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West Midlands Combined Authority: Walsall and Sandwell join super-council

Sandwell | News | Published:

Bosses at Sandwell Council and Walsall Council have confirmed the authorities will be part of a new regional super-council.

Darren Cooper said Sandwell Council had made a 'conscious decision' not to increase allowances

At a full council meeting last night, councillors rubber-stamped Sandwell's entry into the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Council leader Councillor Darren Cooper was appointed to represent the borough on the West Midlands Combined Authority, with Councillor Paul Moore to act as a substitute.

Councillor Cooper said: "I've always said that it's important that we have this combined authority but also equally important that Sandwell maintains its independence. We will still be sat here next year setting council tax – and still here for years after that providing local services."

Meanwhile the 'order' to establish the region-wide body was pushed through with the support of 46 Walsall councillors – an overwhelming majority.

But questions were raised by UKIP Councillor Liz Hazell about the money councils are being asked to contribute to fund the project.

Dudley and Wolverhampton councils have already formally signed up to the WMCA along with fellow 'constituent' members in Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull.

Councillor Hazell, one of just six members to vote against the order on Monday, said: "We have already contributed £300,000. Across all the authorities that makes £2.1 million. I have not seen anything which says what that money has been spent on. The Combined Authority now wants another £500,000 off each council – the districts will also be asked to contribute.

"So that is another £3.5m to £4m. What is that for? We are told this will be a one-off, but the last one was a one-off."

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Those behind the WMCA claim it will unlock £8 billion for the region, as well as giving the area more control over housing and transport under an elected mayor.

But critics have expressed concerns the Black Country's identity could be lost.

Council Leader, Mike Bird, said he and others had worked to ensure the Black Country would be on an equal footing to Birmingham.

"If you read the constitution you will see each leader will have one vote," he said. "It will not be weighed in terms of population.

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"Irrespective of party affiliation the Black Country leaders said 'no'."

Labour's opposition leader, Councillor Sean Coughlan said the WMCA was not the perfect model but would benefit towns in the region.

"The reality is we have to invest to save," he said. "It isn't going to be enough, but I would rather have control of a smaller pot than no control at all."

Particularly vocal in his opposition to the authority was Democratic Labour Councillor Pete Smith, who accused George Osborne of 'conning' people.

He added: "Osborne is dressing this up as devolution but in reality it is taking away powers from local government to the Combined Authority, if not today or tomorrow then it won't be long."

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