New £1bn devolution deal to give region new powers

The region was today set to be handed control over a £1 billion funding pot in a new landmark devolution deal.

Under measures set to be announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his Budget, the West Midlands Combined Authority area will get block grants of funding and greater control over housing and skills.

It will aim to bring an end to what Mayor Andy Street has called a "begging bowl culture", where parts of the country are forced to bid against each other for funding for major projects.

Meanwhile the West Midlands will receive £80m to set up one of 12 low-tax investment zones in the UK, which will benefit from tax breaks, specialist business support and potentially relaxed planning rules in a bid to drive growth.

Separately, up to six 'levelling up zones' – which will benefit from 25 years of business rates retention – have been lined up.

The Treasury reportedly rejected a push from Mr Street which would have seen the region retain proportions of VAT and corporation tax raised locally.

Precise details of the devolution deal, which were still being finalised last night, were due to be confirmed by Mr Hunt this afternoon.

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