Devolution Deal gives more powers and funding to the West Midlands

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, reflects on the Devolution Deal that was announced in the budget this week...

The Chancellor this week has announced the devolution deal that Birmingham City Council has worked closely with our colleagues across the region, the Combined Authority, and the Government to agree. This deal will see more powers and funding – as much as £1.5 billion – devolved to the West Midlands in the coming years.

I welcome this deal, and I am encouraged that the Government has listened to Birmingham City Council’s calls for a levelling up zone to cover East Birmingham. Whilst the details of this zone are yet to be decided, it could provide the catalyst that we need to make the east of our city more prosperous.

As a Council we are ambitious for Birmingham and its people, and we need a government that matches those ambitions. So this must be just the start of the long overdue transfer of powers and resources from Westminster to our cities and regions.

With the right support, cities like Birmingham can unlock growth and tackle inequalities that continue to hold too many people back. To do that, we need a long-term settlement for local government to resource local public services added to the powers that will enable us to address everything from anti-social behaviour to the climate emergency at pace and scale.

Taken at face value, the devolution deal also means more certainty in funding for affordable housing and local investment, and new powers and remits that will support the delivery priorities of the combined authority and West Midlands councils, bringing benefits to our city and residents.

But we cannot ignore that a decade of austerity has reduced what councils can do and the future is still uncertain, as additional pressures, like the cost-of-living crisis increase demand for council services.

Most of the money and powers within the deal do not come on stream for two or more years, so it will need further focus from us and the government to ensure that the powers and funding do flow to our region and our communities. Implementation is going to be critical too, getting rid of bureaucracy, unlocking freedoms and creating effective and accountable delivery.

As councils, we need increased powers to make our communities safer, cleaner and greener, so it is encouraging that the deal also commits government to further negotiations on these powers.

We will continue to do all that we can to deliver for the people of Birmingham in the years ahead.

This blog was posted on 15 March 2023

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