Warwickshire votes against joining West Mids 'super council' - The Rugby Observer

Warwickshire votes against joining West Mids 'super council'

Rugby Editorial 3rd Sep, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016   0

WARWICKSHIRE County Council has voted to reject joining a new West Midlands super council.

County councillors in Warwick yesterday (Thursday September 3) voted against joining seven other authorities including Birmingham and Coventry who have already agreed in principle to joining the proposed West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

Councillors voted not to join the proposed super council and instead opted to strengthen its ties with Coventry if possible.

Council leader Izzi Seccombe said: “In a nutshell we’ve agreed that we will not be going to a combined West Midlands authority, we want to build on the success of the last few years. We will not walk away from Coventry.”

The council will now look towards other models of government for Warwickshire – with many councillors still hoping for a Coventry and Warwickshire-based authority.

The vote comes after Birmingham and Coventry, together with Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton have already agreed in principle to form a combined authority – with a number of other authorities yet to decide.

The council was left with the decision to either join the WMCA, look to a preferred Coventry and Warwickshire-based authority, or start work on developing a different form of local government for the area.

Those who opposed the WMCA feared the interests of people living in towns and rural areas could come second to those living in cities if the WMCA wins through, including Rugby MP Mark Pawsey.

He said: “I do not believe that the interests of my home town, and constituency, of Rugby are best served by entering into a West Midlands Combined Authority.

“Councils across Warwickshire, including Rugby, should be doing all they can to convince Coventry that their future lies with them and not in the West Midlands, as well as speaking with neighbouring authorities in the east where our more natural economic links lie.”

Rugby Borough Council leader Coun Michael Stokes insisted that any vote must have the best wishes of the area taken into consideration.

He said: “Joining, or not joining, a combined authority could have profound implications for the prosperity of Rugby’s residents and businesses, both now and in the future. It is essential that we understand those implications before making any decision, and that we do what’s right for Rugby.

“Together with Coventry and Warwickshire, we form a strong and geographically sensible partnership and I know that we can build on this relationship.”

Warwickshire Liberal Democrats leader Coun Jerry Roodhouse, a councillor for both Warwickshire County and Rugby Borough councils, said the decision to reject the super council was correct, even after what he called a “last-minute revised offer” that the six local authorities in Warwickshire could share one voting place on the Combined Authority.

He added: “We do not accept that we face a ‘now or never’ situation. Our roles as elected councillors is to represent the best interests of Warwickshire residents, and right now it is totally unclear what benefits to the County would accrue, while the risks are obvious. How will this new layer of regional bureaucracy be paid for? The Treasury is demanding fiscal neutrality, so what would have to go in order to pay for it?

“Too much of this has involved discussions in secret up until now. Following today’s debate, the Lib Dems intend to play an active role in finding the best solutions for Warwickshire, and making certain that residents are properly informed and consulted at all stages up to any final decisions being taken.”


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