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'Grim picture' as no money for Metro extension to Brierley Hill, says council leader

“The truth is, we do not have the money”. That's what the leader of Birmingham City Council and chair of West Midlands Combined Authority Transport sub committee said when asked about the the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension in a Q&A session earlier this week.

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Trams lined up at the Midland Metro HQ on Potters Lane, Wednesbury

Ian Ward also gave a general update on West Midlands transport, including news there will likely be more cuts, describing the situation as “a little bit of a grim picture”.

Warning of further cuts, Mr Ward said they could apply to assisted travel policies which use 20 per cent of Transport for West Midlands' total budget. These policies ensure those with accessibility are enabled to use transport.

He said: “I don’t mislead myself that any of those decisions will be easy, they will be very, very tough decisions if we are to take any of them at all.”

Dudley councillor Cathryn Bayton chaired the meeting and started by asking Mr Ward: “Whilst the Combined Authority has ambition in lots of areas including transport, if we haven’t got the resources to match the ambition, where do we go with that?”

Ian Ward responded: “I think the answer to that is fairly obvious. We will have to cut our cloth to suit won’t we?”

“The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill metro – there is not funding for.

“But it has been built into the medium term financial plan – some £4.8m from 2025-26 onwards to support that – but the truth is we do not have the money.

“I think there has been a problem which we all bear some blame for, which goes back a number of years.

“We have continued to make commitments that cost money on the assumption that things will all remain the same.

“But as we have seen with recent events, things are not remaining the same; we now have an inflation rate of the best part of 10%; we have energy prices rocketing through the roof because of events elsewhere; and we have interest rates going up more than they otherwise would have done because of government action.

“We are in an extraordinary position and at some point we are going to have to recognise the reality of this.”

Councilor Bayton then asked if the government would fund the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension.

“I wasn’t aware Liz Truss had made a commitment to that," came the response.

“All I would say is there have been a lot of spending commitments made by the latest Conservative government over recent weeks.

“There was also the statement yesterday at PMQs that there’s to be no public spending cuts to balance out the government’s budget, it’s difficult to see how all of this works.

“Like everybody else I read the newspapers, I read the comments by economists; there doesn’t seem to be many people who believe this is a credible plan.

“I think over the medium term there’s going to have to be a balancing out of the budget so there’s either going to be tax increases, or there’s going to be spending cuts – that’s the real world we live in.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see further U-turns announced by the government.”