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West Midlands Combined Authority bid launched

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Seven metropolitan councils have officially launched a bid to create a West Midlands Combined Authority by April 2016, but hope neighbouring two tier authorities will join the body in future

LGC reported last month how the leaders of Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, and Walsall MBCs, and Birmingham, Coventry, and Wolverhampton city councils had agreed to explore forming a combined authority for the area.

However, the government would reportedly prefer the body to include all 20 councils served by the region’s three local enterprise partnerships covering the Black Country, Greater Birmingham, and Coventry and Warwickshire.

A statement of intent, launched today, said all of the leaders of the metropolitan councils “agree that a combined authority covering the much wider and important geography across the three local enterprise partnership areas is crucial”.

The three chairs of the LEPs said: “Gaining the full commitment of all our local authorities should now be a top priority. We believe that a Combined Authority, including all of these partners, is critical to achieving maximum economic growth they would be “pleased” to create an overarching strategic economic plan for the combined authority which would be based on the projects and priorities contained in each of the three plans already approved by government.”

Last month, leaders said priorities for the new combined authority would include a review of transport across the combined authority area, a new approach to skills, and plans to to set up a single investment vehicle to bring forward regeneration projects. These were all included in the statement of intent along with plans to create a land commission to identify employment and housing sites, as well as a mental health commission with a view to piloting “new ways of working”.

The issue of a directly elected mayor continues to be contentious for the region but there is no mention of potential governance structures in the document.

Communities secretary Greg Clark told delegates at the Local Government Association annual conference last week that it would be “inconceivable” for the region to not get a comprehensive devolution deal. But in May chancellor George Osborne said he would not “settle for less” than a mayor in any comprehensive devolution deal.

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