The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has welcomed talks with government on devolving further powers, including transport powers, to the region.
At the Conservative party conference on Monday (3 October), chancellor Philip Hammond said the Government was ‘working with the West Midlands Combined Authority on a second devolution deal to include new powers on transport, criminal justice, data, planning and skills’, although he did not give further details.
Cllr Sleigh welcomes Theresa May to Birmingham
WMCA chair Cllr Bob Sleigh, said: ‘I am delighted that we are to assume responsibility in these key areas as part of the continuing dialogue we have with the Government over devolution.
‘We told the Government that our vision is to see an ambitious West Midlands working with it to deliver major investment guaranteeing future prosperity, and this announcement is proof it has confidence in what we are doing to achieve that.
‘I would now like to see us begin discussions around higher education, a field of huge importance to an area of such innovation as the West Midlands, and this is something we will be pursuing as part of our on-going dialogue.’
Last week, Mr Sleigh wrote an open letter to prime minister Theresa May in which he said WMCA was very happy with its existing devolution deal, agreed last November, ‘but we are also very clear that we see this as just the start’.
Business secretary Greg Clark, who had presided over the Midlands devolution deal as communities secretary, told Transport Network that a second deal had always been earmarked for negotiation, although data and criminal justice were new to the discussion.
The existing West Midlands devolution deal includes a mayor to be elected in 2017 and will give the WMCA responsibility for a consolidated transport budget with a multi-year settlement and responsibility for franchised bus services.
The combined authority will also establish a West Midlands Investment Fund bringing together resources for economic growth, skills and employability, regeneration, transport and housing, with additional central government funding of £36m annually over 30 years.
Andy Street, Conservative mayoral candidate for the WMCA, told Transport Network that ‘the devolution agenda is gaining momentum and we are looking forward to Devo 2’.