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Minister says Coventry could join Warwickshire combined authority, not Greater Birmingham

Minister says Coventry could join Warwickshire combined authority, not Greater Birmingham

🕔21.May 2015

A local government minister has suggested Coventry might join a combined authority with Warwickshire rather than form a partnership with Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.

Marcus Jones, the Tory MP for Nuneaton, dismissed a suggestion that Coventry and Warwickshire are not large enough to form an effective combined authority, taking control of economic development and transport.

He told the Coventry Telegraph that Communities Secretary Greg Clark would consider an application by Coventry and Warwickshire to form a combined authority, and stressed “nothing has been ruled in, nothing has been ruled out”.

His intervention highlights unease in Warwickshire and Coventry where politicians have expressed concern about being “sucked in” to a Birmingham Black Country and Solihull combined authority in an area with a population of four million.

An announcement is expected imminently of agreement between Birmingham, the Black Country councils and Solihull to move forward with combined authority status. They hope in due course to be awarded the wide ranging devolved powers and budgets given by the Government to Greater Manchester.

Coventry council’s ruling Labour group has voted to join forces with Birmingham, the Black Country and Solihull although it is understood the vote in favour was far from unanimous.

Ann Lucas, the leader of Coventry Council, has said she does not believe a partnership with Warwickshire would be “big enough” to persuade the Government to approve combined authority status.

Mr Jones said this was not the case and confirmed he would visit Coventry to discuss the matter.

As part of his ministerial portfolio Mr Jones is helping to oversee the devolution of powers from London to the regions.

Mr Jones told the Coventry Telegraph:

There is a very flexible approach being offered to areas in terms of the arrangements they want to come to.

Any configuration of authority that people wanted to discuss and come up with would certainly be considered by the secretary of state. It’s not that the government is imposing a situation.

Nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out.

Ultimately it’s for the councillors to make a decision on behalf of the people of Coventry in terms of what they think is best for the future of the city.

He added: “If political leaders don’t think they need a referendum, they have been elected to make decisions on behalf of the electorate.

If people think their views have not been reflected in decisions taken, that will be shown at the ballot box during the next council elections.

Asked about his preference in terms of the shape of any combined authority in the area, Mr Jones, also a former leader of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, said: “Coventry and Warwickshire are very important in the context of each other.”

Two Warwickshire councils have said they are against joining a combined authority that includes Birmingham. Warwick District Council and Warwickshire County Council have said they would prefer an alliance with Coventry – away from Birmingham and the Black Country. North Warwickshire Council is also believed to have doubts about teaming up with Birmingham.

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