Chancellor Philip Hammond has published an ambitious multi-million pound Midlands Engine Strategy in an effort for the region to reach its full economic potential.
The Chancellor’s Midlands Engine Strategy includes significant investment in skills, connectivity and local growth, while also setting out how the government plans to drive the region’s huge potential and promote it to the world.
The announcement builds on plans set out in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy which includes the offer of additional support for industries – including those in the Midlands – through sector deals.
The Midlands already has huge economic potential – reportedly home to more than 10 million people with an economy worth £217.7bn – 13% of the UK’s annual output. The government believes there are huge opportunities to build on this.
The government has also set out a series of reforms to technical education, backed by an investment of more than £500m, to ensure young people receive the training they need to take on the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.
The Midlands Engine Strategy will see the government:
- invest £392m in the Midlands from the Local Growth Fund. This cash will support innovative projects including creating a global hub for space technology in Leicester, and transport improvements including £25m to tackle congestion and improve major employment sites in the Black Country and £12m to improve road connections around Loughborough. This is in addition to the £1.5bn of Local Growth Fund investments in the Midlands that have already been announced.
- invest £20m in a flagship Midlands Skills Challenge to improve employment prospects for people living and working in the region. This will include providing additional work coaches, language training and testing innovative approaches to lifelong learning.
- commit an additional £4m to support the operation of the Midlands Engine Partnership over the coming two years. The Midlands Engine Partnership brings together Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities, businesses, academic institutions and others into a voluntary, regional partnership that will support growth across the Midlands.
The government also welcomed today the transport infrastrucutre strategy being published by Midlands Connect, and has already confirmed £17m of funding to develop its proposals, which include the potential for up to ten additional trains an hour into central Birmingham.
From May 2017, Birmingham and the wider West Midlands Combined Authority area will benefit from a directly elected Mayor able to use powers over skills, transport and planning to drive local growth, and HS2 intends to place the Midlands at the heart of England’s high speed rail network.
The strategy also focuses on promoting the Midlands to the world and today’s strategy includes the formation of a Midlands Trade and Investment Programme, which will include events in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.