Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to accelerate critical transport funding to help re-boot the region’s economy after the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
A £4.2 billion devolved transport fund was announced earlier this year by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, to be shared between the UK’s combined authorities. If split equally, the West Midlands would receive at least £500 million – the largest single devolved sum it has ever received.
The plan was for the funds to be released in the 2022/23 financial year, but Mayor Andy Street has asked the Prime Minister to bring that funding forward in the wake of the economic damage caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic. Research suggests the West Midlands’ economy could be the worst hit in the UK.
The Mayor, who is spearheading the West Midlands’ economic recovery from Coronavirus (COVID-19), wants to inject cash quickly into major infrastructure projects to help give the region’s economy a much-needed shot in the arm. With plans drawn up and several shovel-ready schemes just awaiting funding, transport investment is seen as a critical part of the recovery.
The Mayor, who has experience of financial crises, having been managing director of John Lewis at the time of the 2008/09 global recession, said: “It is encouraging news that, thanks to the hard-work and responsibility of so many people across the West Midlands, we are now through the peak of the virus and beginning to think about how we exit what continues to be a very challenging lockdown period.
“Clearly, we need to think about how we get the West Midlands economy, which was performing well and growing faster than any area outside of London before the virus hit, back on its feet. We are in the process of drawing up our recovery plan, but it is clear that investment in infrastructure is going to play a critical role and it was good to press this point to the Prime Minister this morning.
“The government has already committed funding to transport but we want to bring that forward and we also want to see investment in several other key sectors in the region, not least digital infrastructure and the automotive industry’s push towards electric and autonomous vehicle technology.”
All of the M9 group of directly-elected regional Mayors in England were present on Andy Street’s call with the Prime Minister, during which they all stressed the need for Mayors to be able to lead the recovery for their regions.