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Devolution gathers momentum as Birmingham and Liverpool agree deals

20 November 2015

The West Midlands and Merseyside have become the latest regions to sign up to devolution deals. The announcement takes the number of regions that have agreed devolution plans, and will be electing “metro mayors” in 2017, to six.

The six city-region devolution deals are now in place for Greater Manchester, Sheffield, the north east and Tees Valley, and now Birmingham and the West Midlands and the Liverpool City Region.

The newly elected regional mayors will have planning powers to drive housing delivery and improvements in housing stock, and be given the “same competencies as the Homes and Communities Agency”.

The regions will also have responsibility for a consolidated, devolved transport budget, with a multi-year settlement to be agreed at next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review, and also responsibility for franchised bus services.

Both deals come with with 30-year investment funds attached. The Liverpool City Region has accepted £30m a year for the next 30 years with the West Midlands region receiving an extra £36.5m a year over the same period.

The West Midlands deal also includes confirmation of a new enterprise zone in Brierley Hill and Dudley, and £98m for the Midlands Metro Eastside tram extension to Digbeth.

Birmingham’s New Street station has undergone £750m transformation

In Liverpool, however, the Treasury has refused to fund the building of an opera house on the banks of the Mersey, or to reduce tolls on the Mersey tunnel, two requests from the region’s council leaders when they started negotiations with the government.

Both deals must still be agreed by all the councils involved.

In response to devolution plans, property consultant Lambert Smith Hampton earlier this year launched an “Enterprise Award” to solicit ideas on how the property industry could play a central role in the opportunities opened up by devolution.

Shortlisted entries included think tank ResPublica and housing charity Shelter, but the top award went to a proposal for Sheffield City region’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District.

The idea is being backed by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, the local NHS Trust, local authorities and business park owners. 

A statement from the award judges reads: “The property industry must take a central role if we are to revitalise cities across the midlands and the north and deliver on the promise of devolution around the UK.

“In today’s economy, success depends on knowledge transfer and high-value skills. Innovative growth firms gravitate to enterprise clusters to access the best human capital, as London has shown.

“The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill lays a framework for industry clusters to thrive. But to do so they will require an authentic sense of place. In practice, particularly for key sectors like technology and advanced manufacturing, this means creating physical links with universities to develop skills, good homes within vibrant communities and proper transport connectivity.

“Sheffield City Region’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID), winner of the inaugural Lambert Smith Hampton Enterprise Award, is a fantastic example of what can be achieved and a model for others to follow. By embracing devolution and building on the region’s industrial heritage, the scheme will deliver high-value jobs and high-quality places fit for the modern economy. 

“The property industry has the skills, creativity and local knowledge to replicate this success around the UK. We are ready to take the lead in delivering regeneration, jobs and growth to London, the Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands Engine and beyond.”

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