[Robert Picken, Project Support Officer, to present update on report on Combined Authority]
Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader of the Council, briefed Councillors on current progress made in the establishment of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), details of the devolution deal and the election of a Mayor.
Keith Ireland, Managing Director, welcomed Stuart Evans to the meeting. The Managing Director explained the reason the delay in getting Parliamentary approve to establish the WMCA and the abolition of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority.
Cllr Lawrence advised that Warwickshire and Rugby were now non-constituent members of WMCA, and that discussions were on-going with other local authorities.
Councillors queried the reasons for the objection to the order to establish WMCA. Cllr Lawrence explained that the parliamentary process allows a single MP to object to a draft Order of the Secretary of State. The reason for the objection was related to the creation of the Mayor and the powers that would be conferred on them.
Stuart Evans explained that the order would be re-submitted and the expectation is it will be approved as it only requires a majority of MPs to approve the order.
Councillors queried the financial contribution of members of WMCA and if the amount was on one off payment.
The Managing Director explained that there is a flat rate contribution for 2016/17 of £250,000 for members. The payment for non-constituent members is £25,000. Districts will contribute at a rate of £100,000. The level of payment will be increased in future at the determination of the Combined Authority Board. The Managing Director explained that it was a costly process to set up the WMCA.
The Board discussed the role of WMCA in improving transport links across the region.
Councillors queried the governance arrangements for WMCA. The Leader explained the different members of the WMCA are leading on different work streams. For example, Sandwell MBC was leading on the Land Commission and City of Wolverhampton Council is leading on the governance work stream.
Councillors commented on the need to involve the public in the discussions about the development of the WMCA and in producing information showing the benefits for Wolverhampton and the wider region. Councillors expressed concern that they did not have enough information to answer queries from the public about the benefits of WMCA.
Cllr Lawrence outlined the benefits of WMCA will bring to Wolverhampton and the region, such as job creation and making the region more competitive.
The WMCA has communications team working to raise awareness of the current and future plans. Cllr Lawrence commented on the need to consider the individual identities of the seven metropolitan councils and getting public support for the plans. The key issue was to stress that the WMCA plans were aimed at drawing down powers from central government rather than drawing powers from local authorities.
The Managing Director outlined the funded posts within the WMCA and the other senior officer supported provided, at no cost to the WMCA.
Councillors commented on the importance of robust accountability and strong governance arrangements. The Managing Director responded that skilled expertise is being brought to support the work. The Managing Director commented that he was happy to meet Councillors to offer briefings on progress or respond to information requests about governance arrangements.
Councillors queried the current thinking among members of the group about the level of remuneration for Mayor. The Managing Director responded that there had been some informal discussions with the leaders and indications suggest a salary in the range £40,000-£50,000. The decision would be considered by an independent person who would be asked to make a recommendation. The level of award once agreed would be reviewed by the WMCA Board at a future date.
The panel welcomed the offer of the Managing Director to attend future meetings to brief the Board on progress. The Scrutiny Chair welcomed the report and the progress made.
The Managing Director to be invited to a future meeting of the Board to give an update on progress in the establishment of the WMCA.