Trailblazer mayors to face MP scrutiny | Local Government Chronicle (LGC)

Greater Manchester CA and the West Midlands CA will both receive single departmental-style budgets in the next spending review period, but in return their mayors will face greater scrutiny.

Documents setting out the new deals were published alongside the Budget, but did not specify how large the single departmental-style budget is likely to be.

Both combined authorities would receive 100% business rates retention for the next 10 years.

This afternoon chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the aim of the deals is to “boost mayors’ financial autonomy” through the multi-year single settlements and that his ambition this is “something I intend to roll out for all mayoral areas over time”.

Both deals include:

  • New arrangements for accountability at both combined authorities. This includes a new provision for local MPs to scrutinise the combined authorities’ mayors and other portfolio holders in public, broadcasted sessions.
  • Fiscal devolution for both combined authorities which will see the extension of their 100% business rates retention pilots for the next 10 years.
  • A new single departmental-style budget for both combined authorities with a single pot of funding set at the next spending review.
  • £400m in funding for affordable housing programmes in both Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. Both combined authorities will also receive funding for the redevelopment of brownfield land – Greater Manchester is set to receive £150m with the West Midlands to receive £100m.
  • New rail partnerships with Great British Railways in order to offer greater local oversight and control of public transport services.
  • The devolution of non-apprenticeship adult skills functions and grant funding in the next spending review, plus the establishment of a joint governance board in both combined authorities to oversee post-16 technical education.
  • A co-designed approach with the Department for Work and Pensions for both the West Midlands and Greater Manchester to oversee all future contracted employment support.
  • Both combined authorities will enter into a strategic innovation partnership with UK Research and Innovation in order to give the West Midlands and Greater Manchester a new role in informing the research and innovation ecosystem.
  • A new role for both the West Midlands and Greater Manchester in the governance of the next generation of the British Business Bank UK funds in their regions and stronger, strategic relationships for both combined authorities with the UK Infrastructure Bank.
  • A stronger role for the West Midlands and Greater Manchester across international trade, investment and export opportunities.
  • The devolution to both combined authorities of funding for retrofit from 2025 which will form part of their new single departmental-style settlements.
  • Each deal includes a commitment to support new partnerships between national and local arts and culture organisations in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands to support investment in regional cultural priorities.
  • Both combined authorities will establish a new Digital Infrastructure Leadership Group to accelerate the roll out and take up of high-speed digital connectivity and the government’s Project Gigabit.

West Midlands Deal

Separately, the West Midlands will also be able to progress on plans for six levelling up zones which will be backed by 25-year business rate retention.

The six areas identified by the combined authority as levelling up zones are East Birmingham-North Solihull, Wolverhampton Innovation Corridor, Walsall Growth Corridor, Dudley & Sandwell Metro Corridors, and the Coventry and Warwickshire Gigafactory Zone.

The West Midlands will also see the devolution of the bus service operators grant and will be established as a “sandbox” for transport innovation.

The region’s deal also includes a new formal duty on the combined authority to improve the public’s health in the West Midlands.

Greater Manchester Deal

As part of its devolution deal, Greater Manchester CA will also have access to new levers to support its commitment to public service reform and work with residents facing multiple and complex disadvantage. The government will work with the combined authority to discuss whether relevant new funding streams could be devolved as part of Greater Manchester’s single departmental-style settlement.

Greater Manchester’s partnership with Great British Rails will support the delivery of the combined authority’s integrated transport network, the Bee Network, by 2030. The Bee Network will see the introduction of multi-modal fares, ticketing integration, ‘pay as you go’ ticketing pilots, better integration of local stations, identification of opportunities for regeneration and development and greater access to local rail data to support the combined authority in sponsoring infrastructure and rail enhancement schemes.

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