Civic leaders are in talks with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg over plans that could create 95,000 new jobs across the region and expand the economy by £8 billion.
Authorities in Birmingham, Solihull and seven other councils have drawn up a wish-list of measures the Government could take to help the region live up to its full potential, including constructing a new £25 million medical centre, pumping funding into a new local transport authority and building thousands of new homes – including some on green belt land, the Birmingham Post can today reveal.
The process has been overseen by the Local Enterprise Partnership, the business organisation led by John Lewis Chief Executive Andy Street, which is backed by local authorities including Birmingham, Bromsgrove, Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire, Lichfield, Redditch, Solihull, Tamworth and Wyre Forest.
The LEP has not formally published its proposals but a copy of the bid document, entitled “driving local economic renaissance”, has been obtained by the Birmingham Post.
It follows the Government’s announcement that it plans to sign “city deals” transferring authority and cash to England’s eight largest cities.
Manchester has already signed a deal which will net it £30 million a year, by allowing the council to keep some of the business taxes that would previously have gone to the Treasury, while Liverpool has signed a city deal which includes a £75 million Government grant to be spent on measures to support employers.
Birmingham has taken a different approach to other cities and allowed the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) to take the lead in drawing up the plans, to ensure they involve a range of authorities and not just the city itself.
However, the proposals are the subject of ongoing negotiations between the councils involved, working with the LEP, and Government ministers. Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, Transport Secretary Justine Greening and Cities Minister Greg Clark have all been involved in talks, which are being overseen by Nick Clegg.
According to the LEP, the deal is designed to create a net 95,000 private sector jobs by 2020 and increase the size of the local economy by £8 billion over the same period.
It includes plans to build a new medical research institute called the Institute of Translational Medicine, at a cost £25 million. This would create more than 2,000 jobs, according to the LEP.
The aim is to create a “global cluster of excellence in the Life Sciences in Birmingham”, building on the existing expertise and facilities at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston.
LEP Chair Andy Street said: “The City Deal negotiations have been ongoing for several months between the GBSLEP and Government, during which time the picture has, naturally, changed from the one initially presented in the document.
“Delicate negotiations have evolved the complex set of measures contained in the City Deal and we are now close to reaching a resolution with Government.
“Some of the measures identified in the document will appear in different form in the first phase of the City Deal while others, which require more development and deeper discussion and negotiation, may appear in a second phase of the City Deal.
“What this document does do, however, is demonstrate the extent of the ambition of the GBSLEP, our confidence in our dialogue with Government and the consensus reached by the local authorities and business leaders who are members of the LEP over priorities for accelerating growth.”
Councils and the LEP also want UKTI – the Department for Business agency responsible for promoting British businesses overseas – promote Birmingham “as a world class centre for translational research and hub for Life Sciences”.
And the bid includes plans to develop a “Birmingham Healthcare Campus” centred around the Queen Elizabeth and the University of Birmingham, to encourage interaction between scientists and clinicians. This would become a national centre for postgraduate medical education and training, and would also be used to host international medical conferences.
Patients in the region have already received £15 million of free drugs through clinical trials, the bid states.
But the plans would provide residents with “access to more than £100 million of free drugs thereby transforming the healthcare options of the area’s large and ethnically diverse population”.
Other proposals include using land currently owned by the Homes and Communities Agency, a national government agency, to build up to 3,200 homes, mainly in Birmingham, Lichfield and Bromsgrove.
Sites includes the former Rover plant at Longbridge, Birmingham. Plans to redevelop this would create 5,000 jobs, but they have been delayed due to ongoing negotiations with Ministers over requests for a £16 million grant from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
The LEP wants to create a “stewardship committee” involving representatives of the LEP and the Department for Business to decide how the land should be used, although it would continue to be owned for the time being by the Homes and Communities Agency.
The bid document also includes a plea for developers to be allowed to make use of land which is subject to “planning and development-constraints” – including green belt land.
The document states: “Forty per cent of the land-area of the LEP is Green Belt. This figure rises to 92 per cent in Bromsgrove.
“Much of this is treasured agricultural, amenity, leisure and/or protected landscape. Some, however, is land on the urban fringe that might otherwise be attractive for development and which would make an invaluable contribution to meeting the demand for new housing.”
Major reforms to skills and training in the region are planned, in an effort to tackle the region’s skills shortage.
The LEP wants to take over responsibility for skills and training, to ensure schools, colleges and apprenticeship providers are putting the needs of employers first.
Businesses will be encouraged to get directly involved with schools and colleges, in an effort to tackle the region’s long-term skills shortage.
At the moment, firms face a choice between paying for training themselves, or simply leaving it up to the FE sector which may not be providing potential employees with the skills required, according to the bid document.
The LEP wants to take over responsibility for a range of government funds which pay for training and education. It also wants the Government to pay for an extra 500 apprenticeship places.
In return, businesses in the region will offer more support for schools, and increase the number of work experience places available for young people.