WARWICKSHIRE County Council has voted to reject joining a new West Midlands super council.
County councillors in Warwick voted today 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 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 leader of Warwick District Council, Andrew Mobbs.
Coun Mobbs told The Observer: “Coventry and Warwickshire is a unique and special area with a real heritage and cultural value. We have particular needs in this area and particular skills which I feel would be forgotten if the needs of the bigger cities come first.
“I think it would stand on our own as a separate authority as the council can concentrate on the needs of the area and not be backgrounded with the other larger cities in the proposed combined authority.”
Neighbouring Stratford District Council also has reservations about joining the WMCA, but this week agreed for its leader Chris Saint to sit on the WMCA Shadow Board to be in a position to influence decisions.
Coun Saint said: “It is important to have these discussions round the same table as potential partners in the government’s devolution programme. There are so many unknowns that it is better to work from within.
“At the same time the council has agreed to appraise alternatives with other local authorities that reflect the district’s rural and small town heritage. This provides greater flexibility to work with partners over where central government money is spent.”
Coun Jerry Roodhouse, leader of the Warwickshire Liberal Democrats, questioned what Warwickshire would gain from joining a combined authority of metropolitan councils stretching from Coventry to the Black Country.
He said: “This county already performs better than all but one of the other councils across a wide range of economic indicators including skills, unemployment levels and gross value added per head.
“We’re being asked to pay into creating a new layer of regional bureaucracy and cost to local taxpayers, but with no vote on how pooled budgets might be prioritised and spent.