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Birmingham and Black Country agree to form combined authority

Birmingham City Council (CC), Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC), Sandwell MBC, Walsall Council and Wolverhampton CC wrote to chancellor George Osborne on Thursday to announce their intention to form a combined authority to guide economic development in the region.

The letter said that the five councils were in "ongoing discussions" with Solihull MBC and Coventry CC "as well as a number of the neighbouring district councils" in order to build an alliance with "direct influence over the economic fortunes of more than 3.4 million people in the wider Midlands area".

In a statement of intent (2-page / 78 KB PDF) released this morning, the councils said that the councils hoped to agree the devolution of powers from central government to the combined authority and that it expected to "focus on strategic planning and delivery for economic development and transport".

"In the light of developments in policy from both the government and opposition, we believe that there is now an unprecedented window of opportunity for the West Midlands, along with the other cities and city regions of England, to claim significant new powers and devolved resources from central government," said the statement.

"We recognised that this will require us to collaborate more effectively, not least by establishing stronger accountability arrangements for city region governance," continued the statement. "We have, therefore, agreed to commence the first stage in the creation of a combined authority, with the intention that the detailed scheme for the authority will be produced by April 2015 and approval gained by the end of next year."

Following the announcement, leader of Birmingham City Council Sir Albert Bore said: "I am pleased that we have come together to reach this agreement which will ensure the region makes a full contribution both to the UK's economic recovery and the re-balancing of the national economy. A combined authority stretching from Wolverhampton to Coventry and beyond, and from East Staffordshire to Redditch would form the core of the Midlands powerhouse to compete with city regions around the world."

The combined authority would be the second of its kind in England, after ten councils came together to form the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in April 2011.

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