FAQs

What is a combined authority?

Combined authorities are legal bodies with powers of decision making granted by parliament. They are a new way for local authorities to work together on key strategic functions that cross geographic council boundaries and which could be more effectively delivered together rather than separately. Examples include transport, regeneration and skills.

Government understands that local areas want more control over their own spending and decisions. Local authorities and local people want powers to be moved from Westminster to the West Midlands. To allow this to happen we must demonstrate strong governance arrangements and in this instance we have proposed a combined authority.

Why do the seven West Midland Councils want a combined authority for this region?

The West Midlands is home to over 4 million people and is one of the most popular places for businesses and people to move to, as well as being a retail hotspot. In order to capitalise on this for the benefit of local people and businesses, leaders of the councils are convinced the area needs a combined authority. It will be able to drive forward a series of joint objectives in support of economic growth and progressive public sector reform.

With all this in mind, by collaborating together as a region the seven councils can accelerate the region’s economic growth, by encouraging both inward and outward investment; creating more jobs for local people and providing the high-level and necessary skills and training needed to fulfil these roles.

Who is included?

Local authorities have voted on whether they will be part of the emerging West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

Constituent members of the WMCA are:

  • Birmingham City Council
  • Coventry City Council
  • Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council
  • City of Wolverhampton Council

Non constituent members are:

  • Cannock Chase District Council
  • Nuneaton and Bedworth District Council
  • Redditch Borough Council
  • Tamworth Borough Council
  • Telford and Wrekin Council
  • Black Country LEP
  • Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP
  • Coventry and Warwickshire LEP

Observer members awaiting non constituent membership:

  • Stratford-on-Avon District Council
  • Shropshire Council

 Observer members:

  • West Midlands Fire Service
  • West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner

What is the difference between a constituent and a non-constituent member?

Constituent and non-constituent members have to sign-up to, and be named within, the West Midlands Combined Authority Scheme.

Non-constituent members had until 20 October to decide whether to join.

In the Scheme sent to Government only constituent members have voting rights. However once the WMCA is established constituent members can give voting rights to non-constituent members, for example, allowing them to vote on matters to do with economic development.

Constituent members may only be signed up to one combined authority, whilst non-constituent members can be signed up to one or more combined authorities.

Why this particular geography?

A combined authority is required to cover an area that makes sense economically. For example an area within which many people commute to work or where there are strong links between local firms, universities and other institutions.

A combined authority also needs to be big enough to be able to compete globally and to pull together the resources needed to support more economic success. A West Midlands Combined Authority will be the biggest combined authority of its kind within the UK. This means the WMCA will be able to accelerate economic growth faster than other areas of the country.

In addition, combined authority legislation requires that the partners define the area that the authority will cover. The partners of the WMCA are proposing that the area covers the three LEPs, which are the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire, and Greater Birmingham and Solihull. The reason for this proposed geography is that it fulfils the requirements set out by government.

 

Do local people have a say?

During the summer seven local councils engaged with residents, businesses and the voluntary sector about the proposed WMCA.

All the councils went through their own democratic processes to formally approve a WMCA.

Where are we now?

 The West Midlands Combined Authority came into force on Friday 17 June.

 The next stage for the WMCA is for delivering the devolution agreement as well as looking forward to what future devolution deals should include.

Is this just another layer of bureaucracy?

The combined authority will make use of existing staff and finances. Decisions will be made by the existing council leaders working together. A WMCA is about collaborating on strategic policy not on day-to-day council services.

Through devolution the West Midlands can remove a layer of bureaucracy. This is about moving decision making out of Whitehall to the West Midlands.

Does the WMCA mean the creation of a ‘super council’?

Individual councils will retain their own individuality and most importantly, their sovereignty; the services local councils provide will remain the same. For example if Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council is responsible for collecting your bins, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council will continue to collect your bins. Furthermore if you pay your business rates to Coventry City Council then you will continue to pay your business rates to Coventry City Council.

Furthermore the elected leaders of each council will continue to fulfil their designated roles and will remain accountable in the normal democratic way, through local council elections.

Where will the money come from?

The WMCA will fund its programmes and initiatives through channelling current government funding streams. The aim is to make these funds go further by cooperating across the region and prioritising, therefore getting better value for money for each government pound spent in the region.

The agreement with government will see it make an annual contribution worth £40 million for 30 years to support an overall investment package worth £8 billion. Other funding will come from private sector money, partner contributions and EU funds.

Do we have to have a mayor?

The WMCA Shadow Board and the three LEPs have signed a proposed devolution agreement with the government. Part of this agreement is that the WMCA should have a directly elected Mayor. This is because the government believes there should be direct accountability to residents for the new powers and funding that they plan to pass down to us. So the post of directly elected Mayor is not required by law but it is in effect a condition of the devolution of those powers and that funding. 

After they are elected, the Mayor would also become the Chair to the WMCA. Subject to parliamentary timings, the first election would be held in May 2017.

Who will hold the Mayor to account?

The Mayor will chair a cabinet made up of local authority Leaders, who will each lead on a particular WMCA priority. The Mayor and each of the Leaders are democratically elected through the election process.

The cabinet will examine the Mayor’s draft annual budget, plans and strategies and will be able to reject them.

There will also be an Overview and Scrutiny committee consisting of one elected councillor of each member of the WMCA to scrutinise the work of the Mayor and the WMCA and make policy suggestions. Meetings of the WMCA will be held in public and all reports and decisions will be available for public and media scrutiny. 

 

Who will hold the WMCA to account?

Firstly the members of the participating local authorities and LEPs and secondly the scrutiny committee which will be set up to scrutinise the decisions made by the WMCA.

What does the devolution agreement mean?

The agreement with government will see it make an annual contribution worth £40 million for 30 years to support an overall investment package worth £8 billion, alongside the creation of up to half a million jobs.

The deal will give the West Midlands Combined Authority, working across the geography of the three LEPs, the funding and the powers to further grow the regional economy and focus on the issues that really matter to the people and businesses of the region; transport, jobs, skills and homes.

The Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills visited Coventry on 17 November 2015 to confirm the West Midlands Combined Authority devolution agreement.

 

Why couldn’t we see the devolution submission document?

It was a highly confidential document and we were bound by government not to share details whilst negotiations were still on-going.

What are the current timescales?

 17 June 2016: Combined Authority established

4 July – 19 August 2016: Consultation on the Mayoral Functions Scheme

4 May 2017: potential date for Mayoral elections

How can I make my voice heard?

If people want to make comments about our emerging WMCA then they can contact their own local authority in the first instance and address any queries to their council Leader or submit a contact form here. Alternatively contact details are also available on this website.

What’s the difference between a civic mayor and the proposed elected ‘Metro Mayor’?

An elected mayor (commonly known as a ‘Metro Mayor’) is an appointed local government executive leader, directly elected by the people.

 

The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 made the provision for the creation of directly elected mayors for Combined Authorities.

 

A Lord Mayor or civic mayor is a ceremonial/civic representative with no formal powers. These are traditionally elected by a town, borough or city council.

 

How much will the Mayor be paid?

A report will be commissioned by the WMCA to look into what scope a newly appointed Mayor for the West Midlands will have in terms of functions and responsibilities and therefore what wage he/she should be paid.

What is the role of the Mayor?

The idea of a mayor for the WMCA area is to provide a strong voice for the region. They would also be an ambassador for the area, selling it on the global stage. They would be the point of contact when the Government want to speak to ‘the West Midlands’ and be responsible for driving the Devolution Agreement within government and the region.

 

Having negotiated and accepted this first Devolution Agreement, the seven constituent councils have approved the election of a mayor and the associated Mayoral Functions Scheme. 

Why do government want us to have a mayor?

Government wants an individual to be accountable for the WMCA – someone to be held responsible for the money and power devolved to the region.

How long will the Mayor’s term run for?

The first election for a mayor is set to be held on 4 May 2017 and will run for an initial three year term.  Subsequent elections will take place every four years.

Birmingham & Coventry have previously voted against having a mayor, why/how is it different now?

The Government has made having a WMCA Mayor a condition of devolving powers from Westminster to the region and the £8 billion Devolution Agreement.

 

Unlike the previous proposals for mayors to run individual local councils this role is for the West Midlands Combined Authority.  This is made up of seven West Midlands councils coming together to tackle the ‘big ticket’ items that each council by themselves couldn’t deal with, and delivering the Devolution Deal agreed with government.   

How will the Mayor be accountable?

The Mayor will be held accountable three-fold:

 

  • By government
  • By the West Midlands Combined Authority Cabinet (made up of the seven leaders from the constituent local authorities) and Board (comprising all members of the Combined Authority)
  • By the electorate at the ballot box

Who can stand for mayor? Do they have to belong to a political party?

Anyone aged 18 and over and who is on the electoral register in one of the seven constituent areas can stand.

 

A candidate would also need £5000 deposit to stand and 98 nominations of support (The nomination paper must be subscribed by two electors as proposer and seconder, and by 98 other electors with at least 10 electors from each constituent council area) to become a Mayoral candidate, similar requirements as for a normal local election.

 

No. A candidate does not have to belong to a political party.

What will the Mayor’s priorities be?

The Mayor’s priority will be to deliver the first Devolution Agreement. 

 

They will also be responsible for working with the WMCA Board and its constituent members, LEPs, non-constituent members and partners to support delivery of the region’s Strategic Economic Plan.

 

This will ensure the WMCA’s key priorities of creating more jobs and homes, more skilled workforce and better transport infrastructure/links become a reality.

 

Will the Mayor be able to interfere with local authorities?

No. Individual councils will retain their own sovereignty and will run individual services in their area as they always have.  This includes planning.  

How will the Mayor work with the WMCA Board?

The Mayor will be Chair of the WMCA Board and will be integral to decision making of the WMCA.  For example the Mayor can suggest their own policies and strategies and set their annual budget, but these must be approved by the WMCA board with a minimum two-thirds majority.

Will the Mayor have control over planning powers?

A WMCA Mayor will not come with planning powers; they remain with each constituent council.

 

The Mayoral WMCA will however exercise functions alongside the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) to deliver more and better homes. The powers will include making Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO).

 

Any decisions to use the CPO powers and other housing powers in a particular area must be agreed and signed off by the local authority concerned. These specific powers, if agreed, would not be likely to be implemented until 2017/18 at the earliest.

We vote for our council Leaders, why do we need another elected individual?

Government wants an individual to be accountable for the WMCA – someone to be held responsible for the money and power devolved to the region and to speak up for and represent the region.

 

No one council could deliver the first Devolution Agreement, so some sort of regional body was required.  This is the WMCA.  The first Devolution Agreement will see over £8 billion invested in the region over the next decades.