Conservatives at Lichfield District Council told they can’t have combined authority cake and eat it

The Conservatives on Lichfield District Council have been told they can’t “have their cake and eat it” on the issue of joining a combined authority.

The controlling group opted to vote against joining a West Midlands link-up at a special meeting last night after concerns over the lack of a veto power.

Leader Mike Wilcox insisted the local authority’s place in the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership meant it could still be a part of economic discussions and have access to funding pots.

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward

But Labour opposition leader Sue Woodward said any notion of councils within the combined authority listening to Lichfield District Council following the vote was “ludicrous”.

“This was about devolving resources down to combined authorities so decisions about infrastructure or skills are not taken in Whitehall, but are taken by the combined authorities instead,” she said. “But we’re not in one now, so we’ve lost that opportunity.

“The idea that we can still carry on talking to them and them taking any notice of us is ludicrous – you can’t have your cake and eat it.

“Not having a veto is one thing, not being party to the discussions is something else altogether.”

Cllr Woodward said too many members of the council had misunderstood the remit of the combined authority by fearing it would lead to a takeover of Lichfield and Burntwood.

She added: “It was really disappointing that having had so many sessions where concerns were addressed, and in spite of being told time and time again that it wasn’t about local government reorganisation, some members still trotted out the line that they didn’t want to be taken over Birmingham – we never were going to be.

“It was not about reorganisation or Wolverhampton, West Bromwich or Birmingham imposing themselves on us. Lichfield District Council still would have had autonomy.

“These councils aren’t predatory ogres taking over, they are councils interested in working together to find the best way to achieve mutual objectives.

“At some point down the line when Cannock Chase and Tamworth are getting investment that Lichfield turned its back on, it will be very difficult not to say ‘told you so’.”

Conservative leader Cllr Wilcox said the door had not been completely closed on joining a West Midlands Combined Authority.

“It was simply the case that joining a combined authority was too big a risk at this moment in time,” he said. “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 differently. But as a group we decided to take a step back at this stage and not join.”

Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

1 Comment

  1. Thornton

    14th October, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    I suppose the point of the opposition is to oppose so fair comment Sue. I still think that the council made the right decision to stay out for now. I realise that it shouldn’t be a political issue but seeing as the majority of the joint areas are Labour led, there would without doubt be a conflict of interests. Lichfield is Lichfield and does not require a shed load of government investment to improve. Birmingham and Wolverhampton do and I believe most investment in Lichfield would be from housing developments or light commercial which would be from private sources anyway.