THE WEST Midlands can become the lynchpin for the national economic recovery – claims council leaders who are have agreed a historic deal to create a ‘super authority’ in the region.
Birmingham City Council have made an agreement in principle to join up with Walsall, Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Dudley authorities for the new alliance, which will serve 3.4 million people.
The move will attract hundreds of millions of pounds of investment to create jobs and improve transport links – which according to Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore would form the core of a Midlands powerhouse to compete with city regions around the world.
Solihull and Coventry, as well as a number of the neighbouring councils have been invited to join negotiations with the aim of building a broad and deep coalition for prosperity in the region.
Coun Bob Sleigh, the leader of Solihull Council, said the borough is open to discussion on the issue and he will sign up to the initiative where there are clear benefits to Solihull.
He added: “I welcome the opportunity to begin discussing effective regional collaboration arrangements but at the same time I can reassure Solihull tax-payers and businesses that any agreement will have to benefit both the borough and the region.
“I’m pleased therefore the leaders in Birmingham and The Black Country acknowledge we are not talking about changing how we currently deliver services to our residents. However, the devil will always be in the detail.
“We need to retain our cultural and community identities but join together to create a region that can punch its weight both nationally and internationally.”
Before any decision is made for Solihull to sign on the dotted line Coun Sleigh has made it clear that agreements will be scrutinised by Councillors.
Birmingham and Solihull Chambers of Commerce has welcomed the news about the combined authority.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive has urged Solihull and Coventry Councils to think hard about the contribution they might make to ensuring the most powerful and logical unit possible is created.
He added: “This is the gold standard for local authorities to work together and this coalition will give Government the confidence to devolve more powers and budgets to the West Midlands.
“We are hopefully at the start of a journey towards more fiscal devolution whereby taxes raised locally can be retained locally. Provided business has a say in how this happens we are very much up for this.
“There are many examples of great working partnerships, such as the LEPs bringing business, Local Authorities and education together and Midlands Connect where West and East Midlands are joining together to bring infrastructure projects like HS2 to fruition.”