Potential plans for Warwickshire County Council to join West Midlands Combined Authority now shelved
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In a weekly update circulated to boroughs, districts and parishes, it was revealed that county’s cabinet – the panel of Conservative councillors in charge – had decided against the option of pushing through full membership, which would have entailed coming under the remit of the directly-elected West Midlands mayor, for now.
It came just 11 days after the cabinet resolved to ask council officers, the employed professionals that run the day-to-day business of the authority, to look at the prospect of becoming full constituent members and other options to ensure Warwickshire did not get left behind amid government plans to give more powers and financial control to local authorities under devolution deals.
The sudden nature of the plans raised alarm bells in district and borough councils with leaders in Nuneaton & Bedworth and North Warwickshire publicly questioning whether it was a backdoor way of creating a unitary authority – one council covering Warwickshire instead of the current two-tier system of local government that splits responsibilities.
Even at Shire Hall, councillors from all parties queried the timescales involved.
On one hand, Warwickshire County Council would have to apply for full membership by October in order for residents to have a say in the election of the next mayor.
On the other, that limited the time the council had to work out exactly what it would it could mean and to hold a public consultation, and it was those issues that ultimately derailed the plans in the short term.
The statement circulated read: “Cabinet has decided not to pursue joining the WMCA as a full constituent member at this time due to the time constraints in a major change such as this.
“The residents of Warwickshire, and those of the wider West Midlands, need a full consideration to be sure that the evidence supports any decision.
“With the timeline set out, it has become clear to cabinet that they could not deliver an evidenced case, nor a credible consultation.
“Warwickshire County Council will consider the opportunity in the period ahead of the next mayoral elections in 2028.”
The leader of Stratford District Council, Councillor Susan Juned (Lib Dem, Alcester East), had previously expressed reservations.
She called for Warwickshire residents to be given the power to "decide for themselves whether they want to compete with major Midlands cities for government money for transport, adult skills training and inward investment".
Cllr Juned told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The decision is to leave it now and possibly come back to it ahead of the 2028 election so it is not completely off the agenda.
“It was acknowledged that the tight timetable would not have allowed for proper consultation with residents and the various councils, which was one of our main concerns apart from whether or not we wanted to become constituent members.
“The whole thing was about the haste of it in time for the mayoral election. It is not for me to think about why that decision was taken (to try to put it through in the first place) but it does need a great deal more consideration.”