West Midlands combined authority to be formed

8 Jul 15

The West Midlands’ seven metropolitan councils have set out plans to form a combined authority after months of disputes about which councils should join it.

Other metropolitan regions already have combined authorities in place, but the West Midlands one has been hamstrung by indecision over whether it should cover only Birmingham and the Black Country, the entire metropolitan core or a wider area bounded by the three local enterprise partnerships involved.

The combined authority formed now brings together Birmingham, Dudley, Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, and Wolverhampton councils.

It will seek to work with other councils in the LEP areas concerned – essentially Warwickshire, southern and eastern Staffordshire and northern Worcestershire - which have been invited to join but are yet to do so.

Announcing the plan, Coventry leader Ann Lucas said: “Across the region we face some critical challenges; skills, transport infrastructure, productivity, land use and public service reform. By working together we can move powers from Whitehall to the West Midlands and start building a Midlands engine in the heart of the country.”

Business secretary Sajid Javid welcomed the move. He said: “This is a great opportunity to help increase security and opportunity for working people across the West Midlands, and I look forward to supporting local communities and businesses to help achieve this.”

The combined authority’s plan has identified five priorities for its initial work in developing a regional strategic plan, setting up a collective investment vehicle, improving transport links, creating a regional economic policy and taking over and simplifying skills training programmes.

Collective investment is expected to include a revolving fund, to either deliver schemes that cannot easily attract investment or to accelerate schemes that would otherwise be implemented more slowly.

There will also be three commissions formed to recommend policy on productivity, use of land and improved mental health.

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