A devolution deal for the West Midlands could be a game-changer for Black Country businesses, according to one of the region's leading corporate experts.
The Government has agreed to plough £1.2bn into the West Midlands region as part of the devolution deal – a move which James Sage says will help support business growth and job creation.
The deal, to be signed later this week, sees the region receive about £36m a year over 30 years, plus £97m for transport infrastructure, and it will also gain powers over policing, skills, business support and transport under an elected metro-mayor.
Mr Sage, who was recently recognised as one of the West Midlands' leading corporate lawyers, said: “We have seen the significant benefit to the regional economy in other areas which already have a deal, such as the Northern Powerhouse.
“The West Midlands deal, which involves seven metropolitan councils including Wolverhampton and three Local Enterprise Partnerships including The Black Country, will be a game-changer for our businesses, particularly those in advanced manufacturing, engineering and the automotive sector.
“When we have such strength in these sectors in the Midlands, this level of locally directed investment can be a game-changer for our entire regional economy.
“What businesses want, and need, is a cohesive approach to regional growth – addressing issues around transport infrastructure, skills, and investment. A joined-up strategy for this area will mean that we can continue to attract the investment and the employers, and also keep the ones which are already operating here.”
The proposed agreement with government will see the WMCA responsible for an investment package worth more than £4 billion to deliver the HS2 growth strategy, with the potential to add £14 billion to the area’s economy as well as the creation of around 100,000 related jobs. This will support the delivery of the metro extensions to Brierley Hill and HS2 interchange, as well as the UK Central infrastructure package and improving connectivity to Coventry.
The deal will also see devolved funding and responsibility for administering the 19+ adult skills budget and business support programmes, as well as a £200m land remediation fund that will allow brownfield land to be brought back in to use for housing and employment. This is on top of a planned £50m Business Innovation Centre for the West Midlands.
Mr Sage is also the Vice-Chair of Alliance 4 the Black Country – an organisation which works to promote, do business, retain and deliver skills development in the Black Country.