Comment: Public and private sectors must work together for regeneration to succeed

From the moment Andy Street took office as West Midlands Mayor five years ago, he was adamant that the region's recovery would be driven by the private sector.

New developments are springing up across the West Midlands
New developments are springing up across the West Midlands

It's a mantra repeated many times over the years by the mayor, who insists that devolution has allowed the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to spark private sector growth.

His view is one that has become even more pertinent since our economy was ravaged by the pandemic.

While it goes without saying that no region can thrive by being reliant on government funding, attracting significant levels of investment from the private sector is no easy task.

Every region in the country is bidding for the same pots of money, often from the same relatively small band of investors.

It's a tough market, and major firms looking to put their billions into a region will only do so if the circumstances are right.

That is why striking a £4 billion deal with Legal & General – the UK's biggest investor – is such a fillip for the West Midlands.

The agreement is likely to result in thousands of homes built on brownfield sites, helping to meet the region's ambitious target of 215,000 homes by 2031, while also protecting the green belt and regenerating derelict sites.

Of equal importance is a commitment to revitalise the region's manufacturing base through new commercial developments and targeted R&D funding.

If the firm's investments in other parts of the country is anything to go by, we can also look forward to new schools and health centres popping up across the region.

Clearly, L&G is not doing this out of the goodness of its heart.

The firm undoubtedly believes there is profit to be made in a region that until recently spent decades struggling to draw investment away from the south east.

It has certainly come at just the right time, with the Government's levelling up policy stuttering due largely to a combination of Covid and an apparent lack of a cohesive plan.

As far as our region is concerned, this type of deal simply has to become the shape of things to come.

The WMCA's £350m housing deal, announced in 2018, has often been cited as an example of how private funding can be leveraged through public money.

With the combined authority due to get extended devolved powers on the back of the Government's levelling up White Paper, we can expect more of the same.

Genuine, long-term regeneration can only occur when the private sector and the public sector work hand-in-hand.

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