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June 10 starting date for West Midlands Combined Authority

June 10 starting date for West Midlands Combined Authority

🕔16.May 2016

The West Midlands Combined Authority is expected to be up and running on June 10.

The date has been pencilled in by the seven metropolitan councils after the Government indicated it was satisfied adequate public consultation had been undertaken and remained “fully committed” to the £8 billion West Midlands devolution deal.

The draft West Midlands Combined Authority Order is before the House of Lords and is on course to be approved early next month.

That will allow WMCA to set up its headquarters at Centro House, Birmingham, former home to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority. The new body will be handed devolved powers to run transportation, economic development and skills, and will be overseen by an elected metro mayor from May 2017.

A report by the Department for Communities and Local Government in response to questions raised about WMCA during a public consultation process rejects claims that the exercise was undemocratic. It also says Coventry city council was within its rights to decide to join the combined authority in the face of public opposition.

The consultation involved writing to 465 stakeholders, establishment of a “query” box on the WMCA website to which local areas responded to the queries directly and a number of formal and informal briefings with the public, business and third sector communities.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has decided no further consultation is needed.

The DCLG report noted:

In making this decision the Secretary of State considered all the relevant factors including the earlier local engagement, how this had shaped the scheme proposals, and the efforts made in the three-week consultation to alert the public to that consultation and allow comments on the proposals.

On this basis he was satisfied that the consultation was sufficient. He recognised that this consultation was conducted on-line, and was aware of the range of media measures used to signpost people to the consultation, including news releases on council websites, regular Tweets and use of other social media platforms, as well as newsletters and digital media of other partners such as the LEPs, local universities and Centro He also noted that there was coverage in local print media and broadcasts.

Mr Clark said he believed the establishment of the WMCA was “likely to improve the exercise of statutory functions in the area, while having regard to the need to reflect the identities and interests of local communities and to secure effective and convenient local government”.

He added that where local councils – the democratically elected representatives of the area – come forward with proposals for a combined authority, where these proposals meet the statutory tests and where the councils themselves have consented to the necessary Order establishing the combined authority he will seek Parliamentary approval.

The DCLG report to the House of Lords highlights concern that WMCA should not be a “super-council” and that the democratic sovereignty of individual councils must be retained.

The report reiterates Mr Clark’s support for metro mayors:

The Government is fully committed to the devolution deal signed with the West Midlands in November 2015, which envisages, subject to the appropriate statutory processes being undertaken and the necessary legislation put in place, a mayoral combined authority – that is a combined authority with a directly elected mayor for the West Midlands acting as chair to the combined authority and exercising certain powers.

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