Combined authorities play a key role in the devolution of funding, powers and responsibility for public policy in key areas such as transport, economic development, housing, skills, health and social care to sub-national partners and local authorities. Since 2015 there has been a ‘bottom up’ drive by authorities in the West Midlands to work more closely together to support common strategic aims across the functional economic geographies of the region. The election of Andy Street as the first Mayor of the West Midlands in May 2017 was an important milestone reflecting the aspiration for further devolved funding and powers to be granted, whilst committing to increased accountability provided by the Mayor.
Building on the extensive preparatory work ahead of the West Midland’s first mayoral election, including work on plans and strategies with a strong economic focus, the Mayor has made significant progress in the last two years in implementing new programmes and raising the profile of the region, both nationally and internationally. However, to successfully deliver on identified priorities, or indeed wider ambitions for the area, without straying beyond statutory powers and functions, may require new partnerships, additional sources of funding and further devolution discussions.