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Reviving the Midlands Engine: The new metro mayor’s vision for growth and regeneration

local government
local politics
the midlands

It really has been an ‘all change please’ couple of months here in the epicentre of the UK. Not only have we seen a change in national government, but we also elected a new regional mayor on 2 May, Labour’s Richard Parker. Today he has set out his intention to revive the Midlands Engine to both business leaders and the prime minister, to lead the region in a period of rapid regeneration and growth. But what does this mean for the UK’s second-largest city against the backdrop of city council bankruptcy declared earlier in the year?  

Today, the Midlands business community was expecting to hear the answer to this question from the man himself at an Insider Media business breakfast, gaining an insight into the man behind his signature heavy-rimmed glasses. But an in-person experience wasn’t to be, as he and the other five metro mayors were called to their first meeting with the new prime minister. But Richard Parker did not disappoint, pre-recording an interview late last night before taking the Midlands agenda to number 10.

Although not live, this on-screen appearance gave the business community the opportunity to hear Richard setting out his vision for growth and regeneration in the region, in the knowledge that he was simultaneously representing the region at Whitehall, showing that it is indeed possible to be in two places at once.

For the most part he set out his priorities in line with his election pledges, citing them as:

  • Bridging the skills and training gap to reduce youth unemployment and stimulate growth;
  • Increasing residential development with a focus on social housing;
  • Getting rid of planning as a barrier to housing growth and in turn growth in the economy;
  • Bringing buses back into public control using a franchising model similar to that in Manchester;
  • Reviving the Midlands Engine brand to strengthen and grow local SMEs at the same time as attracting new businesses into the region;
  • Simplifying the governance at the top of regional administration to streamline processes and fast track both growth and regeneration;
  • Working with his neighbouring regional mayors to call on government to "rebuild trust with inner city communities";
  • And taking a series of options to Westminster which would be heard.


The only ‘new money’ mentioned at this stage was his hope that he would be able to release £200m of West Midlands Combined Authority funding which is currently ringfenced by the former Conservative government. He wants to release these funds to put straight into social housing, creating more than 3,000 homes over the next 18 months.

His vision does feel very different to that of his well-respected predecessor, Andy Street. Andy was a self-acclaimed champion for business, whereas Richard describes himself as a mayor for everyday people and the everyday economy. Both want to see growth, but their regional growth strategies differ enormously in approach. Where Andy followed a truly Conservative trickle-from-the-top model, Richard turns this model on its head, focusing on education, upskilling young unemployed people to fill skills gaps, nurturing and growing regional SMEs, and ridding process of excessive and redundant rules that stimy growth.

How this translates into real growth and regeneration for the region’s business community is still to be seen as he takes his place on the council for nations and regions, which will set the growth targets for the West Midlands.

Whether this is a revitalisation or a complete restart of the Midlands Engine, it’s clear he believes the region holds enough power to drive growth and regeneration. The new government has ditched the use of ‘levelling up’ as it failed to deliver so let us hope that by working together with the other five metro mayors, he keeps the spirit of the ‘levelling up’ philosophy alive. Collectively the six regional mayors hold the power to ensuring that regional growth plays a leading role in our new government’s agenda.