As a result of devolution, significant powers and funding were transferred to our region through the West of England Combined Authority and the West of England Mayor. These new powers mean action is being taken in the region to address our challenges.
Initial financial benefits were part of a devolution deal agreed in 2017, bringing £900m of new investment funding into the region. Since then over £1.15bn of new funding has been secured for the WECA region, because we have a Combined Authority.
Our Investment Fund
The WECA Investment Fund is invested in regional priority schemes that support our Local Industrial Strategy and Regional Recovery Plan. 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. This is subject to five-year Gateway Reviews by Government, where we have to demonstrate our work adds value to existing programmes and activities (instead of replacing them) and delivers against core regional priorities.
The first Gateway review will be concluded by Government in early 2021 and will unlock the next five years (£150m) of Investment Funding. A report submitted by SQW, who were contracted to undertake Gateway Reviews for all Combined Authorities, is extremely positive about WECA’s progress. We have also created a Locality Complementary Report which provides the wider context for SQW’s independent evaluation of our Investment Fund.
The way in which the Investment Fund operates is set out in the Local Growth Assurance Framework. Funding awards for scheme development or delivery are shown on the project list available via our Investment Fund Programme tracker.
Additional funding secured by WECA
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;
- £119m in housing development and infrastructure;
- £99m in business and skills
- £17m 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
2020/21 is 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.
Other grants: £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
In the interest of openness and transparency in public spending, the Combined Authority have published the grants awarded from the following grant giving Combined Authority Projects: