Solihull MBC, with its partners in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, has commissioned a study of the potential of the M42 corridor. This will create a road map for releasing the economic potential of the area in a managed way, whilst maximising the benefits of growth for local residents and the wider area.
At the heart of the proposition is the notion that by capitalising on one of the strongest economic bases in the country, and combining targeted investment in local infrastructure with the commitment to deliver an expanded airport and new HS2 station, a new sub-regional growth engine can be created with the potential to underpin a national economic resurgence.
The recent ‘No Stone Unturned’ paper introduced the concept of the single pot. By bringing simplicity and accountability to significant tranches of public sector funding, it creates a platform on which to transform the local economy.
Within the context of the M42 study Solihull is supportive of the single pot approach but would make a number of requests.
There should be a standing single pot allocation for every economic area of the country, in our case Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, in order to maximise the role of local direction and innovation.
The size of the pot should be based upon a formula taking into account population ambition and potential economic benefits
The pot must also be free from ring-fences, central constraints, and ‘pots within pots’. The more these controls are applied, the more the fundamental benefits of the single pot approach are undermined. Local areas must be able to apply their own priorities.
In order to support the priorities of the region and its intended approach to growth the scope of the single pot should cover funding for:
- affordable and decent homes;
- employment support and welfare to work;
- research innovation and commercialisation;
- major regeneration schemes;
- digital connectivity;
- adult skills, apprenticeships, and further education;
- major transport schemes;
- Regional Growth Fund and Growing Places;
- business support, trade and inward investment.
Further consideration is given to the sharing of financial risk. A key advantage of the single pot concept is that it provides the basis to lever in additional public and private funding. However given the scale of the potential programme and the need to either service debt or deliver a return on that investment the overall financial risk would be too great for Solihull to bear on its own. Mechanisms for governing and sharing that risk between Solihull, its public and private partners and central government would help unblock this potential issue.
Lastly, in addition to the single pot the government should consider allowing local authorities to retain a proportion of genuine additional tax receipts that arise as a consequence of the initial investments. This will provide an opportunity for the local authority to re-invest those proceeds in the programme through a virtuous cycle and maintain momentum.
Mark Rogers is chief executive of Solihull MBC