At Solihull’s full council meeting on Tuesday 1 March, members will debate whether to commit Solihull to joining the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
A survey into the proposed WMCA was requested by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). A report summarising the results has now been published and will inform the debate. The report can be viewed at https://westmidlandscombinedauthority.org.uk/about/documents/
Between 60% and 72% of people agreed or strongly agreed that:
• by working together local authorities in the West Midlands would deliver improvements in economic development, regeneration and transport
• better coordination of these areas would mean more effective and convenient local government and services
• the region’s Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) would ensure businesses have a strong voice moving forward, and
• neighbouring local authorities should be invited to participate in the WMCA
Preparing for Council on 1 March, Councillor Bob Sleigh, Leader of Solihull Council, said:
“DCLG required us to undertake the survey and the responses received show there is general support for a combined authority.
“Some comments show there are still worries about Solihull being ‘taken over’ by other councils, becoming part of a ‘super council’ or being responsible for the debts or problems of other councils. Concerns were also expressed that Solihull joining a combined authority would mean losing what makes our borough such a special place to live.
“This is absolutely not the case.
“I can reassure people that if Solihull Council joins a WMCA it will still be the Solihull Council they know. We will continue to serve the local area in the same way as we always have. We will still be emptying bins, dealing with local planning applications and cleaning Solihull’s streets.
“The combined authority proposal is about working together with our neighbours on matters that cross council boundaries, for example roads, trains and buses. I am confident working closer together in a combined authority will allow us to deliver a better connected West Midlands and improved public transport services.
“Initially I had to be convinced about the benefits of a combined authority for Solihull. However, having scrutinised the figures it is clear that it presents a huge opportunity for the borough. It will bring significant investment into Solihull projects, delivering these projects faster than if the borough went it alone.
“I have talked directly, to local businesses, parish councils, voluntary and community sector, MPs, councillors, council employees and once I have explained what a combined authority means for Solihull, there has been overwhelming support for the proposals.
“If a combined authority is formed, we could benefit from £636 million of direct investment into Solihull over the next 30 years. We could see Junction 6 (M42) improvements, HS2 Interchange funding, alongside other transport investment.
“The WMCA would also unlock an overall £8 billion investment package for skills, infrastructure and businesses across the region. It will enable us to create a workforce and economy that will benefit our children and young people for years to come.
“I would not be doing this if it wasn’t right for Solihull. We have worked hard, and will continue in our endeavours, to ensure there is a clear benefit for Solihull being part of the proposed WMCA.
“I can reassure people that no one council will have more power than another. Each authority will be an equal player in the proposed WMCA. We will all have one vote.
“My aim is to make sure this collaboration works for Solihull, for our partners and the region as a whole.
“I look forward to discussing these matters at Council on 1 March, and promise that should we decide to join a WMCA, I will continue to be open and transparent, keeping residents, businesses and all our other partners informed of progress.”
The public consultation was carried out from 18 January to 8 February.
It was undertaken to help the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government make a decision regarding the establishment of a Combined Authority in the West Midlands.
There were five key questions relating to the proposed Combined Authority’s role and functions and, specifically, about the Scheme document that was submitted to government in December.