STRATFORD District Council has not ruled out being part of any future Midlands council.
Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton have already agreed in principle to form a West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) – with a number of other authorities yet to decide.
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.
On Thursday (September 3) members of Warwickshire County Council rejected plans to join the proposed WMCA.
Instead they opted to look towards other models of government including a potential Coventry and Warwickshire-based authority.
Earlier in the week however, Stratford District Council had agreed to discuss the plans further without committing to actually join the WMCA.
A recent consultation by the authority found almost two thirds of respondents were in favour of a combined authority with just over half in support of a potential WMCA.
And at the meeting on Tuesday (September 1), it was agreed council leader Chris Saint would sit on the new WMCA shadow board as an observer, which will enable him to keep an eye on the formation of the proposed authority that could be up and running as early as next April.
At the same time, the district council, which currently shares a number of services with Cherwell, South Northants, South Staffordshire and Wychavon councils respectively, and also Warwickshire County Council, will continue to look at linking up with other local authorities.
Coun Saint said: “It is important to have these discussions round the same table as potential partners in the Government’s devolution programme and there are so many unknowns, it is better to work from within.
“The district council will be able to play an active part in the process currently under development, which, when the final details are clear, will enable us to decide what benefits joining a combined authority would bring to businesses and residents.
“The council has also agreed to look at working with other local authorities, which reflect our rural and small town heritage.
“We have always been a big believer in partnership work, and where you can’t do things on your own, joining a partnership gives you greater resilience, greater freedom and greater spending powers, which in turn, allows us to ensure our district benefits as much as possible.”
The authority’s decision was welcomed by Larry Coltman, chair of the Stratford and south Warwickshire branch of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, who said a WMCA could have a huge impact on business and economic prosperity in the area.
But leader of neighbouring Warwick District Council, Andrew Mobbs, admitted he feared the interests of people living in towns and rural areas could come second to those living in cities if the WMCA were to be formed.