GMB SCEPTICAL ABOUT VALUE AND ROLE OF EMERGING WEST MIDLANDS COMBINED AUTHORITY
Key question for people in the region is whether their essential public services will be protected and the jobs of those who provide these services maintained says GMB
GMB, the union for public services, commented on the agreement to set up West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) covering Birmingham City Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley Borough Council, Sandwell Borough Council, Solihull Borough Council, Walsall Borough Council and City of Wolverhampton Council. See notes to editors for copy of press release dated 17/11/2015.
Gillian Whittaker, GMB Organiser said "The possible combining of local authorities in the West Midlands under the government’s so-called devolution agenda is complex and far reaching.
Boiled down to its simplest terms however, the key question for the people of Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull and the Black Country is will their essential public services be protected and the jobs maintained of those who provide these services. If not, then the reasons for devolution must be challenged.
GMB remains sceptical at the present time of the value and role of the emerging combined authority as announced. GMB wants urgent confirmation that a combined authority will not lead to further cuts to services and even job losses.
What is right for the people in the Manchester area is not necessarily right for the people of the West Midlands. Taking away control from local councils like Birmingham, which is the largest outside London, may not be a good thing.
Although the Government will apparently be giving more money to the "combined authority" GMB wants to know that it will go towards maintaining the vital services to local people across the region and guaranteeing the jobs of those providing them."
Contact Gillian Whittaker 07850 768351 or Joe Morgan 07794 247 960 or Sam Jones on 07939 874 272 or Stephanie Peacock on 07841 763521 or GMB press office 07974 251823 or 07921 289880.
Notes to editors
Copy of press release dated 17/11/2015
Historic devolution agreement reached for the West Midlands
Senior politicians and business leaders across the West Midlands are hailing the country’s biggest devolution deal to date. The proposed agreement with government will see it make an annual contribution worth £40 million for 30 years to support an overall investment package worth £8 billion, which alongside the creation of up to half a million jobs.
The proposed deal will give the emerging West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), working across the geography of the three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the funding and the powers to further grow the regional economy and focus on the issues that really matter to the people and businesses of the region; transport, jobs, skills and homes.
The proposed agreement with government will see the WMCA responsible for an investment package worth more than £4 billion to deliver the HS2 growth strategy, with the potential to add £14 billion to the area’s economy as well as the creation of around 100,000 related jobs. This will support the delivery of the metro extensions to Brierley Hill and HS2 interchange, as well as the UK Central infrastructure package and improving connectivity to Coventry.
The deal will also see devolved funding and responsibility for administering the 19+ adult skills budget and business support programmes, as well as a £200m land remediation fund that will allow brownfield land to be brought back in to use for housing and employment. This is on top of a planned £50m Business Innovation Centre for the West Midlands.
The WMCA will also bring forward a housing investment fund to support the development of new homes and a locally funded £1bn Collective Investment Vehicle to help companies invest and grow in the region.
The transformation of public services also features in the deal with government. It has committed to working alongside the WMCA in co-designing approaches to improving the life chances of troubled individuals and to designating the region as a pilot area for its review of the Youth Justice system.
The proposed devolution agreement is based on the region agreeing to an elected Mayor who will lead a cabinet of council leaders.
Councillor Bob Sleigh, Chair of the WMCA Shadow Board, said:
"This is an historic moment for the West Midlands. We have moved incredibly quickly to create the partnership between the seven metropolitan councils and our three LEPs and we are delighted the government has recognised this and has rewarded our ambition with the biggest investment package in the country.
"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 re-invest it across the region, without the need to refer back to government."
Bob Sleigh, Councillor
Councillor Darren Cooper, Vice Chair of the WMCA’s Shadow Board, said:
"We have been clear all along that we would push for the best deal we could get for the West Midlands and we have achieved that. However, this is only the start of our devolution story. The key issues here are very simple. By working together we believe we can create a vibrant, successful and sustainable region where people want to live and invest. More and better jobs, improved transport and good quality housing are at the heart of this deal and by moving decision making out of Whitehall directly to the West Midlands we can and we will make a real difference."
Darren Cooper, Councillor
Jonathan Browning, Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP, said:
"This proposed devolution agreement is exciting and unique. Our local authorities have recognised that the private sector has a huge part to play in this devolution agenda. The three LEPs in the Black Country, Birmingham and Solihull and Coventry and Warwickshire have worked successfully together for the past few years and now we will be able to deliver even more as part of the biggest Combined Authority in the country.
"We know that scale matters and with a population of over four million people we are incredibly well placed to compete internationally for investment as we look to accelerate a manufacturing renaissance for the region."
Jonathan Browning, Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP
For more information contact: Jan Jennings – 07885 235566; email@example.com
Constituent members of the WMCA are:
Birmingham City Council
Coventry City Council
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council
City of Wolverhampton Council
Non constituent members are:
Cannock District Council
Nuneaton and Bedworth District Council
Redditch District Council
Tamworth Borough Council
Telford and Wrekin Council
Black Country LEP
Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP
Coventry and Warwickshire LEP
Agreement subject to Comprehensive Spending Review and for each authority to approve at Full Council
The Government has agreed to an annual payment of £36.5m over thirty years to support local borrowing of over £1bn. In addition they have approved funding of £97m for the Adderley Park metro extension. If this was funded on the same basis it would equate to £4.3m per year over thirty years. The new government contribution to the Investment Fund is therefore equivalent to £40.8m per year.
Rachel Ratcliffe, Programme Officer
tel: 01902 551969
Jan Jennings, Communications Lead
tel: 07885 235566
© 2015 West Midlands Combined Authority