The Black Country is comprised of the four local authority areas of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton and sits in the heart of the West Midlands. It is home to over a million people and over 430,000 jobs; generating £17.2bn gross value added (GVA) per annum. The functional economic area of the Black Country is a key national manufacturing centre. These companies take advantage of the excellent links to motorway, rail and air transport within easy access of the Black Country, enabling local enterprises to expand into national and international markets.
Black Country businesses, local authorities (through the Association of Black Country Authorities (ABCA) and public sector partners have collaborated for over a decade to lead the growth of the local economy and have a well established vision for future growth. The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has identified the high value manufacturing sector as a key sector for growth which will act as a stimulus for further growth across the wider economy. The sector currently employs 90,000 people and generates £5.4 billion of GVA for the UK economy.
Following a successful application to Government, the Black Country sub-region achieved a Black Country City Deal in February 2014 under which certain powers are devolved from Central Government to local authorities to increase economic growth.
ABCA at its meeting on 17 April 2013 agreed that a Black Country Executive Joint Committee would be set up to be the lead decision making forum for the Black Country City Deal and Growth Deal.
Black Country City Deal
At the heart of the Black Country City Deal is an ambition to maximise the growth of high value manufacturing by opening up key supply chain manufacturing sites across the Black Country.
To deliver this flagship proposal City Deal partners will:
Create the Black Country Investment Fund to stimulate the local commercial land market through the provision of finance to developers of key industrial sites. This fund will be created through the agreement of a £20m Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) project rate loan facility, with agreed flexibilities, and an investment of £10m from the four Black Country Local Authorities.
The Black Country Investment Fund (BCIF) will be complemented by skills, business support and welfare dependency reduction proposals. These proposals are designed to support high value manufacturers through increasing the supply of skilled young people taking up careers in engineering, improve the support to local businesses and encourage local unemployed people to move into manufacturing employment.
To deliver this City Deal partners will:
Agree to deliver at least 1,500 additional high value manufacturing apprenticeships over five years. Local partners will work to increase the number of young people taking up apprenticeships in key engineering skills and support businesses to employ apprentices.
Create a Black Country business support programme that will:
- improve co-ordination of business support services across the Black Country
- increase access and take up of national business support programmes
- provide bespoke support to local businesses and act as a focal point for inward investment
- Set up a demonstration project to reduce welfare dependency and increase employment in two areas of high unemployment
This project learns from successful programmes in the USA and aligns with the Troubled Families and Help to Work programmes. It contains three core areas of work which will include intensive employment support services and repayable financial incentives to overcome costs associated with starting work.
Membership and Governance
The membership of the Black Country Executive Joint Committee will comprise the Leaders of the four Black Country Councils (voting members) together with the Chair of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (non-voting member).
The Black Country Executive Joint Committee will also have an Advisory Board which forms part of the recommendation and decision-making process. The Advisory Board will comprise of each Cabinet member for regeneration of the four Black Country local authorities (voting members), four business community representatives of the Black Country LEP (voting members), the Executive Directors with responsibility for Regeneration of the four Black Country local authorities (non-voting), a Black Country Consortium Ltd representative (non-voting), the Programme Manager (non-voting), such government department representatives as the Advisory Board agrees to (non-voting), and any other persons or bodies (non-voting) as the Advisory Board feel will assist in its decision-making.
Walsall Council acts as Secretary to the Black Country Executive Joint Committee.