Mayoral powers to be debated at Solihull Council

A meeting of Solihull Council will be considering a report on the Draft Mayoral Functions Scheme for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) on Thursday 26 May, 6pm.

The Council will examine the WMCA Governance Review, which details how the Mayor and WMCA will be governed.  The review explains the democratic arrangements which underpin the Draft Mayoral Functions Scheme, which the seven constituent WMCA councils are being asked to approve before a public consultation on the scheme in June and July.

The scheme envisages the Mayor chairing a WMCA board which is made up of the leaders of the seven constituent councils.

An elected Mayor is a condition of this first Devolution Agreement, which will bring £36.5m of extra investment per annum over the next 30 years, alongside devolved powers from Westminster.  These include improving transport connectivity, investment into infrastructure and a regional review of skills provision and employment support to ensure local people can make the most of the job opportunities that will come from this investment.

A Mayor will control the five year transport budget; be responsible for a key route network (integrated transport offer across trains and buses); have finance responsibilities, alongside being able to raise a mayoral precept and a business rate supplement (although these will need LEP and council leaders’ approval).

A WMCA Mayor will have other responsibilities around training for work, the HS2 Growth Strategy and initiatives aimed at driving up productivity and economic growth, although any decisions would require majority approval of the WMCA board and will be subject to local democratic scrutiny.

A consultation regarding the proposals in the Draft Mayoral Function Scheme is required under legislation by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.  This two month consultation is expected to begin at the end of June, with an election for the mayor on 4 May 2017.

Councillor Bob Sleigh, Leader of Solihull Council, said:

“We have worked long and hard across the West Midlands to establish the WMCA. We have shown government we can work together effectively. This is why we have been able negotiate a devolution agreement that brings an extra £36.5 million a year to the region over the next 30 years – altogether an £8 billion investment package.

“As PwC and Grant Thornton recently reported, the WMCA and our devolution agreement with government has ‘provided councils with the ability to go further and faster in exploiting the economic potential of the area’, which meets Solihull’s economic-plus test.

“At every stage of this journey we have carefully considered the benefits to be gained, both for the region and in my case, Solihull.  A condition of this first Devolution Agreement was a Mayor.  Because of the significance of the Agreement to the future prosperity of Solihull and the region, it’s a condition we can accept.  Also, the Mayoral Functions Scheme will see the mayor working with the leaders and not separately or above us.

“To reassure everyone the Mayor will not come with planning powers.  Planning powers will remain with each constituent council and through each council’s Local Plan.  Also a Mayor’s budget will require the WMCA cabinet to approve it. 

“Agreeing to the Mayor and this Devolution Agreement is about new powers coming from Westminster to the region, which I feel should be celebrated and embraced as much as the £8 billion investment into the region has been.

“It is clear from the governance arrangements that a Mayor will have to work with the leaders, and vice-versa.  The partnership approach with the Mayor, leaders, LEPs and non-constituent members working together for the region will be about building a strong voice for the region, a voice that government cannot ignore.

“Devolution gives us powers and opportunity that we would not otherwise get. The Mayoral role, through our work with government, will operate within an already strong local democratic system and therefore I believe we can continue to work with this approach.

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