The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has unveiled a transformative £1.2 billion budget earmarked for ambitious initiatives. This significant financial commitment is designed to spearhead the region's journey towards slashing carbon emissions, advancing a sustainable transportation framework, and formulating a comprehensive Plan for Growth. The objective is clear: positioning the West Midlands as a frontrunner in achieving net zero by 2041, outpacing the national ambition by a decisive nine years.
A substantial portion of the budget, amounting to hundreds of millions, is dedicated to facilitating the development of superior housing and employment opportunities. Notably, a £356 million allocation is directed towards pivotal transport ventures aimed at enhancing and greening the region's public transit systems.
Among the flagship projects are the £89 million infusion into the ongoing construction of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro tram extension, a £22 million boost for the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension, and a £35 million investment to introduce new rail services and stations along the Birmingham Camp Hill and Walsall to Wolverhampton lines. Additionally, £41 million is earmarked for innovative "Clean Bus" initiatives, including Coventry's pioneering All Electric Bus City project and the deployment of additional zero-emission bus fleets across the region.
The budget further designates £225 million for the WMCA and local authorities to execute critical transport interventions, encompassing highway upkeep and cutting-edge very light rail developments. A noteworthy £71 million is reserved for enhancing cycling and walking infrastructure alongside eco-friendly travel initiatives.
The funding strategy also includes over £24 million for subsidised bus services, continuous financial backing for the West Midlands Metro, and support for the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme.
To address skill shortages in critical sectors, the budget allocates £194 million for training programs in construction, digital, and green industries. Moreover, £95 million is dedicated to developing energy-efficient, cost-effective homes on previously developed (brownfield) sites.
The budget supports revitalising town centres and backs research and development into innovative zero-carbon homes and modern construction methodologies.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the WMCA, said the ambitious new investment programmes had been delivered despite ongoing financial pressures for local government.
"The WMCA is not immune from this, so it's good news that despite those challenges, we've come together as a team to safeguard the outcomes that local people rightly expect us to deliver, including when it comes to transport, skills and housing," he said. "We continue to be prudent and measured in our financial management, but this Budget remains laser-focused on improving the lives of local people across our region.
"We're making hundreds of millions of pounds available to ensure residents can gain the skills they need to succeed and secure the high-quality, well-paid jobs of the future, find affordable homes to buy or rent and benefit from a reliable and sustainable transport network."
Cllr Bob Sleigh, deputy mayor and WMCA portfolio holder for finance, said the Budget supports the region's Plan for Growth, which aims to build a low-carbon and resilient regional economy.
"It also focuses on the things that are important to people like having the skills needed to get a decent job, an efficient transport network, homes that are affordable and energy efficient and other measures aimed at tackling fuel poverty and climate change," he said.