Express & Star

All systems go on West Midlands devolution deal, says Mayor Andy Street

Andy Street says it is "all systems go" on Government plans that will see the region given greater powers over funding for housing and education.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed in his autumn statement that talks over a devolution deal for the West Midlands were "making progress".

And West Midlands Mayor Mr Street said he expects a formal agreement to be reached with ministers within three months.

He said a deal was "never in doubt" following the return of Michael Gove to government, with the reappointed Levelling Up Secretary known to be a keen proponent of devolving powers away from Whitehall.

The region's trailblazer devolution deal, published earlier this year, set out plans that would give the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) control over a range of matters, including post-16 education, careers and housing.

It also put forward a case for greater fiscal devolution, which the mayor said would reduce the region's reliance on bids for government cash to fund individual schemes.

Mr Street, who has just returned from a trade mission to India, told the Star: "Once Michael Gove returned the Government's commitment to our devolution deal was never in doubt.

"He has been very clear that he wants to get this done, and the Chancellor confirmed that in his autumn statement.

"It is all systems go and I would expect negotiations to conclude over the next two or three months."

Mr Street added that talks with ministers are due to continue next week in London.

He also hailed the Government's commitment to levelling up, which saw Mr Hunt confirm a second round of funding bids, some of which have been submitted by councils in the Black Country, Staffordshire and Shropshire.

"The commitment is absolutely there, we just need to make sure it is delivered on in the next couple of years," he said.