Council looks to future after rejecting ‘super council’

Shire Hall'MHLC 02-10-13 Shire Hall Oct18 ENGNNL00120130210122638
Shire Hall'MHLC 02-10-13 Shire Hall Oct18 ENGNNL00120130210122638

Warwickshire councillors have rejected proposals to join a West Midlands ‘super council’ as hope remains high of retaining links with Coventry.

County councillors on all parties attended an extraordinary meeting on Thursday morning where a vote came out against joining the new combined authority for the West Midlands.

The council will now do all it can to pursue its existing links with Coventry after 30 votes to 20 to reject the plans.

This is despite Coventry City Council showing ongoing interest in ending the arrangement to merge with Birmingham and Black Country.

Cllr Alan Cockburn (Con), deputy leader of Warwickshire County Council said all options - including possibilities of standing alone if Coventry signs up with the new council - will now be investigated.

He said: “The deal offered to us was a particularly bad one for Warwickshire, there was not a strong case for us to join at all.

The deal offered to us was a particularly bad one for Warwickshire, there was not a strong case for us to join at all

Alan Cockburn

“We will continue to pursue the combined authority with Coventry as well as looking at a number of alternatives.

“Coventry and Warwickshire together is our number one priority but Coventry seems divided on where to go next.

“There is a long way to go and have will be doing a lot of thinking about what is best.”

Until this week, Warwickshire was only invited to the super authority as a non-voting member, but was offered one shared vote with its five district councils ahead of Thursdays’ debate.

Cllr John Whitehouse (Lib Dem) said there were still “plenty of viable options” with and without Coventry, including standing along, forming a unitary authority or merging with other authorities on their borders.

He said: “One thing is clear and that is that the option put forward was not the only game on the table, we simply do not accept the premise that this is it for us.

“There has been no consultation for the people of Warwickshire on this so far, and that is one of our concerns.

“A lot of talks so far have happened behind closed doors but members taking this forward will do so as openly as possible.

The Labour group, which was the only one to support plans to join the West Midlands cooperative, said they should not have gone against advice from the Local Enterprise Partnership at an uncertain time for local government.

Cllr Matt Western said it was “very disappointing” that the vote was carried and that the possibilities of the new arrangement were not explored.

He said: “They have voted to look exclusively at Warwickshire stand-alone options or possibly joining neighbouring minor shire counties.

“What Labour was pressing for was for us to enter into discussions with the West Midlands group to simply explore a strategic approach to economic development, infrastructure projects and transport.

“The other parties seem to be in denial in that Coventry do not want to join a Coventry and Warwickshire only authority.”

Cllr Andrew Mobbs (Con), leader of Warwick District Council spoke at Thursday’s meeting to confirm they too did not support the super council options.

The district council will hold their own vote on the proposals next month.