Coventry leader Ann Lucas has indicated that the city council will join the proposed West Midlands combined authority.
This move would potentially greatly increase the proposed authority’s size, as Coventry’s existing partners in its city deal could then also choose to join (see box).
Cllr Lucas (Lab, pictured) has said in a BBC radio interview that the region’s councils would “be invincible” together, and that if Coventry stayed out of the combined authority it could “be squeezed with no monies coming our way” from the government.
She added: “If we combined, not merged, it would make us the biggest combined authority outside London [but] we will make the decision based on what’s right for Coventry and we’ll do it in our own time.”
Her comments came two days after Birmingham City Council’s leader Sir Albert Bore (Lab) piled pressure on Coventry and its partners to join the proposed combined authority.
He told the BBC’s Midlands Today he would like Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull to join Birmingham and the four Black Country councils in creating the authority.
Sir Albert said: “I think we’ve got the capacity, not only to catch up, but to have a midlands powerhouse which is much more of a powerhouse than the northern powerhouse that Manchester are proclaiming.
“There’s much to be gained, I think, from bringing together those seven metropolitan districts together with some of the associated shire districts.”
Solihull leader Bob Sleigh (Con) has said he is “open to discussions” about joining.
Coventry’s position is complicated by having a separate city deal with Warwickshire, its districts and Hinckley and Bosworth BC, which is in Leicestershire.
Talks have been in progress for some months on forming an economic property board for the area.
Coventry chief executive Martin Reeves told LGC: “The biggest factor will be what is the best way to get devolved powers and whether a bigger unit is best or not. We expect a decision in the next few weeks.”
But Rugby BC leader Michael Stokes (Con) said in a statement: “I have expressed my support for Coventry remaining outside of the proposed combined authority for Birmingham and continuing to work closely with partners in Rugby and Warwickshire.
“Together we form a strong and geographically sensible partnership and I know that we can build on this relationship.
“The door remains open for any future discussions that may be needed, but I will always have Rugby’s best interests in mind.”
North Warwickshire BC deputy leader Ray Sweet (Lab) said: “We’ve had discussions but I think we have to be equal players in anything and be sure we get benefits.”
Hinckley & Bosworth leader Stuart Bray (Lib Dem) told LGC: “We are open to dialogue with our partners in Warwickshire and Coventry and, indeed, with those in Leicester and Leicestershire, as long as the outcome is improvements for the people we serve directly.”
Warwick DC leader Andrew Mobbs (Con) declined to comment ahead of a cabinet meeting.
West Midlands combined authority founders:
Birmingham City Council
Wolverhampton City Council
Those invited to join from Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP members
Cannock Chase DC
East Staffordshire DC
Wyre Forest DC
Coventry city deal area councils
Coventry City Council
Hinckley & Bosworth BC
Nuneaton & Bedworth BC
North Warwickshire BC