The Midlands has received a hugely significant show of support in the Budget with the Chancellor of the Exchequer re-affirming the need to ‘fuel’ the Midlands Engine in order to drive productivity.
This followed some very encouraging results from the Conservative Party Conference and a series of positive announcements in the run-up to the Budget.
We were particularly pleased to hear the Chancellor confirm that the Midlands Engine strategy would be refreshed next year which should give renewed vigour for our pipeline of projects that are currently being developed.
Some of the positive announcements that we have had in recent weeks and on Budget day include:
- A new, locally-led development body to lead Toton’s development, with £2m of funding for the Midlands Engine to develop the vehicle
- The Midlands Engine was assured its constituent parts would receive a share of the £30m of funding allocated to the Be The Business campaign
- The Midlands Engine was put at the centre of a Government commitment to work on future infrastructure plans as part of the Spending Review
- Up to £70m will be allocated to build the national element of the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) near Loughborough
- Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Stoke-on-Trent have all been short-listed for a share of the £440m Transforming Cities Fund with further £71.5m of additional money going to the WMCA as part of a second phase of the fund
Overall, there is much to be encouraged about at present if you are a Midlander. The fact that countless Ministers, Shadow Ministers and MPs visited the Midlands Engine exhibition stands at the Conservative and Labour conferences was testimony to the real interest in backing our ambition for the region.
As well as these hugely positive announcements, we have also been pressing ahead with the case for a new space facility at Leicester, the Midlands MedTech Innovation Accelerator, the Ceramics Park in Staffordshire, a future food facility in Lincolnshire and the Midlands Internationalisation Strategy. We have also been developing business cases for other proposals – in the areas of innovation, business, skills, digital and more besides, and have been discussing these with Treasury and other parts of Government.
The Midlands also received a boost from the Chancellor with many other announcements including:
- Extra money to improve the strategic national roads network with additional injection for potholes
- Coventry to get £8.5m to support its preparations to become the UK’s City of Culture in 2021
- A £10m competitive fund is being launched to enable local areas to generate proposals for business-backed Development Corporations
And it’s not just about the cities, there are some great opportunities emerging for our wonderful Midlands towns including the £675m Future High Streets fund and business rate relief for small retail business. As part of our Shaping Great Places programme, we will get behind our local places to achieve their fair share of these funds.
Another announcement that the Midlands Engine can take some credit for was the decision to host a major new festival to celebrate culture, sports and innovation in 2022. This idea for The Festival came after our own plans for a Great Expo set out in our Vision for Growth.
In 2019 we will see a unique opportunity through the Midlands Engine strategy refresh and spending review to build further on our proven partnership approach and distributive leadership model to deliver superb results for all Midlanders.
We are pleased with what has been announced at Budget but know that we can achieve more as we develop better ways of working, and even more positive relationships with Government ministers and officials. But we cannot do that without your hard work, and mutual endeavour. We therefore remain hugely grateful for your efforts to date and hope you can share our delight at our recent successes, as well as our determination to achieve even more in the future.