Birmingham: a city that works for all of us

Birmingham City Council’s three political leaders (Cllr John Clancy, Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Jon Hunt) have signed-up to the following shared vision for the city.

We are proud to serve the people of Birmingham. This is a welcoming city with an historic past and, more importantly, an exciting and influential future.  A place where future success for the city means opportunity for all.

As the most youthful city in Europe, supporting young people to realise their potential is paramount – enabling Birmingham to be a great place for children to grow up and learn in, for adults and families to thrive in and, as we mature, to grow old in.

Working together, we must strive for a city that offers a good quality of life to everybody – a city where your postcode or background does not determine your ambitions and achievements.

The council’s role is to lead with others.  Our shared purpose is to improve people’s lives, working with partners from across this great city – pulling together, with leaders across Birmingham and the West Midlands, to ensure citizens have services they deserve.

Our collective efforts must put people first; responding to their needs. We must invest in communities, creating opportunities for people to achieve their aspirations and give everyone neighbourhoods and a city to be proud of.

We will strive to make this vision a reality and look forward to working with the many who share these ambitions.

Larger Birmingham Airport integrated with HS2 could give ‘supersonic boost’ to economy


Birmingham City Council leader John Clancy, responding to the announcement by the Government about a third runway for Heathrow Airport, puts the case for making more of Birmingham Airport:

  • While around 11 million people currently use Birmingham Airport, the facilities in place will reach capacity before the HS2 station arrives in 2026. Building new terminal facilities integrated with the HS2 station would connect the centre of the country to the world, and also open the opportunity to create a larger airport in the future.
  •  With HS2, the Airport’s catchment area will be dramatically enlarged into London, giving it an increasingly national role. Travel time between London Euston and Birmingham International station is currently 70 minutes and will be reduced to around 40 minutes from 2026 with the arrival of HS2. This compares very favourably to the current travel time from London Euston to London Heathrow.
  • In 2014, the Airport delivered approximately £1.1 billion to the regional economy and £1.7 billion to the national economy, and supported around 40,000 jobs. This will have only increased as passenger numbers have risen.
  • Doubling the number of flights and passenger through-put at Birmingham could add 31,000 jobs on site and boost catchment area employment by 243,000 jobs, according to the West Midlands Economic Forum.
  • Redeveloping Birmingham Airport is a key element of the Strategic Economic Plans of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Black Country and Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnerships.
  • Birmingham Airport has huge potential and the ability to open up access to key international markets for thousands of the region’s businesses, and will be significantly bolstered by HS2 bringing 35 million people within two hours’ travel.
  • The economic catchment area of Birmingham Airport encompasses some 14 million people, providing close to £263 billion of national GVA and has the largest share of manufacturing activity in the UK. With 15,000 exporters it is one of the largest concentrations of exporters nationally typically supplying high-value added products, most notably vehicles, transport machinery and component parts around the world.
  • Growth prospects in the UK and across the EU are challenging, but growth in other regions of the world continues to accelerate. Improved global access to these markets would stimulate demand for the high-value added products the Greater Birmingham area produces.
  • Failure to improve the reach of Birmingham Airport will enable economic rivals to gain an advantage and stunt UK export performance, especially when there is a need to access growth markets now – China alone has added 70 new airports in the past five years.

Birmingham City Council leader John Clancy said:

“Significant redevelopment of Birmingham Airport simply has to happen for Birmingham and the West Midlands to achieve its goal of delivering inclusive economic growth across the region – that is jobs and homes for all citizens.

“Our airport is already one of our key anchor economic institutions with a catchment area that is home to the largest share of manufacturing activity anywhere in the UK, with 15,000 firms exporting their goods across the world from Birmingham.

“But we have to and can do much more to grow our airport and deliver a game-changing boost to the Birmingham and West Midlands’ economy. We are at cruising speed now, but nothing less than a supersonic jobs and wealth boost will do for this region.

“The government has made a decision on resolving congestion at London’s airports. As a region, we must now develop our own plans for Birmingham Airport and HS2, to connect the West Midlands to global opportunities.

“In ten years’ time, Birmingham is going to be the first and only UK airport with a high speed train service on the doorstep, and travel times linking Birmingham and London will be around 40 minutes.

“Our airport connects 11 million people a year to the UK and the world and, when HS2 arrives, we will play an increasing national role. We are working together as a region on an ambitious plan to maximise the benefits of HS2, and ensure our airport can respond to the growing demand it is experiencing today and the extra demand high speed rail will bring.

“We are developing an exciting vision for the UK’s first fully integrated transport hub at the HS2 station, with travel options, architecture and ambition that eclipses anything else in Europe.

“A bigger, better airport will help Birmingham and the West Midlands to get its advanced manufacturing products across the globe in a post-Brexit world. It will help us expand the importance of life sciences and bring new capital to invest in Birmingham. Crucially, it will make it easier for international companies and wealth producers to do business in the West Midlands.

“On its own, a major redevelopment of Birmingham Airport is a huge infrastructure project creating many new high-quality skilled jobs. But we cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that If Birmingham Airport’s infrastructure allowed, it could be serving around 55 million passengers per year by 2050, providing an enormous boost to the economy, many times more than the £1.7bn a year it delivers today. This is an opportunity that our region cannot afford to turn down.

“That is a goal that must be delivered if we are serious about growing the West Midlands economy and creating jobs.”

Brummienomics – your time has come

Sunday Telegraph Oct 9 2016

I have been arguing in articles, books and blogs for years now that we need to be much more innovative and creative about our assets in Birmingham and the West Midlands. They are mostly un-mined, unexploited and unsweated. They sit as a locked network of resources which should now be fully accessed and harvested.

I’ve suggested a way of linking investment directly to positive assets in the city: housing, other infrastructure, and long-term venture capital investment in our own people in small and medium-sized businesses across the city – a 40-ward investment strategy. An access-all-areas investment, not just for big commerce in the city centre but across all of our local centres delivering an inclusive economy that works for all. In particular, I have suggested rewiring pension fund investment into these bonds.

So you’ll forgive me if reports in today’s Sunday Telegraph seem a little familiar.

It appears that: Radical pension reforms are being prepared by the Government to help millions of savers get better returns, including schemes to get pension funds investing in building projects.

Not only that, but: No 10 is looking at whether cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Coventry can be allowed to raise their own bonds, with the proceeds spent on local infrastructure. One idea being considered is to give cities and city regions powers to create “city bonds”, raising up to £1 billion that would be underwritten by the Treasury.

A government source said: “Pension funds need to invest their money; they don’t want it sitting in cash or government bonds. If you can put it into something that can get them a decent return, that is far better.”

The Telegraph article even mentions the Social Impact Bonds I’ve been pushing for the last five years; and we already do them here!

This stuff certainly rings a bell.

Could it be that these central planks of ‘Brummienomics’ are starting to resonate in Whitehall? I really hope so.

My argument is that we need to use the great assets in the region to back up a much wider regional wealth fund over which we have control and which we do not have to go cap in hand to London for.

And this is not about borrowing to spend. It’s about rewiring and using out assets cleverly to make sure we use our wealth in our cities and regions to supercharge investment.

There seems to be three corners of this dynamic West Midlands triangle of wealth.

  • First, there is the vast amount of publicly-owned assets across the full range of public bodies across the region. Councils, certainly, but also land and physical assets in the ownership of other public agencies in sectors such as health, environment, education, law and order, highways and (importantly for them) the arts. Third sector and charity assets can fall within this side of the triangle too.
    Birmingham City Council alone owns more than £5 billion in assets. The land and property owned (excluding council houses, heritage assets and community assets) stands at about £2.5 billion.
  • Secondly, there are the mighty regional pension funds – most importantly of all the West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund.
    At well over £12 billion in invested assets, it is without doubt the major financial anchor institution of the entire region. Whilst it obviously has a public sector aspect to it (with council taxpayers and ordinary taxpayers funding it as employers) it is essentially the private wealth of over 275,000 active, retired and ex-local government employees.
  • Thirdly, the wealth of the private sector in the region and whatever further private sector investment from outside the region which can be leveraged into the engine of wealth which the regional fund can become.
    The fund can draw into it such investment which currently goes elsewhere for want of a regional investment vehicle at present or which inevitably finds its way into the London financial, banking and commercial mixer.

This triangle of wealth and opportunity should not be seen as some sideshow in a combined authority: it should be its engine.

It can be a generator of economic activity which can rival any region of its size anywhere. It can be something the region owns and has control over, though the financial instruments, bonds, and economic pathways which it can create. It can generate new investment routes into and within the region. One which some of its citizens can, and must, demand a real say in how it works, especially through the 275,000 pension savers.

So I welcome today’s reports. It is time to be more radical. It is time for cities and city regions to take even more of a leading role in the post-Brexit economy.

This is about getting a massively better return for investors (large, small or individuals) in our cities and especially from pension funds. This is good for ordinary Brummie pensioners in public and private sectors, and ordinary citizens with pensions in cities across the UK.

We’re not asking for powers as such to do this (especially as, to coin a phrase, ‘we’re going to do it anyway!’). We’re already working hard to bring capital into our cities, so just let us be free to do what works.

Somewhat ironically, with the Conservative Party Conference in our city this week, much of the talk has been about Joseph Chamberlain – Birmingham’s local government legend who, according to Churchill, ‘made the weather’.

Chamberlain’s approach was all about confident acts of local economic self-determination and my message in 2016 is very simple: We’re ready to ‘make the weather’ again. We want to control our own destiny and use our own assets to improve the lives and life chances of people across the city.

Cities – especially Birmingham – can lead the way!