affecting transport in the West Midlands. Mr Street added: “So perhaps the immediate thing that people will see is around housing. First of all, old derelict industrial sites being regenerated for building homes. And that’s so important because so many people are trying to get on the housing ladder.
“And really, really crucially, we’ve got money for affordable housing, which we’ve not been building previously. So working with housing associations, we will double the pace at which affordable homes will be built. So that’s got to be beneficial for everyone across the region.”
The bigger picture - on devolution across the UK
Mayor Andy Street says: “It is a really important moment for the West Midlands, actually, we’ve been working away at devolution over the last six years since the Combined Authority was formed.
“And we’ve got pots of money along the way. But this is a real breakthrough moment because the government says - we trust you to have a lot of money in one single pot in the future.
“So we will decide how it’s being spent. So in a sense, it’s the reward for the trust that’s been built up over the years with us, with Greater Manchester, to say you lead the way in devolution across England.”