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West Midlands and Liverpool granted devolution deals

Words: Laura Edgar

West Midlands and Liverpool City Region have each agreed a devolution deal with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

The chancellor’s agreement with the West Midlands Combined Authority includes £1 billion of government investment.

Bob Sleigh, chair of the shadow board of the West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “We are committed to building on our strengths, including our exports and our inward investment, and to working towards increasing the £80 billion that the region currently contributes to the UK economy. This proposed deal, which must be agreed by each individual authority, allows us to keep more of the income that we generate and to reinvest it across the region, without the need to refer back to government.”

Once elected, a metro-mayor would work with leaders across the region, which includes Birmingham, Telford, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Nuneaton, Tamworth, and Redditch.

The directly elected mayor would act as chair of the combined authority and have control over several powers, including:

  • A devolved transport budget. A multi-year settlement is to be agreed at the comprehensive spending review on 25 November, according to the government;

  • Franchised bus services, which should support the combined authority’s delivery of smart and integrated ticketing across the region’s constituent councils; and

  • Planning powers would be conferred on the mayor to drive housing delivery and give the “same competencies” as the Homes and Communities Agency.

Osborne said: “We want to make the Midlands Britain’s engine for growth and this deal will give the region the powerful levers it needs to make that happen.”

LiverpoolThe Liverpool City Region deal includes £900 million of government investment. A mayor is to be elected in 2017.

The mayor would receive several powers devolved from central government, including over local transport budgets. Additionally, the deal includes control over investment worth £30 million a year for the next 30 years, unlocking “the huge economic potential of the iconic River Mersey and the new superport as well as maximising the opportunities for HS2”. It will also support Liverpool in attracting international events.

Osborne said the deal would “cement” the area’s position as a “gateway to the North”, from North Wales to Newcastle.

Phil Davies, chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, said: “The local authority leaders and the mayor of Liverpool have negotiated collectively with the government on this devolution deal.

“I believe that it is the best deal we can secure at this time for the benefit of the Liverpool City Region.”

Responding to the announcements, Alexandra Jones, chief executive of think tank Centre for Cities, said “crucially” the deals would help local leaders to undertake “ambitious” infrastructure projects such as developing the new deep-water port in Liverpool, or extending metro connections in Birmingham. The mayor would also help to ensure that the regions acquire more powers and funding from the government in future.

“However, these deals will only go ahead if the government’s Cities and Local Government Bill is successfully passed through Parliament in the next few months. It’s now vital that MPs from all parties constructively engage with the bill – if it isn’t passed, the West Midlands and Merseyside, as well as other places across the country, will be miss out on the benefits and opportunities that devolution offers,” warned Jones.