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Philip Hammond: Midlands is key to UK economy, says Chancellor during Black Country visit

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Building prosperity for millions of people across the Midlands holds the key to boosting the UK's economy, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said.

Philip Hammond has vowed to harness the region's 'enormous potential' and focus on upskilling workers as he announced a £392 million investment package over the next four years.

The Midlands Engine Strategy will see the Black Country get £55m and Staffordshire get £23m for new infrastructure projects, including cutting traffic congestion and upgrading to 5G mobile services.

Speaking at Dudley College, the Chancellor said: "The West Midlands is a hugely important part of the UK economy.

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"It has great potential as Britain engages as a global power in the future.

"What we now need to do is invest in the strengths of the local economy, the traditional strengths around engineering in particular, embracing modern technology, moving to advanced engineering and bringing in the very latest technical skills."

He added that the investment would lead to an 'upskilling' of the existing workforce and improved training for students to 'widen the skills base'.

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Mr Hammond said the Midlands was one of the key growth points for the UK economy outside London and that its success was crucial if Britain is to flourish in the post-Brexit world.

"The fact that you've got several large population centres very close together, which you can effectively link together to turn into a single market," he said.

"That's what's drives economies and what really gets growth going. The Midlands is an example of a large, densely populated area that if it is properly joined together...if it has got the right skills and infrastructure investment, can bring a step change in economic growth."

Yesterday, Mr Hammond delivered his budget where he pledged an extra £2 billion over three years to help ease the pressure on social care across the country and £23m towards road improvements in the Midlands.

But he has come under fire from some MPs including Conservative backbenchers over plans for a £240 hike in National Insurance contributions for 2.5 million self-employed workers.

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