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T-10: West Midlands combined authority launch begins

T-10: West Midlands combined authority launch begins

🕔26.Jun 2015

The seven West Midlands metropolitan councils are to embark on a formal consultation and governance review as the first step towards forming a combined authority to run transportation, regeneration and economic development.

The review by Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley councils will consider whether existing governance arrangements for strategic economic development, regeneration and transport are effective or would benefit from changes.

In order to get Government approval for a Greater Manchester-style combined authority the West Midlands councils must demonstrate the plan “reflects the identities and interests of local communities” and will lead to “effective and convenient local government”.

They will have to show that the seven councils can be considered a functional economic market area, which is the Government’s main test for approving combined authority status.

The next steps towards achieving combined authority status are set out in a report to the Birmingham city council cabinet.

The report suggests the West Midlands can only close the gap in economic performance compared to the average for England by forming  a combined authority to draw together strategic work across economic development, transport, employment and skills and to potentially access additional funding from Government.

The document makes it clear that the new authority will include three Local Enterprise Partnerships and could quickly expand beyond the seven West Midlands metropolitan authorities to take in district councils in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

It is important to note that the ambition of the local authorities is to seek, in principle, to establish a combined authority that covers a much larger functioning economic market area co-terminus with the boundaries of the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The arrangement envisaged would be one in which the proposed constituent authorities of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton work in an economic partnership with the three Local Enterprise Partnerships and the District Councils included within the Coventry and Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnerships, all of whom have the preferred option of becoming non-constituent members of this combined authority.

However, the above steps are for a later stage in the process and the purpose of this report, as determined by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, is to progress the governance review relating to the constituent authorities.

The results of the consultation and governance review will be debated at a Birmingham city council meeting in September ahead of a formal submission to the Government to set up a combined authority.

If Government favours a combined authority, Birmingham and the six other West Midlands councils will each hold meetings in April 2016 to formally approve the new arrangements.

Schemes for a combined authority are considered jointly by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Transport.

The statutory tests for the governance review in relation to a potential combined authority are set out in the Local Transport Act 2008 and the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009. The process of the review examines the options available to the West Midlands and evaluates the likely improvement going forward.

The Government will consider the West Midlands submission and conduct its own statutory consultation that mirrors the consultation carried out by the councils, to establish that the proposal has local support and backing. If this is found to be the case, an order will be laid before Parliament for the combined authority to be created.

The seven West Midlands Metropolitan District Councils have already contributed £50,000 each towards the joint appraisal work for a Combined Authority, a total of £350,000. They are proposing to increase this by a further £250,000.

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