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‘I’ll fight tooth and nail to stop Birmingham takeover of Solihull’, vows Tory election candidate

‘I’ll fight tooth and nail to stop Birmingham takeover of Solihull’, vows Tory election candidate

🕔07.Nov 2014

Tensions in Solihull over plans to form a Greater Birmingham combined authority have been heightened by the borough’s prospective Tory parliamentary candidate who has pledged to “fight tooth and nail” to prevent the town from being “sucked into a Labour controlled Birmingham”.

Julian Knight said he was launching a campaign to “stop Solihull being subsumed into this ill-conceived Greater Birmingham authority” and if elected would “oppose absolutely” any suggestion that the borough should throw its lot in with the rest of the West Midlands.

His comments go some way to explaining Solihull Council’s reluctance to join Birmingham and the four Black Country councils who have announced an agreement to move towards combined authority status.

The Birmingham and Black Country leaders said they hoped and believed Solihull would eventually come on board and join the new authority which will benefit from devolved powers and budgets over transportation and economic development worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

But the Tory leader of Solihull Council, Cllr Bob Sleigh, is taking a cautious approach.

Cllr Sleigh said: “We are open to discussions around better regional cooperation as we recognise in a global economy the region must punch its weight.  However, any new arrangements must benefit both the people I serve in Solihull as well as the regional partners.”

Mr Knight used his website to launch an outspoken attack against the planned combined authority.

He said: “Solihull is one of the best run councils in the country and has managed to oversee a freezing of the council tax for the past four years.  In addition, our town has above average incomes and levels of employment and business success. We are a success story and you should never change a winning team. “

“Therefore I oppose absolutely any move to merge Solihull with any proposed Greater Birmingham authority.   We want to be in charge of our own affairs rather than be sucked into a Labour controlled Birmingham which frankly doesn’t work as well as Solihull.

“If the rest of the West Midlands wants this then fine, but if have a simple message for them and Whitehall – hands off our Solihull.”

Mr Knight’s ‘Hands off our Solihull’ campaign will raise a petition to oppose the new authority.

Birmingham city council chief executive Mark Rogers, who was formerly chief executive at Solihull Council, said he was “hopeful” that Solihull would come on board.

Mr Rogers told Local Government Chronicle: “Solihull needs to reassure itself that the functions and governance of a combined authority won’t give it cause for concern around issues like housing. I’m really hopeful they’ll overcome their anxieties about this.”

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