WMCA unveils proposed budget and Mayoral precept for 2018/19

Andy Street; Mayor of the West Midlands.

A proposed figure of £178.4 million for the coming financial year will be discussed by the WMCA board at a meeting on Friday January 12th.

The figure would see a contribution by the constituent member authorities – Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils – totalling £118 million.

The draft budget also proposes the introduction of a council tax precept to pay for the Mayor of the West Midlands – a figure of £7.5 million, equivalent to £12 a year on a Band D property or just 23p a week. 

The region’s councils agreed to form a combined authority with an elected mayor in return for the transfer of powers and funding from Whitehall to the West Midlands as part of the government’s devolution policy. The proposed budget would ensure the £36.5m being given to the region by government this coming year is spent on infrastructure projects such as Midland Metro, Sprint and developing skills - as envisaged in the first devolution deal. Cllr Izzi Seccombe, WMCA lead member for finance and investment, said:

“Since the launch of devolution by the government the constituent and non-constituent members of the WMCA have worked hard to establish an organisation that is delivering real benefits for the West Midlands.

“This has resulted in substantial inward investment into the region of public sector money that would otherwise have been swallowed up by Whitehall. The WMCA has achieved a lot in a very short space of time. It requires funding to keep that work going and this figure represents superb value for money.”

Since the WMCA was established in 2016 it has secured two devolution deals that will see the wider region get £1.4 billion of government funding over the next 30 years. It will be used to drive an £8 billion, 30 year investment programme. £3.4 billion of tram extensions, new suburban rail lines, cycle routes and motorway improvements will be built over the coming decade.

As well as the constituent authorities there are 17 non-constituent members of the WMCA. These comprise local authorities in neighbouring counties, local enterprise partnerships, West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority and West Midlands Police. Their contribution remains unchanged for 2018/19 from the first year of the WMCA - £25,000 each.

The establishment of an elected mayor for the region was a condition of the devolution deal. Conservative Party candidate Andy Street, the former chief executive of John Lewis, was elected in May 2017, one of six new metropolitan mayors around the country. His primary role is to chair the WMCA and oversee economic growth, transport, housing, skills and jobs across the region.

However since his election he has also taken a leading role in tackling issues such as homelessness and rough sleeping, youth unemployment, community cohesion and air quality.

This has seen the Mayor set up a homelessness taskforce – aimed at designing out homelessness through co-ordinated working between the public, private and voluntary sectors on schemes such as 'Change Into Action'. Mr Street's 'Mayor’s Mentors' have also been realised as a scheme providing mentoring for young people.

Mr Street’s first year of office is being paid for by the WMCA’s 2017/18 devolution money, however an alternative system must be established for the coming financial year and finance experts from the private sector, local government and academia have concluded the best way to do so is through a precept.

Under the precept, £2 would go on operational running costs of the mayoral office while £10 would be used to implement congestion-busting measures focused on cycling, park and ride services and Sprint rapid-transit using road-running tram-style vehicles. Mr Street said:

“In the seven months the role of Mayor has existed, the value of the office has already become quite clear, particularly in ensuring our region punches above its weight with Government. 

“The region is making exceptional progress and we must ensure this continues and help with our work to tackle homelessness and other important areas of work. The precept will be vital in ensuring we can continue our region’s economic recovery. 

“But I am conscious also that we need quick action to tackle congestion and this is what the majority of the precept will be used for, particularly encouraging cycling and giving commuters a viable alternative to driving.”

After being discussed at next week’s meeting the proposed budget will then go before the WMCA budget scrutiny task group, which will report back to the board on February 9th. The full proposed budget documents can be read here.


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