Express & Star

Liam Byrne calls for 'green new deal' to help region bounce back

Labour's candidate for West Midlands Mayor has called for a £3.5 billion funding injection to help the region through the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus.

Labour's candidate for West Midlands Mayor, Liam Byrne

Liam Byrne says the cash will help create around 100,000 jobs and build 10,000 new homes, enabling the West Midlands to survive the "CoronaCrunch".

Proposing a "green new deal", the Birmingham MP said: "As we head out of lockdown, we risk running into economic meltdown unless we act."

Mr Byrne's plan involves a series of schemes funded by a new Just Jobs Fund, created by pooling five different funding pots already committed by government.

Some sectors including hospitality, tourism and leisure would receive continued furlough support after the government scheme ends, in exchange for a commitment to keep workers on.

Young people would be offered guaranteed apprenticeships providing they have the right qualifications, while retraining would be offered for part-time workers and the long-term unemployed.

The plans would also see new multi-agency career centres opened.

The programmes would be delivered by pooling the ‘shared prosperity fund’, the National Retraining Scheme, the National Skills Fund, unspent parts of the Apprenticeship Budget, and the Adult Education Budget – with the cash then handed to the West Midlands to deliver on a local level.

Mr Byrne said: "What we now need to do is to end the chaos, put these funds together, and hand over our share here in the West Midlands to us, so we can do the business.

"We have to stand up to London and insist the funds come to our region in a new Just Jobs Fund so we can put the money to work."

The MP added: "After the incredible sacrifice of these short months, we need the moral imagination to commit once more to becoming a country of full employment.

"Not by returning to the old economy. But by building back better. Rebuilding our region as the Green Heart of Britain, with a Green New Deal that creates new careers that that pay well – and do good.

"This plan has to start with ambition not modesty. This is no time to be lacklustre.

"Our Tory Mayor has set a target for our region to go zero carbon of 2041. I think that is much, much too slow.

"We should be aiming to be the first city region to go ‘net zero’ – not one of the last."