Door remains open for ‘super-council’ after second vote

Warwickshire councillors agreed to keep the door open on negotiations for a West Midlands Combined Authority after rejecting an “unacceptable” offer last month.

Councillors are also urged to make all talks open to the public after a leaked copy of the authority’s draft plan showed the scale of the work already done across the West Midlands behind closed doors.

We just think if there is a new proposal or changes to what we are offered then we should consider it

John Whitehouse

Warwickshire County Council rejected a proposal to join the new ‘super-council’ along with Birmingham and the Black Country last month after being offered just one vote between its five district and borough councils.

But members have now agreed to continue to explore future options. It also sets out that all future decisions are agreed by the full council before progressing.

Cllr John Whitehouse (Lib Dem, Ken), who put forward the amendment, said despite the first offer being unacceptable, they must be open to explore any future offers.

He said: “The offer on the table at the first vote was unacceptable to us. The key thing is that Warwickshire and its five councils would have been given second class status.

“We just think if there is a new proposal or changes to what we are offered then we should consider it.

“But the key thing we want to see is full openness and public debate on this. There is no reason for this not to be fully transparent from here.”

But Cllr Alan Cockburn, deputy leader of the council, said after a full consultation there had simply been no talks suitable to public engagement.

The Conservative councillor said: “We rejected a very specific proposal in September as it was not good for Warwickshire. But that does not mean that we will refuse all talks on this in the future. If a new plan comes to us then that will be fully looked at, as was the last.

“The West Midlands group has been very secretive and there have been no public meetings, but we are just looking at options at this stage.”

Officers and council leaders are continuing talks, and a cross party working group of eight councillors will meet for the first time next week to discuss all options. It is not yet known if its meetings will be open to the public.

Labour party members, who have called for the council continue to explore the rejected proposals by holding a public vote and investigations, abstained from voting on the Liberal Democrat motion.

They have always called for Warwickshire to enter into the new authority so it can retain its links with Coventry and build a stronger trade and economic future.

The new authority would be ruled by an elected mayor and cover most of the West Midlands, with Warwickshire as a single member.