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29.10.15

West Midlands Combined Authority sends Whitehall final scheme bid

The shadow West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has submitted its final scheme and governance review to Whitehall, setting out proposals for the membership, geography, powers and executive arrangements of the emerging body.

The governance review, coming almost two months after the body’s £8bn devolution bid submission, focuses on the justification for creating the authority and whether the seven constituent authority areas it comprises – Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton – will benefit from its formation.

In the report, the body argued that the combined authority would be the most appropriate model for the local authorities to act together, especially by building on their good track record of collaboration with local enterprise partnerships (LEPs).

It went on to make its case for a combined authority instead of the status quo or the alternative option of establishing an economic prosperity board, after which it concluded: “The leaders of the seven metropolitan authorities of the West Midlands are all committed to a combined authority for their area.

“They agree that a combined authority collaboration across the much wider and important geography across the three LEPs is crucial and that LEP representation on the board will be key to the area’s success and aligned priorities.

“Additionally, the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority shall be dissolved… and its functions transferred to the combined authority.”

The document will now be reviewed to ensure the proposal meets the statutory tests, after which an order will be created over six weeks. Communities secretary Greg Clark MP’s office at the DCLG will then run an eight-week statutory consultation.

The scheme and governance review will be put up for debate at both houses of Parliament. Once approved, the communities secretary will confirm a formal date of establishment, the earliest of which would be April 2016.

Cllr Bob Sleigh, chair of the WMCA shadow board, said: “This is an exciting time for the West Midlands. Fifteen members are now signed up to the emerging WMCA and are committed to working together to build a stronger economy and better public services with new jobs, better skills, more housing and quicker transport links that will benefit local people and businesses throughout the region.

“We have worked hard to deliver our scheme and governance review to government who will now follow its procedures around review and consultation. This is not a quick process and nor should it be.

“However, it is another important step forward for the combined authority, a step to legitimising us as a governing body.”

As well as the seven constituent areas, the body also encompasses eight non-constituent members including the LEPs for the Black Country, Coventry & Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham & Solihull, as well as the Cannock Chase, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Redditch, Tamworth and Telford and Wrekin councils.

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