Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 15th March 2023.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her detailed intervention and I endorse her comments. She raises a point made by our right hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills about the nuances of the west midlands; that is something I have found in my interactions on the levelling-fund in the context of the towns of Tipton and Wednesbury, which I am discussing today.
We cannot think that the West Midlands Combined Authority area is effectively one socioeconomic area. There are four sub-divisions: the Black Country, Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry, all of which have unique economic and social challenges. Of course, we have seen that in the roll-out of their own levelling-up opportunities in those areas. Indeed, in my conversations with the West Midlands Combined Authority—this is a point I pressed with the Mayor—I said we cannot have a strategy of levelling up in the west midlands based on the idea that if we level up Birmingham, it will spread everywhere else.
There is sometimes a risk in these conversations, and this is another issue my communities in Tipton and Wednesbury face, that people will think, “You can be part of the Greater Birmingham commuter belt zone.” Well, that does not work because, as my hon. Friend Jane Stevenson will know, communities in Wednesfield or Wednesbury could be as far from Birmingham as we are right now.