West Midlands Gets £36million Development Deal

First instalment of devolution deal transferred to West Midlands

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Pic: Nmajdan

The West Midlands Combined Authority has received its first instalment of a £1.bn handout from the government.

The West Midland Combined Authority (WMCA) controls transport, housing, skills and mental health services and the overall economic development of the West Midlands. It includes constituent members Sandwell, Walsall, Dudley and Wolverhampton. The West Midlands, and Birmingham is particular, has seen a boom in economic activity recently due to multiple regeneration schemes.

As part of a devolution deal which sees capital spread out among the UK, the WMCA is to receive a total of £1.1bn over the next three years to further aid in development. Councillor Bob Sleigh, the WMCA Chair, said “[This] payment marks the start of an exciting new era in which we will be far better equipped to build on our strengths, improve productivity and skills and deliver the transport infrastructure and new homes our region needs.

“It gives us the tools to drive forward the Midlands engine, helping to unlock growth, jobs and prosperity and ultimately a better quality of life for the four million people of the West Midlands.”

Part of the money will be spent on the development on 1.9 million new homes, built over the course of fifteen years. Whoever is voted mayor in the upcoming West Midlands mayoral elections will take control of the millions. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid “the people of the West Midlands came up with a devolution deal which puts them in charge of driving growth and transforming local services.

“Today’s £36.5m boost is proof that we will equip them with what they need to fire up the Midlands engine – the ability to boost long-term growth, create jobs, improve skills and invest in transport and innovation.

“And with these significant powers coming directly from Westminster to the West Midlands, local people will also now have the chance to head to the polls and vote for a powerful new Mayor to put them into practice.”

Despite the promise of future prosperity, the devo deal has been met with criticisms. According to the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, the government had forced regions to accept directly elected mayors in return for extra funding. There have also been claims that there is no way to ensure the money will be spent properly.

Aside from government money matters, Birmingham has seen an increase in tourism. Last year, tourism increased by 6%, the highest growth in all of the UK. The findings came from a survey conducted by VisitEngland.

It found that the MAC (Midland Art Centre), Cannon Hill Park and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery were in the Top 20 most-visited free attractions in the UK. The MAC celebrated a footfall of over 1,000,000 last year.

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