October 1st, 2016

Council will not bow to devolution pressure

Council will not bow to devolution pressure Council will not bow to devolution pressure

THE LEADER of Worcestershire County Council insists they will not be rushing into going for devolved powers despite the pressing timetable set out by the Government.

Coun Adrian Hardman has come under pressure from Redditch Borough and Bromsgrove District councillors who have until October 12 to decide to whether or not to join the West Midlands Combined Authority.

A motion was also put forward by Coun Liz Tucker calling on the Tory leadership to hold talks with councillors before the end of September in a bid to help ease their concerns.

But speaking at a full council meeting on Thursday, September 17, Coun Hardman said he did not want to rush the process, which could see the authority get more powers.

“What is quite interesting is that there are some obvious tensions occurring with some of our district colleagues because fundamentally you cannot be in two combined authorites,” he said.

“I think it is very unlikely with our timetable that we are going to be forced and we are going to be capable of making a decision on devolution in Worcestershire.”

Coun Hardman also revealed he had also been contacted ‘out of the blue’ by Coun Bob Sleigh, leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, asking the county council to join the West Midlands Combined Authority, which he rejected.

“Until last week nobody from the West Midlands Combined Authority had ever communicated with us in any shape or form,” Coun Hardman said.

“To get a letter this late in the day when we are in the process of negotiating and starting talks with Central Government about what would be on the table and what would be off the table is frankly just too late.

“I sympathise with district members. Yes, you are going to have to make a decision, but it is a question between Birmingham or sticking with Worcestershire in my view.

“I am not going to have Worcestershire’s devolution debate rushed by diktats from Birmingham City Council – it is as simple as that.”

Coun Hardman wanted to delay the debate until late November, but a number of councillors raised concerns, including Coun Rachel Jenkins, who said: “We need to have that debate sooner rather than later whether or not we have got all the pieces together.”

Coun Luke Mallett added: “We need a discussion and need it now rather than in Novermber.

“We do need to join up some of these conversations because my fear is that authorities like Bromsgrove and Redditch maybe rushing forward with half or less of the information.”

Coun Hardman said he was more than happy to hold two briefings in October for councillors before the meeting takes place in November.

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