West Midlands secures £66m from Government to kick-start COVID-19 economic recovery
Up to an additional £66 million of Government funding has been awarded to the West Midlands in order to kick-start a series of ‘shovel ready’ schemes that can help drive the region’s post-COVID-19 recovery.
The money, from the Government’s Getting Building Fund, is in direct response to a list the region submitted two weeks ago of infrastructure schemes that can be underway within 18 months and get the local economy quickly moving again.
A separate £8m funding pot, which has also been confirmed by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, will be allocated to Warwickshire.
The list put forward by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, the Black Country LEP and the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP covered a wide range of schemes including new railway stations and other transport infrastructure, 5G, digital and technology-based projects, life sciences and urban renewal.
The WMCA will now work with the three LEPs to send a finalised list of schemes back to the Government.
West Midlands economic recovery
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This latest announcement means the West Midlands has now received £150m of Government funding in the space of just three days as we look to re-boot our regional economy from the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Infrastructure investment is going to be key to our economy bouncing back quickly from this crisis, and this new £66m funding means we can now press ahead, and in some cases accelerate, a number of important infrastructure schemes for the region.”
The latest funding comes hot on the heels of the Prime Minister’s ‘New Deal’ announcement in Dudley on Tuesday, which included £84 million for the WMCA to unlock more derelict industrial land for housing.
Last week, the region also submitted to Government a £3.2 billion blueprint to kickstart the West Midlands economy and create long-term prosperity for the region and wider UK.
Cllr Ian Brookfield, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council and WMCA portfolio holder for economy and innovation, said:
“The impact of COVID-19 has been unimaginable and unprecedented. Before the pandemic struck, major regeneration projects were making good progress and we had a strong portfolio of schemes in the pipeline.
“It is critical to the region’s economic recovery that we bolster these projects financially – and get our ‘shovel ready’ schemes moving swiftly.
“This funding will help us to do that, also delivering much-needed jobs and attracting further investment.”
In awarding the funding, the Secretary of State said he was pleased by the number of innovative and deliverable projects put forward by the region.
However, as the Government unveils plans to rebuild the nation, Andrew Huxley, Managing Director of leading West Midlands concrete manufacturer Besblock, has voiced concerns; suggesting stimulating the house building market and getting the country building is vital to keeping the construction industry moving beyond the completion of current projects.
Huxley said he was concerned by new research from property agency Savills and housing charity Shelter, which showed more than 300,000 planned new homes may remain on the drawing board over the next five years, as a result of the pandemic.
“In the weeks after lockdown, building sites began to re-open we saw our orders gradually increase, and our manufacturing levels begin to recover,” he said.
“There are many ongoing projects across the country which were halted by COVID-19 and most of these are back underway again albeit at a reduced rate. This is a heartening start but it needs to continue. There is likely to be a recession across the UK and the Government needs to take urgent steps to ensure that significant house building continues.”
Stalled construction and the impending recession will slash the number of new homes being built, with 85,000 predicted to be lost this financial year, the Savills and Shelters study showed.
“The Government needs to act swiftly to keep house building afloat. These are very challenging times for our industry,” said Andrew.
“It reaches from manufacturers to contractors and builders merchants, there are an awful lot of people reliant on the UK being able to keep building, and I very much hope this is the case.”