Levelling Up Fund: Tipton and Wednesbury

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:17 pm on 15th March 2023.

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Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 4:17 pm, 15th March 2023

As my right hon. Friend alluded to, that is outside my portfolio, but I believe passionately in regeneration and the importance of prioritising brownfield land.

The £210 million that we announced at the Budget today is part of a much wider levelling-up package, which will further level up growth across the UK and spread opportunity everywhere. Other key levelling-up announcements include greater responsibility for local leaders to grow their local economies; over £400 million for new levelling-up partnerships for the 20 areas in England most in need of levelling up; a business rate retention expansion to more areas in the next Parliament; trailblazer devolution deals for the west midlands and Greater Manchester combined authorities, which include single multi-year settlements for the next spending review, alongside a commitment to negotiate further devolution deals in England; 12 investment zones across the UK, including in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and £8.8 billion over the next five-year funding period for a second round of the city region sustainable transport settlements.

The Government are investing a lot more funding in West Bromwich, to which my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West alluded, specifically in Tipton and Wednesbury. The Black Country region benefited from over £217 million of local growth funding between 2014 and 2021. A few projects in my hon. Friend’s constituency received direct funding, including the Opus Blueprint project in Wednesbury, which received £2.5 million.

Today, funding was announced for the £20 million Tipton town centre regeneration project, which will be a huge boost to the town. I thank my hon. Friend for his work on that. Meanwhile, West Bromwich, which sits within Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, has received towns fund deals for three towns, totalling £67.5 million—£25 million for West Bromwich, £23.5 million for Smethwick and £19 million for Rowley Regis. Beyond West Bromwich, levelling-up funds have been awarded for towns fund and future high street deals in Dudley, Wolverhampton and Walsall.

We recognise the need to improve connectivity in West Bromwich and the wider Black Country, and the £54 million for the reopening of two train stations at Darlaston and Willenhall will do just that. We have also allocated £25.9 million of capital funding to the West Midlands Combined Authority, including £13.6 million towards the Dudley-Brierley Hill metro extension. We recognise the importance that it will have in enabling faster access to the wider region.

Beyond Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities funds, Historic England has partnered with Sandwell to deliver an up to £3.6 million heritage regeneration scheme in Wednesbury, which will bring funding and opportunities to a large number of local shop owners, organisations and visitors. Today, the Department announced a new partnership programme, which will work with places in England that are in need of levelling up. I am pleased to say that Sandwell is among the places we will work with. That will involve extensive local engagement, data gathering and focus groups to form a picture of a place and its challenges and opportunities. Through that process of engagement and analysis, obstacles to levelling up will be identified. That will be used to develop policy interventions to tackle those obstacles.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills talked about the trailblazer deal, and I want to spend a few moments on that, because I think it is significant. I am delighted to highlight the earlier announcement that the Government and the West Midlands Combined Authority have concluded negotiations on the trailblazer, deeper devolution deal, transferring more control and influence over the levers of economic growth and levelling up. The deal equips the Mayor and the combined authority with additional tools to realise their goal for their residents and businesses, and demonstrates levelling up in action.

For the first time outside of London, decisions about the affordable homes programme will be devolved, boosting housing supply, complemented by the devolution of £150 million for regeneration developments on brownfield land. The commitments in the deal will help to harness the commercial potential of public land in areas such as Tipton, Wednesbury, through to Brierley Hill and across the west midlands. The deal will also support wider levelling up through its business-retention and skills budget agreements.

Before I sum up, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East asked specifically about her proposal for the levelling-up fund round 2. I am afraid that, today, I cannot get into the specifics of individual bids, as she will understand, but I am happy to sit down with her and the relevant Minister.

Taken together, I believe that the policies and the political will are there to make levelling up a reality in every single part of the country, including, clearly, Tipton and Wednesbury. I want to work with Members across this House so that we can continue to press forward with this agenda. That is why I am glad to be the Minister at this debate.

The Government are committed to our levelling-up mission on local leadership, transferring more control and influence over the levers of economic growth and levelling up to local, empowered and accountable leaders, such as our Mayor Andy Street. The WMCA has also committed to greater scrutiny, including scrutiny by residents, by constituent councils, when requested, and by local MPs at regular sessions.

Together, we can transform the fortunes of places such as Tipton and Wednesbury. We can write overlooked towns and cities back into our national story, and we can shape a better, more prosperous future for our constituents across the country. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West for calling this important debate, and for all his work on behalf of his constituency.

Question put and agreed to.