Walsall welcomes Devolution Deal for WMCA

Last updated: 17/11/2015 08:39:10

News Walsall leaders have welcomed what has been proposed as the biggest devolution deal to date for the emerging West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The proposed deal, confirmed today (17 November 2015) by the Chancellor will give the Combined Authority power and funding for areas such as transport, jobs, skills and homes.

The proposed agreement with Westminster will see them make an annual contribution worth £40 million for 30 years to support an overall investment package worth £8 billion, supporting the creation of more than 500,000 jobs for the region.

Among the key benefits of the deal for Walsall are:

•    Opening up brownfield development sites for new businesses and housing, including more local influence over compulsory purchase powers to drive regeneration;
•   Giving Walsall the ability to influence local decision making through the WMCA to support all Walsall communities, with longer term certainty of funding;
•   Boosting job and skills opportunities;
•   Better connection to opportunities across the wider region through an improved transport network, including improving roads and public transport and reducing congestion;
•   Giving local businesses the opportunity to access the supply chain for HS2 and boost employment in Walsall;
•   Walsall businesses and people benefiting from economic growth across the region;
•   Protection for existing funding, including the BC LEP Local Growth Funding for M6 junction 10.

Last month Walsall Council voted in favour of joining the WMCA, joining Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Wolverhampton as full constituent members.

At last night's Full Council, Walsall's Leader Mike Bird stressed however, that the agreement wasn't a 'done deal' and was subject to further political discussion.

"Today marks an important milestone in the development of the emerging West Midlands Combined Authority," he said.

"Leaders of the seven West Midlands metropolitan councils, together with the three LEP chairs have signed a statement of intent with government for a radical devolution of funding, powers and responsibilities.

"It's a good deal for the region and for Walsall people. At the heart of this deal are the issues that really matter to the lives of our residents and businesses - improved transport, more jobs, better skills and new homes.

"Instead of having to go 'cap in hand' to government, we will now have control of how public money is spent in this area and make bigger and better decisions over skills, business growth and transport for our residents."

As part of the deal and to ensure balance and fairness for communities and businesses in the region, the Leaders and LEP chairs will enter into a localised agreement to prioritise the key investments across the area, be it job creation, new homes or improving transport links. In this way, all areas in the West Midlands will benefit from the proposed deal and funding opportunities.

"Here in Walsall, we're determined to take forward our ambitious proposals to extend our Enterprise Zone in Pleck and Darlaston to take full advantage of our £26m Darlaston Strategic Development Area roads investment."

“We will also be able to take forward plans for Rapid Transport routes across the Black Country, including seeking to re-open the Walsall-Wolverhampton rail line with new stations at Willenhall and James Bridge in our Enterprise Zone"

"Within the terms of the proposed agreement is the £200m Land Remediation Fund which will enable us to bring brownfield land - of which Walsall has plenty - back into use to build homes and create jobs.

"And we'll be looking to find a long-term solution to the congestion on the M6, including better usage of the M6 Toll."

Stewart Towe, Chair of the Black Country LEP said: “This proposed devolution deal is a real opportunity for Walsall and the West Midlands, in agreement with Government, to take control of our own economic growth and to continue to work with our partners across the West Midlands including Local Authorities and fellow LEPs Birmingham and Solihull and Coventry and Warwickshire.

"The level of partnership between public and private sector, which is unique to the West Midlands proposed devolution deal, is focused on investing in the region, creating new jobs, improving skills, delivering more homes and dramatically improving transport. This proposed devolution deal will make a real difference to people young and old and to businesses across the West Midlands.”

Walsall's Members will debate and discuss the issues associated with the proposed deal at a future council meeting in the New Year.

Visit www.WestMidlandsCombinedAuthority.org.uk to understand the Devolution Deal agreement.