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Economic Development (Birmingham and Lichfield)

Volume 584: debated on Wednesday 9 July 2014

Q14. If he will meet the chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise partnership to discuss economic development in Birmingham and Lichfield district; and if he will make a statement. (904746)

I met the chair of the LEP board on Monday when I hosted a meeting in Birmingham to mark the agreement of the growth deal that will see over £350 million invested in Greater Birmingham and Solihull. The projects in the deal will help to create up to 19,000 jobs, allow up to 6,000 homes to be built and generate up to £110 million from local partners and private investment.

With unemployment at just 1.5% in Lichfield and Burntwood, and down by over 28,000 across the whole LEP region, does that not demonstrate that the LEP model, bolstered by the growth funds awarded on Monday, is working? How does my right hon. Friend plan to build on that success and encourage the most ambitious LEPs, including Greater Birmingham and Solihull, to promote the local economy still further?

As I said at the meeting with the LEP, I think that the growth deal is a very big step forward for Birmingham and the west midlands. It will result in more jobs, more investment and more houses. It will see new railway stations and transport links built. I think that we need to be more ambitious about the money we can find in central Government to support these schemes, but I also hope that local councils, including Birmingham city council, will look at every piece of unused brownfield land and every extra bit of development they can put on the table so that these growth deals get ever more ambitious.

As bribes go, is offering that huge region less than £10 per head just 37 days before the general election not too little, too late?

I think that we can probably tell the difference between a ray of sunshine and the hon. Gentleman on this issue, as on so many others. This is an excellent deal for Birmingham and the west midlands. If he does not think so, he might want to explain why Sir Albert Bore, the Labour leader of Birmingham city council, said:

“This is good news for Birmingham. A number of major projects will now be accelerated. Transport routes across the city will be much improved… And other money will go into site development that will provide much needed jobs in the city.”

I think that the hon. Gentleman needs to spend a little more time with Sir Albert Bore.