THE RISKS of Stratford District Council becoming a member of the proposed West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) outweigh the benefits.
That was the decision taken by councillors, who narrowly voted against joining the so-called ‘super council’ earlier this week.
The combined authority will be made up of metropolitan councils in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Solihull, Sandwell and Walsall.
It has been argued such an authority – with devolved powers from central government – could help save money, promote economic growth, and address transport issues for a population of some four million.
Stratford District Council had originally opted to keep its options open by discussing the plans further without committing to be part of the authority last month.
Instead, it was decided council leader Chris Saint would sit on the new WMCA shadow board as an observer to keep an eye on the formation of the proposed authority, which could be up and running as early as next April.
But after district and borough councils in the surrounding areas were invited to join the authority as non-constituent members, Stratford District Council opted to rejected the move.
From the 31 of the district’s 36 councillors at the meeting on Monday (October 12), 16 voted against joining, 14 were in favour and one chose to abstain.
Speaking afterwards, Coun Saint said: “The district council feels the risks from the West Midlands Combined Authority outweigh the benefits of becoming a non-constituent member and its future within the Government’s devolution programme lies in developing the synergies between itself and neighbouring councils in Shire areas.
“As such, the district council has declined the invitation to become a non-constituent member of the West Midlands Combined Authority and will pursue alternative options, should any materialise, in line with the council’s decision on September 1.”
The council, which currently shares services with Cherwell, South Northants, South Staffordshire and Wychavon councils respectively, as well as Warwickshire County Council, will now look at linking up with other authorities locally.
The decision mirrors that of Warwickshire County Council, who rejected the invitation to join the WMCA last month.
Concerns about the plans had been raised by Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Ball, but the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership has signed up along with Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council.
Rugby Borough Council voted against joining for now while neighbouring Warwick District Council recently rejected the proposals with leader Andrew Mobbs saying he feared the needs of the district would come second to those of the bigger cities.