Representatives from across the West Midlands attended the Government’s first ever regional impact meeting.
The meeting, convened by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, chaired by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick, and attended by a number of senior Cabinet members, was held to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the West Midlands and the measures required to bounce back.
Regional representatives outlined three key asks from Government which they believe are needed to bring about a successful economic recovery:
- Support for the region’s automotive sector
- More flexibility in the Government’s furlough scheme
- Allowing the region to take a leading role in the local implementation of the track and trace programme
As well as the Mayor, attendees from the region included Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and representative of the West Midlands metropolitan authority leaders; Cllr Ian Brookfield, leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council; and Paul Faulkner, CEO of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.
Speaking after the event, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said:
It is essential that the regions are able to take a leading role in driving their economic recovery from this pandemic.
The West Midlands could be one of the hardest hit regions economically from coronavirus, but, just as we did after the 2008/09 financial crash, we have the opportunity to bounce back fast and strong. We can only achieve this if we are able to press ahead with our own local recovery plan, aided by financial support from Government.
So today I asked the Government to support us in three ways – a commitment to help the automotive sector as it employs hundreds of thousands of people across the region; for the furlough arrangements to be made flexible between sectors to support our hospitality, tourism and leisure industries; and to give us a local role in the track and trace programme.
It is good the Government has recognised the critical role regions have to play in the UK’s recovery from coronavirus by holding these meetings, and I am pleased ministers chose to virtually visit the West Midlands first.
Discussions at today’s virtual meeting also focused on the importance of bringing transport networks back online; spring-boarding economic recovery through investment in construction, automotive and other key industrial sectors; and arrangements around testing in the region to monitor and suppress the spread of the virus.
Members of the Cabinet were also told how political and business leaders in the West Midlands have now agreed ten priorities around which the region’s own post-Covid-19 recovery plan will be built with the aim of securing green growth and an inclusive economy that works for everyone.
Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council said:
This must represent the start of a more collaborative approach, with councils given a substantial role in what happens next as the West Midlands looks to bounce back from this pandemic.
Collectively we have the local knowledge needed to drive the economic recovery and co-production will be essential as we guide communities and businesses through the next phase of the emergency. I urge Government to work with the West Midlands to protect jobs and ensure an inclusive recovery.
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP added:
As we move into the next phase in our battle against coronavirus we will continue to support communities and businesses across the country.
I brought leaders from across the West Midlands together today, led by the wonderful local Mayor Andy Street, to discuss how we can work together in close partnership and make sure that the Midlands fulfils its huge potential.