Black Country councils have succeeded in their bid to create a local enterprise partnership to support industry.
Authorities in Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall have received government backing for their plans to set up a partnership which will work closely with local employers.
New local enterprise partnerships were also approved in Worcestershire, and in Norfolk and Suffolk, where the body will be known as the “New Anglia” partnership.
They will be able to bid for funding including a share of the £1.4 billion regional growth fund, set up by the government.
Black Country councils turned down offers to join an LEP in partnership with Birmingham and Solihull.
Business Secretary Vince Cable announced in October that a previous bid had not been approved. Officials said this was partly due to concern that it did not have sufficient backing from industry.
But a revised proposal was endorsed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Stewart Towe, Group Managing Director of Hadley Group and Chairman of the Black Country Shadow LEP Board welcomed the announcement and said: “This is great news for the Black Country. Since Vince Cable’s announcement in October we have had positive and constructive meetings with ministers and civil servants.
“These discussions and the work that has gone with them have been really useful in helping us to clarify what we all want to achieve through the LEP and confirmed the support that exists in the Black Country for the Partnership.
“The Board has already started work and has set out its priorities for the months ahead based on an earlier business engagement event. This announcement means that we can press ahead with renewed vigour.”
The Shadow LEP Board has agreed that its main areas of work will be planning, transport, gaining access to investment, business support, developing skills, international trade and boosting the region’s image.
Dr Cable said: “I am pleased that we are able to ask another three local enterprise partnerships to appoint their boards. The partnerships have an important role to play in driving local economic growth and creating a strong environment for business.”
Black Country MP James Morris (Con Halesowen & Rowley Regis) welcomed the announcement.
He siid: “There are considerable challenges in relation to skills, competitiveness and infrastructure in the Black Country. This includes insufficient skill levels across the region and a lack in growth of private sector jobs.
“Over the last ten years we have seen a 6 per cent decline in private sector jobs across the region compared to 3.4 per cent growth nationally. The Black Country has a longstanding cultural and industrial heritage, which is why it is vital that it has its own LEP to direct funding appropriately.
“To be successful the LEP needs to focus with laser like precision on the underlying issues of skills, jobs, competitiveness and infrastructure.
"The Black Country currently has dominance in sectors such as transport technologies, construction, advanced manufacturing and engineering, and this is where future jobs growth will come from.”