Concern West Midlands looking to swallow up Warwickshire - The Leamington Observer

Concern West Midlands looking to swallow up Warwickshire

Leamington Editorial 16th Feb, 2022   0

MP Matt Western has raised concern the West Midlands could be looking to swallow up Warwickshire.

West Midlands Combined Authority mayor Andy Street did not rule out the possibilty when asked during a TV interview but did stress there were no immediate plans.

The interview followed the publication of the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper which encourages new regions to apply for devolution under the metro mayor model – and the growth of existing combined authority areas.

But Warwick and Leamington Labour MP Matt Western is ‘suspicious’ since the Conservative mayor visited Leamington in the same week he gave the interview, without notifying him – something he says is ‘common courtesy’.

Mr Street visited the town to view local regeneration projects, businesses and the bowling greens at Victoria Park in preparation for the bowls event, part of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Mr Western said: “I was disappointed by Mr Street’s comments in the press about Warwickshire essentially being annexed into the combined authority – which would result in more distant decision making and an increased democratic deficit.

“I was also disappointed by Mr Street’s failure to notify me of his visit to our beautiful town.

“It is common courtesy to contact an area’s MP on official visits, and I felt I had to write to him to call it out.”

Mr Western is concerned Warwickshire County Council’s plans for a unitary authority in the county, and the merger of Conservative-run Stratford and Warwick district councils to form a larger South Warwickshire authority, could lead to forcing through full membership of the combined authority.

But a spokesman for Mr Street said: “There are currently no plans for the expansion of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and no authority has put forward a proposal – as is the process – to become a constituent member.”

He also defended the mayor’s failure to notify Mr Western of his visit and accused the MP of ‘engaging in party politics’.

“There has also never been a protocol for the mayor to inform MPs whenever he is on a visit.

“Given the mayor spends his weeks out and about across the West Midlands rather than being based in London, this would be impractical.

“On this occasion, the mayor and the chief executive of the WMCA were invited by Warwick District Council to see areas of common interest – such as preparations for the Commonwealth Games.

“Mr Western is, sadly, engaging in the kind of party politics that has held the West Midlands back for decades, which the mayor and the WMCA are working incredibly hard to reverse.”

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