Examination of Witness

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:05 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Andy Street:

The answer to the first question, in one word, is yes. Let me explain why, and this is something that Minister O’Brien and I have talked about for probably a decade, since we were both in previous roles. If you look at the economic history of this country and compare it with other, similar countries, we definitely have a weakness in the out of London areas. There is nothing original there; we know that. Of course, part of the answer is to try to address that in what you might call areas of sufficient scale. I think the thing that the combined authorities have done, as you could argue that the more successful and bigger LEPs did as the precursor to it, is begin to think about economic policy at an appropriate spatial level, or what the books would probably call a natural economic area—a travel-to-work area or whatever. That, I honestly think, has been one of our great successes. Transport policies do not stop at the end of Birmingham when it moves into Solihull, as Gill’s market does not stop at the end of Wolverhampton when it moves into Dudley. We have been able to think about these determinants of economic success across the appropriate geographical area. In our case, that is not yet fully complete, and if you look around the country, you see that other combined authorities are more clearly incomplete in that sense. I would argue that they should be encouraged to expand to fill their natural economic areas.

In terms of the advice, I think there is one simple word: you have to make sure that everybody is up for it. I do not believe this should be imposed. I do not think this should be about unwillingness. I do believe there needs to be a sort of buy-in to the core principle that the very first question is that everybody has got to be prepared to compromise and make this work for it to be a success.