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Ex-Birmingham chief and Tony Travers on West Mids' finance commission

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Professor Tony Travers and former Birmingham City Council chief executive Stephen Hughes are among a list of names to sit on a commission aimed at securing new sources of investment in the West Midlands.

Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter, Warwickshire CC leader Izzi Seccombe, and Isabel Dedring, global transport leader at Arup and former deputy London mayor for transport, are also on the list.

A chair has not yet been appointed.

In a recent interview with LGC West Midlands mayor Andy Street (Con) said the region needed to “find new sources of funding”, especially as the levy for infrastructure projects fell by the wayside when the Local Government Finance Bill was ditched at the end of the last parliament. He admitted the combined authority will have to “rework” some of its plans as a result.

Mr Street said at the time: “We have got to think more laterally about how we raise finance so there will be a West Midlands finance commission in a similar way to what has been done in London.”

Details of the West Midlands Funding for Growth Programme are due to be discussed at a board meeting of the combined authority tomorrow.

The report said: “The programme in the West Midlands will not simply replicate the work of the London Finance Commission. Whilst certain themes and goals may be similar, the programme will focus on generating and implementing ideas that will drive additional funding for the region, rather than simply seeking further devolution of powers to the region.”

Members of the commission – all appointed as individuals rather than as representatives of their organisations – will be tasked with making recommendations as to “how the West Midlands could increase control over local spending and, importantly, create new funding opportunities (or enhance existing mechanisms)”, the report said. This could include “innovative mechanisms to drive incremental property and infrastructure investment, e.g. new funding structures to increase the viability of funding brownfield site regeneration for property development”, the report added.

The commission will still consider “additional powers (i.e. tax revenues and control over spending) that could be devolved from government, and incremental funding sources that could be used locally”, though.

In a statement regarding the commission, Mr Street said: “We will continue to seek further support from government, but we need to go well beyond our existing plans. This is about us becoming more self-sustaining and thinking originally about how we can accelerate our economic growth.

“In the longer term, we need to stand on our own two feet and begin to control our own destiny, making devolution of power and funding to the West Midlands a reality.”

Finding “creative ways of generating” money is key, said Mr Street.

“At this stage we’re ruling nothing in or out. We should, for example, learn the lessons from London where increasing property values have been used to help fund transport projects for everyone to benefit from.”

Mr Street said he was “hopeful” the commission would develop proposals to discuss with the government “by the end of the year”.

The West Midlands Funding for Growth Programme commission members:

  • Julian Beer, deputy vice-chancellor at Birmingham City University
  • Simon Collinson, deputy pro-vice-chancellor for regional economic engagement at the University of Birmingham
  • Andrew Carter, Centre for Cities chief executive
  • Stephen Hughers, former Birmingham City Council chief executive
  • Julia Goldsworthy, senior policy adviser at PwC and former Liberal Democrat MP
  • David Hutchison, Social Finance chief executive
  • Professor Tony Travers, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Mike Turley, global public Sector Leader at Deloitte
  • Izzi Seccombe, Warwickshire CC leader
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