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Budget plans reflect Greater Birmingham's ambitions

LEP chairman Steve Hollis says city region's residents need to be inspired but also skilled

We welcome the announcements made in the Budget which reflect the opportunities and challenges we are addressing as recently outlined in our latest Strategic Economic Plan.

The Government's plans to inject funding and support into vocational skills development, local road infrastructure and lifelong learning are vital to unlocking productivity and we will seek to maximise those funds for the benefit of Greater Birmingham.

Continued strong national economic growth is extremely positive.

This is reflected locally with the most recent GVA figures for Greater Birmingham and Solihull showing growth of 4.7 per cent between 2014 and 2015, the strongest of any core city region and ahead of London's 3.2 per cent growth rate.

Key to building on this economic success is increasing skills levels and reducing unemployment.

We want local residents to be inspired and skilled to fill the employment opportunities of the future and continue to develop their skills throughout their careers, thereby driving local productivity and attracting new investment into the city-region.

The Government's announcement of new 'T-level' technical qualifications, with a guaranteed three-month work placement for every student, is aimed at improving the quality of vocational training in colleges and schools and will help us develop a skilled workforce to address the future economic needs of the local and national economy.

Alongside skills, improving connectivity, increasing network resilience and reducing congestion are all critical to addressing productivity.

We will work with our local authority partners to secure a significant share of the £690 million fund aimed at getting local transport networks moving again.

Employment, skills and transport are critical for Greater Birmingham and also for the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Midlands Engine.

We look forward to the launch of the Midlands Engine Strategy this week and hope that it recognises the importance the Midlands plays in driving economic growth across the whole country.

It is positive that further devolution has been secured for London, reinforcing the argument for giving local areas greater control.

In the West Midlands, we will continue to work closely with Government and partners to secure further devolution for the benefit of local residents and to drive greater economic growth.

Steve Hollis is chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership

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