COUNCILLORS in Rugby borough will today (Thursday) further consider the possibility of joining a new West Midlands ‘super council’.
Seven other authorities including Birmingham and Coventry have already agreed in principle to join the proposed West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
Those in favour argue such an authority – with devolved powers from central government – would help save money, promote economic growth, and address transport issues for a population of some four million.
But Warwickshire County Council last month voted against joining – opting instead to look strengthen ties with Coventry, despite that authority’s commitment to the WMCA, which could be up and running as soon as April.
Opponents to the WMCA fear the interests of people living in towns and rural areas could come second to those living in cities, 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 any vote must be in the best interests 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 we understand those implications before making any decision, and we do what’s right for Rugby.
“Together with Coventry and Warwickshire, we form a strong and geographically sensible partnership and I know we can build on this relationship.”
Borough council officers have recommended members agree to continue monitoring developments towards the WMCA, while also exploring other possible opportunities, such as closer links with Coventry and other Warwickshire authorities.
But Coun David Ellis, a member of the ruling Conservative group, said he would leave his party and sit as an independent if the council voted to join the WMCA.
Coun Ellis, ward councillor for Wolston and the Lawfords, feared the structure of the new authority would lead to tax rises, and decisions on Rugby’s services being made by “distant Birmingham-centric bureaucrats”.
He told The Observer: “If the council’s Conservative group votes to join the Combined Authority I cannot remain a Conservative Councillor.
“Doing so would mean I was supporting a group that was undertaking an experiment which may harm my residents.”