CITY leaders in Birmingham are urging Redditch to join them in the creation of a ‘West Midlands powerhouse’ as the government seeks to devolve more powers to the regions.
Birmingham’s opposition Conservatives have backed the bid for a super council to drive jobs, economic growth and transport policy across the region, including Redditch.
They follow the lead set by the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce which last month also urged Redditch and Bromsgrove to join the scheme.
It follows the launch of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) earlier this week which brings together the metropolitan councils of Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry plus the Black Country councils and the three Local Enterprise Partnerships – Greater Birmingham and Solihull – which includes Redditch, Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest – the Black Country and Coventry and Warwickshire.
“This is the future – it’s the way we need to go if we do not want our region to be left behind,” said Councillor Robert Alden, leader of Birmingham’s Conservative group.
“This is not about taking powers away from local authorities like Redditch it’s about making our case for inward investment to the entire region and then devolving skills and money down.”
The issue goes before Redditch borough council’s executive committee on Tuesday (July 14) when councillors will be asked to delegate powers to the council leader Coun Bill Hartnett and chief executive Kevin Dicks to talk to both WMCA and a proposed Worcestershire Combined Authority (WCA).
“We won’t know what’s on offer unless we have a look, although I am mindful that we are in Worcestershire and they are also looking at options,” said Coun Hartnett.
“They are working to an incredibly tight timetable and we’ve got a small window of opportunity as they want this up and running by April next year.”
A further complicaton is that Sajid Javid, MP for Bromsgrove – also in Worcestershire – will be a driving force behind the WMCA.
The combined authorities will offer different levels of membership – full or associate. If Redditch went for full membership with voting rights on WMCA it couldn’t be part of the Worcestershire version while if it was an associate member it could also be part of WCA.