Conservatives on Lichfield District Council accused of turning their back on George Osborne’s devolution deal

The Conservatives on Lichfield District Council have been accused of turning their back on George Osborne plans for devolved powers.

George Osborne. Pic: M Holland

George Osborne. Pic: M Holland

The controlling Tory group rejected plans to join a West Midlands combined authority earlier this week.

A special meeting of the council saw all Conservative members reject the chance to join.

The gathering of councillors had been called to make a decision over the West Midlands combined authority in time to allow the chancellor George Osbone to confirm the plans in his autumn statement.

But Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of the Labour opposition group, said the Tories had gone against their own party’s wishes.

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward

“This is George Osborne’s devolution deal and now Conservatives at Lichfield District Council have turned their back on what the chancellor is offering to them,” she said.

“This was not about local government reorganisation, it was all about devolving resources from Westminster to combined authorities, so decisions about infrastructure are not taken in Whitehall. But we’re not in that discussion now.

“It seems to me we’ve lost an opportunity for additional investment that might have been there.”

Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of Lichfield District Council, said a decision not to join was down to concerns over the way powers could be used in future.

“We were not overly happy or comfortable with the governance around the voting for non-constituent members,” he said.

“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.”

But his Labour counterpart said the excuse didn’t hold water.

“We didn’t have these conversations when we joined the local enterprise partnerships and that wasn’t a dissimilar situation,” Cllr Woodward said. “It’s not as if other councils were keeping their cards close to their chests on the combined authority and we risked going it alone.

“I couldn’t see any threats that weren’t going to be threats whether we joined or not. Housing from Birmingham could still be pushed into Lichfield district whether we were in a combined authority or not.

“When you get a bunch of councillors saying we shouldn’t go ahead with this because we don’t know implications, I will have to ask the question about whether they know the implications of every decision in future.

“Councillors often have to go with a best guess forward as you can’t predict the future.”

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

6 Comments

  1. FiveSpiresLive

    16th October, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    So all of the Conservative group voted against.

    Presumably there was a three line whip on the vote?

    I find it hard to believe that so many could hold such a decisive view on such an ambivalent issue. Councillors are elected to engage with local issues, think for themselves and vote accordingly.

    The WMCA lead by the disfunctional Birmingham council will of course be a fiasco of pantomime proportions, but by being involved we would at least have been able to have a voice and a share in any of the spoils, with little real threat to our ‘independence’ at the early stages.

    We’ve left ourselves in the tent with Uncle Albert Bore pissing in from the outside.

  2. Rob

    16th October, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    At least Labour members never go against John McDonnell’s wishes, even on the rare occasions when they know what they are.

  3. Nomad

    16th October, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Personally I congratulate the conservative majority for taking an air of caution before joining a WMCA.
    With the Labour controlled Birmingham council borrowing forecast to hit a record high of £3.65 billion by March 2016,
    which will see Birmingham’s debt repayments rise to £325 million a year swallowing up almost one-third of the net revenue budget ,I feel they should be made to prove they can look after there own coffers before gaining control of Lichfield’s.
    And do we do we really want to be in the hands of a Mr Big? This is a far cry from having a council leader , which I see as essential, for certain purposes, in an area such as Lichfield. It is in essence the appropriation of executive power to one individual, and furthermore an individual who won’t be democratically elected by a public vote but will have the power to land grab amongst others.I can see why Lichfield’s membership would be of benefit to the WMCA but I cannot see any advantages for Lichfield itself. I’d like to see our membership decided by the people who it will directly affect, namely the people of Lichfield, and not by a few individuals behind closed doors.

  4. Thornton

    17th October, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    I agree, I cannot see any benefit this would have brought to Lichfield but then again I’m open to ideas. Lichfield does not have the issues places such as Birmingham and Wolverhampton. I’d like to think it’s a fairly aspirational place to live and although it’s a City it should try to keep its Village feel.

  5. Rob

    20th October, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Not difficult to see why the labour bunch are so keen on scrutiny and want to join this lot:
    http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/birmingham-councillors-25-per-cent-10297802

  6. Rob

    6th January, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    Not hearing much from Labour’s local representatives about their enthusiasm for their own national leadership. Strange, when the Corbynista reshuffle has been lauded as such a success, and they usually have plenty to say on such matters.