Aimed at closing the gap between London and the rest of the country, the commitments made by the Chancellor include £392m for Local Enterprise Partnerships in the region, money that will be used to improve transport, increase house building, invest in skills development and improve digital connectivity – all key factors in driving up productivity.
A further £5m of development funding will go towards the Midlands Rail Hub, a project led by Midlands Connect to address issues with bottlenecks around Birmingham and improve services between key cities in the region, such as Nottingham, Stoke, Worcester, Wolverhampton, Derby and Leicester. The proposed programme of upgrades could mean an additional ten trains per hour into and out of Birmingham. Infrastructure and connectivity are key factors in attracting potential investors, so the planned improvements to the transport network are likely to give business in the region a substantial boost.
Mr Hammond also confirmed that the Midlands Engine is very much on the government’s agenda by announcing that a detailed strategy document will be published ‘shortly’, and that the first sums will be paid into its investment fund by the British Business Bank in 2017.
Another announcement likely to please business leaders nationally and locally is the government’s continued commitment to cut in corporation tax from 20 per cent to 17 per cent by 2020. This will allow firms to unlock capital and invest more in other areas of their businesses, such as exporting, new technologies, training and recruitment.
The Chancellor also confirmed that the government will continue to work towards a second devolution deal with the West Midlands Combined Authority, following on from the historic deal made in November 2015 which included the appointment of a metro-mayor in 2017 and £1bn of government investment. The next stage will include increased borrowing powers for combined authorities led by regional mayors, enabling local government to affect real change by targeting investment where it’s most needed.
Overall, the Autumn Statement was received positively by many business leaders in the West Midlands, hopeful that the commitments outlined by the Chancellor will ensure the local economy continues to develop competitively and confidently over the next few years. Do you agree? Join our conversation on LinkedIn to share your views on the government’s plans for business and investment.