Incoming prime minister Liz Truss must “deliver” the “specific help” needed by homes and businesses to tackle the energy price crisis, the Tory mayor of the West Midlands has said.
Andy Street, who backed Ms Truss during the leadership contest, said tax cuts were “right” but “not sufficient” to help, especially the “most hard-pressed”, on the costs of hearing homes and businesses.
Speaking on Tuesday at what will be the site of the Birmingham HS2 Interchange station, opening in 2027, Mr Street also said Ms Truss had made an “utter commitment” to levelling up in the West Midlands, backing rail projects and supporting the building of a gigafactory at Coventry.
Mr Street also said Ms Truss, who did not mention levelling up in her victory speech after winning the Tory party leadership contest on Monday, had made personal guarantees to him about maintaining investment in the West Midlands.
He said the HS2 Interchange station was “evidence of levelling up”, adding “I have her word she is committed to HS2”.
The mayor backed Ms Truss’s premiership bid after spending an hour in private talks with her during the Commonwealth Games, he having “pitched” the Midlands’ needs to both candidates, including leadership rival Rishi Sunak.
He said: “Before I signed up to support her I got her utter commitment to continue levelling-up; the Levelling Up Bill going through (Parliament) and a number of one-off investments in the West Midlands.
“She’s committed to the Midland Rail Hub, the Metro in the Black Country and she is committed to full support for the gigafactory in Coventry.”
“Now I’ve got to make her deliver,” he added.
The mayor said Ms Truss had previously said the Government would “commit to Midland Rail hub in full”, although formal funding still needs to be awarded.
The gigafactory plans, seeing the creation of the country’s biggest such battery plant, are also seen as critical by civic and business leaders to maintaining the region’s and UK’s position as a leading automotive centre.
Mr Street was also asked whether the incoming prime minister’s proposed tax cuts would help residents in the West Midlands: home to the constituency of Birmingham Hodge Hill, which has the highest rate of fuel poverty in the country.
“Particularly for the most hard-pressed.
“Tax cuts will not address that head-on, we have to have specific help for energy bills.
“Tax cuts are still right because it puts further spending power into everybody’s pocket, but it is not sufficient on its own to deal with energy prices.”
Expanding on why he backed Ms Truss, he said: “I also believe in what she calls her plan for growth and we need it in this situation we’re in, to take some risks, frankly, in terms of investment and I do believe she will do that more bravely than Rishi would have done.”
Asked which “risk” projects he wanted to see funded, he replied: “Seeing (HS2) through is critical, the Midland Rail Hub is critical, the Coventry gigafactory is very important, we’ve talked a lot about that, we’re got to get the Government to put the cash on the table then use that to win a private investor.
“The exact words she used around that was putting the full weight of Government behind that.”
He also wanted to see “levelling-up zones” which he called “enterprise zones on steroids”, like the overhaul of Birmingham city centre’s Centenary Square, currently home to the Commonwealth Games bull.
“We’ve probably got the best example in the whole country of using that (enterprise zone money), so we’re pushing for more zones like that, and I want a breakthrough with the new Government on that idea within the next few weeks,” he said.
“She knows how to use the Government process to make stuff happen,” added Mr Street.