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Business leaders get on board ‘visionary’ West Midlands combined authority

Business leaders get on board ‘visionary’ West Midlands combined authority

🕔26.Aug 2015

Business leaders have welcomed the formation of a West Midlands combined authority and say they want to play a leading role in its work.

Chief executives from three chambers of commerce described WMCA as a “visionary” step forward and said the new body would have their full support.

Paul Faulkner, Margaret Corneby and Lousie Bennett, representing Birmingham, the Black Country and Coventry chambers, said WMCA’s relationship with private enterprise would be vital to the combined authority’s success.

At the moment the shadow WMCA board consists of the leaders of the seven metropolitan councils as well as representatives from three Local Enterprise Partnerships. The chamber chief executives said they wanted to be “built into the engagement process”, although the letter did not specify representation at board level.

The letter could signal the start of a new relationship between West Midlands’ councils and the business community. The Government has made it clear that combined authorities wishing to take on full devolved powers to run transportation, economic development, skills and health services, must opt for a metro mayor and demonstrate that they can work closely with the private sector.

WMCA will deliver its plans to Chancellor George Osborne early next month and await an announcement in the November Autumn Statement. It is likely the combined authority will be up and running from April 2016, although probably in a limited form to begin with.

In a letter to Birmingham city council leader Sir Albert Bore, the chief executives said:

The recent growth in our respective LEP areas was private-sector led and it is important that this continues.

Businesses in our regions see this as a tremendous opportunity to put the Black Country, Coventry, Greater Birmingham and Solihull at the heart of an economic revolution so it is important that strong collaboration between the private and public sectors is maintained and built upon.

By working together, we can deliver the jobs and growth that are vital to the economic development of the region.

The combined authority’s success would depend on finding new ways of working between local authorities, the three LEPs and the private sector, the business leaders warned.

The chambers’ intervention was welcomed by Wolverhampton city council leader Roger Lawrence on behalf of WMCA, who said the business community had a role to play.

Cllr Lawrence said the chambers’ support would be “invaluable as we create the combined authority and develop our operating model with LEPs and other key stakeholders”.

Cllr Lawrence added:

Our new working relationship with the LEPs is developing. It will take time and effort by all parties to maximise the power that this partnership will deliver. We are all committed to that goal.

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