Midlands engine trouble: The challenges facing the West Midlands Combined Authority

In May 2017, residents of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will go to the polls to elect its first ‘Metro Mayor’. The WMCA – comprising Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils – is also at the heart of the government’s wider ‘Midlands Engine’, which aims to boost the economy of this area.

The new focus is much needed, with evidence suggesting that this part of the Engine is spluttering at the moment. On a range of indicators – growth, pay and income – the West Midlands ranks not just below the UK average, but also below most other city regions. The real black mark on the WMCA’s living standards scorecard however was, and continues to be, employment.