Lack of veto on decisions led to combined authority rejection, says Lichfield District Council leader

The potential of not having the power to veto decisions were behind a decision by Lichfield District Council not to join a West Midlands Combined Authority.

Councillors voted against signing up at a special meeting of the council this evening.

Conservative leader Mike Wilcox told LichfieldLive that the decision was made after a late revelation on the way members of the combined authority could vote.

Lichfield District Council leader Mike Wilcox

Lichfield District Council leader Mike Wilcox

Lichfield District Council would have joined the group as a non-constituent member, leaving it without voting rights under the current system. But a change next April could have seen a two-thirds majority accepted on votes which directly affected the district.

“I was led to believe there’d be an opportunity to veto anything that went on in our area,” said Cllr Wilcox. “So as the two-thirds stance emerged at the last meeting of leaders of the various councils, it made us in Lichfield stand back from the edge and think that we need to be absolutely sure, because if they decide to change the governance in April it might not suit our cause to need a two-thirds majority.

“Things have moved at pace and they change regularly. Every time we come back from a meeting something has changed because things come forward that make it difficult to be certain about what is best.

“At this time, we were not overly happy or comfortable with the governance around the voting for non-constituent members.”

Not being part of the combined authority could potentially see Lichfield District Council miss out on investment in areas such as infrastructure.

But Cllr Wilcox insisted the area would still have a strong voice in the regional economic landscape.

He said: “We’re still part of two Local Enterprise Partnerships and we will continue with our economic agenda where we are getting funding from these bodies.

“It was simply the case that joining a combined authority was too big a risk at this moment in time. Other authorities have also decided not to go in, so it’s not as if we’re not on our own.

“That’s not to say next year or whenever the Government give an opportunity to join that we won’t decide to join. But as a group we decided to take a step back at this stage and not join.”

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward

The council’s Labour opposition group leader Sue Woodward – who had previously described joining a combined authority as a “no-brainer” – said the decision meant Lichfield District Council risked being left out of the decision-making process altogether.

“I think this is an opportunity missed,” she said. “Cllr Wilcox himself said that there were opportunities and it was good to be around the table being involved in the discussions on them. But the Conservatives have now turned their back on those opportunities.

“It’s all well saying there was no veto, but there will be no chance to have a say, let alone a veto, now.

“What on earth did they think was going to be imposed on Lichfield District in terms of transport infrastructure or skills and training opportunities that they would need to veto anyway?

“People asked why we should take Birmingham’s housing – regardless of being a member of a combined authority or not, all councils have a duty to co-operate so houses have to be built and some from the West Midlands may well have to come into Staffordshire and we certainly won’t have a veto on that.”

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

4 Comments

  1. Thornton

    13th October, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Well done to the Council for being cautious. They should all be congratulated for such a wise decision and for spotting this ‘revelation’. There’s no harm in standing back and watching how this progresses rather than jumping in at the deep end.

  2. Loyal Lichfeldian

    14th October, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    It is good that LDC have made a decision. What opportunity exists for joining the Combined Authority at a later date? What will be the cost of entering the Authority late? I hope we are not penalised for delaying our decision

  3. Rob

    14th October, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Looks like the right choice. Lichfield won’t gain from being bullied by West Midland conurbations with whom we have very little in common.

  4. Simon

    25th October, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Glad to see this has been rejected. We have little enough democracy in this area as it is. Very little competition between political parties.

    This would have given us no say in any decisions and allowed other councils who are not far off bankrupt, to take our money and share their debts and issues.

    I know very few people who feel they have a connection with their Cllr as it is.