Great news this morning – it’s brilliant to be able to announce that we will be forming a new combined authority with our Black Country and Birmingham neighbours.
My fellow leaders in Birmingham, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton have agreed in principle for us all to work more closely for the benefit of us all.
We’ve also invited Solihull and Coventry to join us – and I really hope they do.
I’ve been on Midlands Today, BBC WM and Free Radio this morning and I’m giving more interviews throughout the day.
The reaction on Twitter has been largely really positive, but I wanted to address a few questions.
Firstly, Sandwell (or any of the other councils) won’t suddenly cease to exist. Each authority will keep its own name, governance arrangements and identity.
The individual councils will still set their own council tax rates, they’ll still provide local services on an individual basis, there will be no amalgamation of services or councils.
The combined authority will be made up of a board of all of the council leaders, chaired by one of us, and also the chairs of the Local Enterprise Partnerships. This board will include the key talents in our geographical area.
What it will give us is a route for the government to devolve power from Westminster to us.
We’ll have stronger decision-making powers, more say over how money is spent and it will also give us a powerful voice to speak as one.
Another thing people are asking is if we’ll be known as “Greater Birmingham”. The simple answer is no.
We will work on a name that will reflect the views of the local people – for example, it may be called Birmingham and the Black Country.
However if other councils join us, we’ll have to think of something else. Possibly, it could be the West Midlands Combined Authority. We’re hoping to confirm the official name early next year.
I’m confident that by doing this, we’re going to attract hundreds of millions of pounds of investment to create jobs and improve transport links across the West Midlands.
You can read more about our plans on the council website.