Mark Whitehead 17 September 2015

Poor leadership could delay West Midlands devo deal, minister warns

A devolution deal for the West Midlands could be delayed because of poor leadership at one of the main councils involved, local government minister Greg Clark has warned.

He told MPs that Birmingham City Council’s leaders had been too slow to make improvements to the authority and the Government would consider taking it over if they did not act fast.

The West Midlands Combined Authority comprising Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton, has submitted a bid to the Government for a devolution package giving them control of £8 billion for transport, skills and growth.

Asked if the lack of improvement made the deal impossible, Mr Clark (pictured) said: ‘The leadership has not been as fleet of foot as I think is needed for the scale of the opportunity, not just for the city of Birmingham but for the West Midlands.’

Asked whether the local authority could be taken over by the Government, Mr Clark told the communities and local government select committee: There are a number of options available.’

In a highly critical report last year former top civil servant Bob Kerslake warned that the council was failing to deliver basic services such as street cleaning and bin collection well enough.

A panel set up by the Government to report on how the authority was improving warned in July that poor leadership was one of the reasons it was failing to solve its problems quickly.

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