STRATFORD district council has voted to take part in formal discussions with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) shadow board as part of the Government devolution process.
At a full council meeting on Tuesday (September 1) the council agreed for its leader, Councillor Chris Saint, to sit as an observer on the newly formed shadow board of the authority, to be in a position to influence decisions and provide the best deal for South Warwickshire.
The WMCA has already made overtures to both Redditch and Bromsgrove councils to join it, either as full members – which would mean a break with Worcestershire Council Council – or as associate members which wouldn’t bring full voting rights.
Coun Saint said: “It is important to have these discussions round the same table as potential partners in the Government’s devolution programme. There are so many unknowns that it is better to work from within.
“The decision taken today means that the district council will be able to play an active part in the devolution process currently under development. This will enable us to decide what the benefits to businesses and residents of Stratford District might be by joining a combined authority and taking part in any devolution deal, when the final details are clear.
“At the same time the Council has agreed to appraise alternatives with other local authorities that reflect the district’s rural and small town heritage. This provides greater flexibility to work with partners over where Central Government money is spent. A significant benefit could attract further funding from government, meaning we can strengthen our working relationships with local, private and public sector bodies, while leaving us to run our traditional local services.
“We have always been a big believer in partnership working and where you cannot do things on your own, joining a partnership gives you greater resilience, greater freedom and greater spending powers allowing us to make sure our District benefits as much as possible.”
The current timeline indicates a new Combined Authority working fully from April 2016.