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. 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”.