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Plan to merge Greater Birmingham and Black Country LEPs revealed

Plan to merge Greater Birmingham and Black Country LEPs revealed

🕔09.Jul 2013

handsHigh-level political discussions aimed at ending a history of bitter rivalry and mutual suspicion by merging the two Local Enterprise Partnerships representing Greater Birmingham and the Black Country are under way.

Proposals to bring together the Greater Birmingham and Solihull and Black Country LEPs are being spearheaded by Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham City Council, who said it was self-defeating for the two organisations to exist separately.

The move, if it comes off, would create the country’s largest economic partnership between the public and private sector covering a population of about three million and with a GVA of more than £50 billion.

It would also re-open the city region debate by creating a level of governance not seen since the disappearance of the former West Midlands County Council in 1986, paving the way for the super-LEP to take charge of economic, transport, planning and housing strategy.

GBSLEP was devised by Birmingham council’s former Tory-Liberal Democrat administration, whose leaders openly admitted that the structure was something of a compromise.

An initial plan for a LEP encompassing Birmingham and the entire West Midlands including the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire fell apart because council leaders could not agree.

As so often in the past, Birmingham’s dominance, both politically and economically, proved to be a stumbling block with the other councils fearing that a West Midlands LEP would become the personal fiefdom of Britain’s second largest city.

When GBSLEP was finally approved by the government it boasted an odd mix of urban and rural local authorities in the shape of Birmingham, Solihull, Tamworth, Lichfield, East Staffordshire, Cannock Chase, Bromsgrove, Redditch and Wyre Forest. It is chaired by the high-profile John Lewis chief executive Andy Street.

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