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Economy/Public Services (Staffordshire)

Volume 619: debated on Wednesday 11 January 2017

Q5. What recent assessment she has made of the (a) performance of the economy and (b) adequacy of provision of public services in Staffordshire; and if she will make a statement. (908084)

The fundamentals of the UK’s economy are strong, including in Staffordshire and the west midlands. Employment in Staffordshire has risen by over 20,000 since 2010. We have protected schools and police budgets. We see more doctors and more nurses in the Burton hospitals trust. Of course, we are going further than this in the west midlands by giving new powers to the west midlands with the devolution deal and with the election of a directly elected Mayor. I have to say that I think Andy Street, with his business and local experience, would be a very good Mayor for the west midlands.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for that answer. Unemployment in my constituency—my beautiful Lichfield constituency—is around 0.7%, and that is fantastic, but I want it even lower. I found out that 24% of my constituents work in the area of the West Midlands Combined Authority, so can I press my right hon. Friend just a little further about what she thinks is needed in the West Midlands Combined Authority to improve employment still more?

I thank my hon. Friend, and, of course, I have had the advantage of having visited his beautiful constituency. But in relation to the midlands, we have a very strong ambition to make the midlands an engine for growth in the UK. That is why we have plans for the midlands engine that demonstrate that, when we say we are going to build an economy that works for everyone, we actually mean it. In the autumn statement, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor confirmed things such as the £5 million for a Birmingham rail hub and a £250 million midlands engine investment fund, and we will shortly be publishing a strategy for the midlands engine. But I repeat the point that I made: for the west midlands, having the devolution deal, having the Mayor and having the right person elected as Mayor, who I think will be Andy Street, is absolutely crucial.