The West of England Combined Authority was formed in 2017, following a successful campaign by the West of England. Initial financial benefits were part of a devolution deal bringing £900m of new investment funding into the region.
In total, £1.2bn of new funding has been secured for our region, because we have a Combined Authority.
Operating a Combined Authority incurs no additional costs to our constituent councils, as we are entirely funded through government grants and a small element of regional business rates retention growth (which would not have been available without the formation of a Combined Authority).
New income attracted through WECA includes:
Investment Fund: £900m
As detailed in the original devolution deal, this brings £30m of new finance per annum to the West of England over a 30-year period (subject to 5-year government gateway reviews). The funding, which must be used to provide additionality, (ie new outcomes), for the region is flexible, in as much as 50% is revenue and 50% capital, allowing for the swift development of feasibility studies and outline business cases.
Transforming Cities Fund: £103m
Initially awarded in late 2018, with a further allocation announced in 2019, £103m capital grant has been allocated for the development and construction of major transport schemes to help influence modal shift and encourage more use of public transport. The money has to be spent by March 2023 and forms part of the four-year WECA Investment Programme of £350m up to that period.
Overall, our four-year programme will invest:
- £115m in transport improvements and infrastructure;
- £114m in housing development and infrastructure;
- £99m in business and skills
- £22m to be allocated for new opportunities, challenges and other costs
Business Rates Retention Pilot: £75m
The government encouraged Combined Authority regions to participate in a pilot for retaining business rates growth locally in advance of an intended roll out of a new national scheme. Only Combined Authorities were considered for the initial pilot which started in 2017/18. The net difference between the current national 50% business rates retention scheme and the 100% retention pilot is worth circa £15m of additional revenue to our region, with 95% of this being retained by our constituent councils. With 2020/21 being the fourth year of the pilot for WECA, we have amassed £60m of new revenue funding which, in many cases, has been used to support essential frontline services in the face of additional budget pressures, (such as social care) and year-on-year budget reductions through austerity.
Adult Education Budget (AEB): £30.6m
With 2020/21 being the second academic year of AEB funding being managed by WECA, this on-going revenue funding of circa £15m per annum enables the West of England to prioritise and allocate adult education funding to the areas of greatest local and regional need (in compliance with our Local Industrial Strategy and Skills Plan). Previously, funding was distributed nationally on an historical basis and, in the short time that we have managed the funding, the provider base has been rationalised from over a hundred to just 30 ensuring that the public sector is working in partnership with local providers in areas that have the greatest impact for our residents.
Future Bright: £4m
This Department for Work and Pensions, (DWP), grant of £4m for the Future Bright project provided free career coaching, training and support to help develop skills and confidence to progress individuals’ careers within the region. WECA has subsequently continued the scheme through approved investment funding.
MetroWest: Department of Transport Grant £32m
In developing, and promoting a regional rail programme, WECA was instrumental, along with North Somerset Council, in influencing the Department of Transport to fund the identified shortfall of £32m as part of the overall £116m rail project for re- connecting Portishead to Bristol.
Future Transport Zones: £24m
WECA has been awarded £24m from the Government’s Future Transport Zone (FTZ) fund to improve the integration of public transport into local communities by trialling innovative new transport technologies.
Emergency Active Travel funding: £3.7m
WECA secured an additional £3.7 million from Government to encourage more cycling and walking in the region. This investment will see new routes for people to walk and cycle safely built rapidly in 2021.
Our constituent councils have already been working with us to plan and implement measures such as widening pavements and installing pop up cycle lanes to help people travel safely, while social distancing is required. Through underwriting the cost of these schemes WECA has enabled councils to act quickly in advance of receiving the Government funding.
Getting Building Fund: £13.7m
We secured £13.7m of capital funding to deliver infrastructure across the West of England to help accelerate economic recovery, which was awarded by Government in July 2020.
The funding, from the Government’s Getting Building Fund to help complete major projects which are planned to stimulate jobs and support the region’s economic recovery.
WECA Finances attracting European Funding: £8.2m
WECA has been proactive in using Investment Funding to attract further investment into the region where match funding is required to support priority bids. Two recent examples are:
- Workforce for the Future – where £4m of Investment Funding has been matched with a £4m contribution from European funds, and
- WE Work for Everyone – where a £1.3m investment fund allocation has levered in £2.2m of European match funding
Capacity Funding: £7m
Alongside attracting four successive years of Mayoral Capacity funding, at £1m per year, WECA has also attracted £3m of Housing Capacity Fund which has been used to finance much-needed support and guidance for developing housing strategy across the region with some financial contributions being allocated directly to our councils.
Various other new grants supporting local businesses: £9.7m
Often through competitive bidding processes, WECA has attracted numerous specific new government grants which are providing vital support to local businesses including:
- South West Local Energy Hub – £4.1m
- Low Carbon Challenge Fund – £2.1m
- Creative Scale Ups – £1.3m
- Growth Hub – £1m
- Careers Hub – £0.4m
- One Public estate – £0.6m
- Supporting Women in Digital – £0.2m