The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has signed off on a £1.2bn budget, including funds to help the region cut carbon emissions, roll out a more sustainable transport system, and deliver a regional Plan for Growth that aims to achieve net zero by 2041 – nine years ahead of the government’s national target.
Alongside hundreds of millions of pounds to help people deliver better homes and jobs, the Budget includes a £356m package for major transport projects that aim to both expand and decarbonise the region’s public transport network.
Key projects include £89m for the on-going construction of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro tram extension, £22m for the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension, £35m for new railway services and stations on the Birmingham Camp Hill and Walsall to Wolverhampton lines, and £41m for “Clean Bus” schemes including Coventry’s All Electric Bus City initiative and other zero emission bus fleets in the region.
The Budget also features £225m for both the WMCA and local councils to deliver priority transport interventions, such as highway maintenance and very light rail projects, with £71m earmarked for cycle and walking schemes and other sustainable travel projects.
More than £24m is also being made available for subsidised bus services, while there is further funding for the continued subsidy for the West Midlands Metro and support for the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme.
In addition, £194m of skills funding is to provide more training schemes for sectors suffering skills shortages, including construction, digital, and ‘green’ industries. And £95m has been set aside to develop new energy efficient and affordable homes on brownfield land.
There will also be financial support for the regeneration of town centres as well as research and development for new zero carbon homes and modern methods of construction.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the WMCA, said the ambitious new investment programmes had been delivered despite on-going financial pressures for local government.
“The WMCA is not immune from this so it’s good news that despite those challenges we’ve come together as a team to safeguard the outcomes that local people rightly expect us to deliver including when it comes to transport, skills and housing,” he said. “We continue to be prudent and measured in our financial management but this Budget remains laser focussed on improving the lives of local people right across our region.
“We’re making hundreds of millions of pounds available to ensure residents can gain the skills they need to succeed and secure the high-quality well-paid jobs of the future, find affordable homes to buy or rent, and benefit from a reliable and sustainable transport network.”
Cllr Bob Sleigh, deputy mayor and WMCA portfolio holder for finance, said the Budget supports the region’s Plan for Growth, which aims to build a low carbon and resilient regional economy.
“It also focuses on the things that are important to people like having the skills needed to get a decent job, an efficient transport network, homes that are affordable and energy efficient and other measures aimed at tackling fuel poverty and climate change,” he said.