Express & Star

Plans to name new region covering Birmingham and Black Country

The West Midlands combined authority could be named 'Birmingham and the Black Country', but it may have to change if Coventry and Solihull accept an invitation to join.

Birmingham city centre is captured by the police helicopter at night with the landmark Rotunda, right, The Mailbox, centre, while the ICC and NIA are at the top right

Council leaders in Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Birmingham have agreed to set up a combined authority to take on any power that may be devolved from London to the West Midlands.

One of those leaders will become the chairman of a board which will also include the chairman of Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The name Greater Birmingham is off the table completely but one proposed by Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper is 'Birmingham and the Black Country'.

But the Labour leader said he hoped that Coventry and Solihull would accept the invitation to join.

He said: "People are asking is if we'll be known as Greater Birmingham. The simple answer is no.

Darren Cooper

"We will work on a name that will reflect the views of the local people – for example, it may be called Birmingham and the Black Country.

"However if other councils join us, we'll have to think of something else. Possibly, it could be the West Midlands Combined Authority. We're hoping to confirm the official name early next year.

"I'm confident that by doing this, we're going to attract hundreds of millions of pounds of investment to create jobs and improve transport links across the West Midlands."

He stressed there would be no threat to the identity of individual boroughs.

"Sandwell (or any of the other councils) won't suddenly cease to exist. Each authority will keep its own name, governance arrangements and identity.

"The individual councils will still set their own council tax rates, they'll still provide local services on an individual basis, there will be no amalgamation of services or councils.

"The combined authority will be made up of a board of all of the council leaders, chaired by one of us, and also the chairs of the Local Enterprise Partnerships. This board will include the key talents in our geographical area.

"What it will give us is a route for the government to devolve power from Westminster to us.

"We'll have stronger decision-making powers, more say over how money is spent and it will also give us a powerful voice to speak as one."

David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North, welcomed the plan.

He said: ""It certainly makes sense for the Black Country boroughs and Birmingham to jointly work together to put pressure on the government for more funding.

"There can be no question of merging with Birmingham, or for that matter Walsall, Wolverhampton, Dudley, and Sandwell to combine.

"That is not on the agenda. The residents of Walsall have not the slightest wish to give up their borough identity, and I am sure the same applies to the other three boroughs.

"However, when there is such financial pressures on local authorities and services are being slashed, it makes sense to have the combination which has emerged in order to try to obtain extra monies from central government, as well as increased powers.

"One thing is for sure: other large local authorities are doing precisely what is being undertaken here, and we must make sure the West Midlands is not left behind. The leaders of the councils involved in the Black Country and Birmingham should be congratulated on this initiative."

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