Thomas Bridge 13 August 2015

West Midlands warned it has been ‘outmanoeuvred’ by Greater Manchester

The West Midlands has been ‘outmanoeuvred’ on devolution by Greater Manchester in the national push for a Northern Powerhouse, according to Birmingham’s former council leader.

Lord Whitby, who helmed the city for eight years, said the Government’s current backing for the ‘Northern hub’ should concern Birmingham.

His comments came ahead of a meeting of West Midlands leaders to resolve the issue of whether the hub will adopt a metro mayor, a key requirement for devolution deals outlined by chancellor George Osborne.

Adopting a metro mayor for the metropolitan area but not the space covered by the three Local Enterprise Partnerships is understood to be the preferred option.

However Lord Whitby told the Birmingham Post the northern hub appeared to be ‘the only agenda in town’ and urged Birmingham to examine ‘why we allowed that to happen’. He highlighted the findings of Bob Kerslake’s damning report into the city’s ability to deliver services, which he warned had given the authority a bad reputation.

A decision by local leaders to not include the name of Birmingham in their proposed West Midlands Combined Authority was ‘a missed opportunity’, according to Lord Whitby, and showed ‘a lack of confidence in the current establishment within the region’.

He said the decision was ‘a resurrection of all the parochial folly’ and had left central government decision makers ‘laughing their socks off’.

Town halls now have just over three weeks until the deadline for submitting plans for devolution deals to the Government.

Lord Whitby said: ‘The Northern hub and everything else - they've outmanoeuvred us.

‘It's sad the position we had gained as the area that is about to open up New Street station, will have two high-speed stations, the extended airport runway, HSBC bringing all those people here - all of this was to place Birmingham at the heart of our region and then share the largess.

‘I am passionate about Birmingham. I am saddened by the demise of the power of its brand.’

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