The petition of residents of Warwick and Leamington,
Declares that Warwickshire residents do not wish to join the West Midlands Combined Authority; further declares that that any discussions held between the West Midlands Combined Authority and Warwickshire County Council should be held openly and transparently; and that a referendum is held so the public can have their say on any proposed plans.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ensure that Warwickshire County Council is not absorbed into the West Midlands Combined Authority.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Matt Western, Official Report, 6 September 2023; Vol. 737, c. 510 .]
Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Lee Rowley):
The Government are committed to levelling up across the country to make us more prosperous and more united by tackling the regional and local inequalities that unfairly hold back communities and to encourage private sector investment right across the UK.
In our “Levelling Up” White Paper, our policy is clearly stated:
“Levelling up will only be successful if local actors are empowered to develop solutions that work for their communities”,
“Levelling up requires effective and coherent local institutions with responsibilities defined across appropriate strategic geographies.”
The White Paper goes on to say that devolution proposals should be agreed over a sensible functional economic area and or whole county geographies, so that local leaders are empowered to make more of the decisions that shape their area.
Earlier this year, Warwickshire County Council’s cabinet undertook to explore the opportunity of seeking full constituent member status of the West Midlands Combined Authority. The council subsequently announced in July their decision not to pursue at this time their application.
There is a statutory, locally led application process that areas seeking to join a combined authority area have to follow. This requires the authority or authorities to present their proposals and evidence base setting out what and how the proposals would be expected to improve the exercise of functions across the area, to secure local views through a public consultation, and then present this material to the Secretary of State for him to make a decision, based on the statutory tests, on whether or not to proceed with the necessary implementing secondary legislation, subject to local consents and parliamentary approval.
If Warwickshire decides to pursue this in future, it will need to the follow the statutory process I outlined above, including undertaking a public consultation, following which it may submit its proposals to Government. The Government would carefully consider any such proposals as statute provides. No decisions have been taken by Government.