Birmingham should be given more regional autonomy so it can compete on the international stage, according to one of the region’s business leaders.
Mike Steventon, senior partner of KPMG in Birmingham is calling for the Chancellor, George Osborne, to deliver greater powers for Birmingham in his Autumn Statement.
Mr Steventon believes Birmingham is being hampered from punching its weight in the global marketplace and says it had fallen behind cities such as Munich which is of similar size.
He added that while initiatives such as the Local Enterprise Partnerships and City Deals had advanced the cause of regional autonomy they were not enough.
“There has been much rhetoric about the need for regional economies to be allowed to thrive and this has been initiated with the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships and City Deals,” he said.
“However, while this indicates a step in the direction of local empowerment, it is nowhere near enough to deliver the returns we all want. And it is here, that I would like the Chancellor to turn his attention on December 5.
“We need to see more powers than those that sit within the City Deals. Local leadership is paramount to responding to the opportunities that globalism presents. Making sure we have the right skills, the right infrastructure and the right businesses to attract investment, as well as exploiting all export opportunities, can only really be achieved by those operating within the market on a daily basis.”
Mr Steventon said comparisons to Munich were apt for Birmingham but that its German equivalent (the cities both have a population of around one million), Munich was several steps ahead of the UK’s Second City when it came to maximising opportunities globally.
“This approach is tried and tested and has delivered results for other globally competitive countries,” he added. “Germany is one such example.
"If you compare Munich with Birmingham, it is clear to see the benefit of offering city regions independence in controlling their own investment decisions.”
Mr Steventon said comparing the Bavarian regional capital’s airport with Birmingham Airport demonstrated the differences.
“Looking at Munich Airport and comparing this with Birmingham Airport, it is clear to see how local empowerment can exploit potential,” he said.
“Munich currently has an annual passenger though put of 38 million passengers compared to Birmingham’s nine million. Both airports have a theoretical passenger through put of 70 million passengers per annum.
“Additionally Munich has 30,000 direct jobs linked to the airport, compared to 7,000 in Birmingham.”
Emphasising the case for empowering cities like Birmingham in order to shape their own destiny and compete globally Mr Steventon said: “Having the ability to make fundamental decisions about major investments within our local economy is at the heart of creating prosperity as opposed to seeing plans get caught up in a net of well-intentioned, but red tape heavy, processes.
“Birmingham and the wider region has done a great job in competing on a global basis, but there is so much more we can do and offer. Local empowerment will be a game changer in allowing this to happen.
“Let’s hope Mr Osborne will give us something to be cheerful about.”