Thomas Bridge 20 May 2015

Council duo inch closer to joining West Midlands Combined Authority

A pair of councils has moved a step closer to joining the West Midlands Combined Authority, as town halls leap on Osborne’s devolution vows.

Coventry City Council has now voted to support joining Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Dudley in principle, while the leader of Solihull Council, Bob Sleigh, has revealed he is supportive of the town hall uniting with neighbouring authorities.

The news comes after chancellor George Osborne announced he would be implementing a Cities Devolution Bill in the upcoming Queen’s Speech that will support regions to ‘take greater control and responsibility over all the key things that make a city work’ and introduce a local mayor.

While councils have been in the process of developing joint working commitments for the West Midlands since December last year, the region is currently the only major urban location in the country without a combined authority.

Coventry City Council leader, Cllr Ann Lucas, who has long maintained her town hall would lose no power by entering the West Midlands Combined Authority, said the deal would mean ‘power moving from Whitehall to the West Midlands – not from Coventry to Birmingham’.

She added that the Government and local government secretary Greg Clark were ‘clear that devolution is a priority’.

‘If we’re not part of a combined authority we won’t get the extra funding we need to continue to develop the economic growth and success we’ve delivered locally over the past few years,’ Cllr Lucas said.

‘I think that councils across the West Midlands working together to make decisions about major investment in things like transport can make much better decisions for Coventry than government officials in London can.’

Solihull leader Cllr Sleigh said the full council would be debating joining the combined authority on 14 July.

‘Having signalled my intention to support in principle, it’s down to us the politicians and stakeholders, including Solihull’s businesses and educationalists, to now prove the case that working together we can achieve acceleration in our economy. And sooner, rather than later, present a compelling case for regional devolution in the West Midlands to Government,’ Cllr Sleigh said.

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