Coventry’s council leader has vowed the city will never be run from Birmingham if it joins the West Midlands combined authority.
Councillors will meet on Friday to discuss whether Coventry should unite with Birmingham, Solihull and four other Black Country councils under a West Midlands combined authority. Town hall leaders claim the move could help the region win greater local powers and funding, while becoming a ‘lynchpin for national economic recovery’.
Coventry’s Cllr Ann Lucas has now emphasised to councillors that the city council would not ‘disappear’ or lose local sovereignty if it decides to join the combined authority.
Speaking to a full council meeting, Cllr Lucas promised ‘Coventry will not have a mayor running business for us from the Council House in Birmingham’.
‘I promise you that decisions about Coventry services will continue to be made in Coventry by Coventry councillors,’ she added, ‘And I can promise you that we will not have more councillors or more bureaucracy.’
Both the Government and Labour have voiced their support for the combined authority model, with Greater Manchester receiving significant powers in a devolution package early last month. A deal reached with chancellor George Osborne saw the region handed powers over housing, transport and planning, alongside the opportunity to elect a new mayor for 2017.
Cllr Lucas said combined authorities were ‘about getting decision making and funding away from the bureaucrats in Whitehall and back to local areas who know what’s needed to help their area grow and prosper and for local people to feel the benefits.
‘And it’s about making sure that the rest of the country starts to catch up with London – and getting a fairer share of the investment in transport; infrastructure and business support and funding that London continues to benefit from.’
‘The Midlands cannot be left behind,’ she added.
However, she said joining the West Midlands combined authority would be a ‘complicated’ decision that ‘will not happen overnight’.
‘It is important for Coventry City Council to reach a position where we have established what is most likely to be the best course of action for our city and for local people. With this in mind I believe that we need to have developed a clear view from the council about the likely direction for Coventry in the New Year,’ Cllr Lucas concluded.