Express & Star

Chancellor has 'put his neck on the line' with £1.5bn devo deal, says Andy Street

The Chancellor has "put his neck on the line" by handing the region greater control over Government funding, Andy Street has said.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has shown his support for the West Midlands with a new devolution deal, Andy Street says

The West Midlands Mayor said the new £1.5bn devolution deal, announced in the Budget, showed Jeremy Hunt "trusts the region to deliver".

Mr Street also said he had got a "huge proportion" of what he had asked for in the deal, but admitted he would have liked more powers to retain some locally raised taxes.

Under the deal, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will get 100 per cent business rates retention for 10 years – worth £450 million – as well as a single pot of funding after the next spending review.

It also includes up to £500m for housing, a commitment to a second round of funding for major transport projects through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements scheme, as well as up to six new 'levelling up zones' to boost regeneration in areas starved of investment.

Mr Street told the Express & Star: "This is all cash that we control, and undoubtedly it will make a huge difference to people in the West Midlands.

"But this is also about the really big principle of the Government giving powers to this region.

"We got a huge proportion of what we asked for. We were talking about retaining some of the taxes that were raised locally, such as airport passenger duty and car tax, but I'm not worried.

"If we are successful in using what we are given then I think we will get another bite at it. The lesson here is they have only given these powers to us and Manchester, which sends the message that they see we have used what we have had up to now pretty well.

"It is a journey and a partnership, and in this instance the Chancellor has put his neck on the line and says he trusts us to deliver."

Mr Street has previously been critical of how the Government has allocated money to the regions, hitting out at what he called a "begging bowl culture" of areas being forced to bid against each other for funding.

He said: "The way money has been allocated in the past has not been helpful. It has been very random, and when you don't know what you are going to get how can you plan things in any coordinated way?

"The advantage of having a single pot is that we can plan ahead – and by being able to coordinate our plans we should be getting more bang for our buck."

The devolution deal has also been backed by Stourbridge MP Suzanne Webb, who said it would "put power in local hands away from Whitehall".

She said: "Gone are the days when we will have to compete for levelling up funds.

"We can now set our objectives knowing we have funding in place right here to regenerate the areas that need it most like Lye in my constituency.

"In unison with the West Midlands being an investment zone and its priorities of developing life sciences, creative industries, digital technology advanced manufacturing and green industries, we now have a chance to really fire up our economy and continue to see the West Midlands as the industrial heart of the UK."