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The Future of Birmingham

Mark Hempshell reports

The city of Birmingham has changed considerably over the last decade or two. From what was a fairly rundown, post-industrial landscape, a confident modern city emerged. And this could be just the start: A number of major developments are planned here which could potentially make Birmingham a significant global player. So in this report we will look at the city and the prospects for its future.

Politics and governance
City devolution gives a region the power to shape its own future to some extent and in this regard Birmingham seems to be making significant progress. The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has extensive powers over areas such as housing, infrastructure, skills and economic development. Some of its key achievements to date include helping to exceed local housebuilding targets, one of few areas to do so, and securing substantial investment for expansion of the Midland Metro tram system and other public transport improvements.

Having Conservative Andy Street as metro mayor may only help as long as a Conservative government is in power. In a speech at the 2018 Conservative party conference, Street gave a few clues as to where the region’s future might lay: He said that its industrial strengths are vehicle engineering, medicine, science, and creative and media industries. He added that the West Midlands is the only UK region to have a trade surplus with China.

The Midlands Engine, a coalition of councils, combined authorities, local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), universities and businesses, is taking an active role in developing the region. Its Strategic Programme Development Fund and separate Investment Fund are facilitating funding for investment. The organisation has recently launched an ‘Investment Prospectus’, pitching the West Midlands as the UK’s ‘new growth capital’ and offering global companies £10bn of investment projects. It also organises overseas trade visits, including a recent one to China.

The West Midlands Combined Authority’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) is a programme to increase employment, business and productivity in the region. Neil Rami, chief executive at the West Midlands Growth Company, explains how they are aiding its implementation: “The West Midlands Growth Company helps our region to make its mark, nationally and internationally. We aim to promote the West Midlands and its success stories, raising the profile of the area as a leading destination for investment and tourism.

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