THE leader of Worcestershire County Council has launched an attack on plans for a 'Greater Birmingham' region - saying he will not be part of a "regional quango" run by a "dictatorship".

Councillor Adrian Hardman told your Worcester News he would fight any attempts to see Worcestershire sucked up into a new authority bidding for regional Government funds.

Last week the Labour Party revealed that if it wins the next General Election, it is prepared to hand out £30 billion to new 'federal' style UK regions able to form combined local authorities.

The new bodies would take over funding and policy for hugely important areas like transport and infrastructure, and be ran by elected mayors.

Councils in Birmingham, the Black Country and Solihull are deep in talks over forging a possible deal, and in recent weeks there are suggestions Staffordshire and Worcestershire could be tagged on if interest is shown.

The appetite for new regional authorities is similar within the Coalition, which has agreed a new Greater Manchester 'region' can launch from 2017, with agreement struck by 10 councils to devolve more powers.

It will be ran by an elected mayor and be responsible for policies including transport, social care, housing and police budgets.

The Government has said it wants to see more authorities working together on a regional authority model, which would be over-arching and operate above existing upper tier councils.

To make matters more complicated, Worcestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has just agreed to team up with its counterpart body in Birmingham and Solihull in what they call a "formalised working relationship".

LEPs are taking on ever-growing responsibility from central Government, and being handed £12 billion on major projects like new roads and education facilities.

Cllr Hardman said: "This idea of a 'regional mayor' has already been rejected by people in the North East and the whole idea we should have something similar here misses the point.

"It's just another way of Birmingham telling us what to do - what I am espousing is the devolution of more powers from central Government directly into this county, 'one place, one budget'.

"I'm not up for a regional quango, a dictatorship ran by one man.

"There's also the question of why Birmingham feels the need to expand wherever it can. We've had no talks and don't plan to."

He said any devolvement must be on Worcestershire's terms, rather than be achieved by creating new tiers of regional authority.

Worcestershire's LEP has agreed to work with two other LEPs - Birmingham & Solihull and Stoke & Staffordshire.

They say a "range of projects" will now be worked on for the "mutual benefit of the region", although they will still retain their own identities.

Peter Pawsey, chairman of the Worcestershire LEP, said the agreement formalises a loose working relationship that has existed in the past, saying the £3 million for Kidderminster's Hoo Brook link road was a result of work with Birmingham.

He said: “There has already been continuous and extensive collaboration between Worcestershire and Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnerships on schemes of joint interest.

“The signing of the protocol now formalises this arrangement going forward to benefit the long term prosperity of the region.

“Successful joint initiatives to date have included major transport infrastructure improvements.

"For example, the aligning of the Growing Places Funding to support the Hoobrook Link Road in Kidderminster to alleviate traffic congestion and open up significant employment and housing land opportunities on the South Kidderminster Enterprise Park.

“We will now identify further opportunities to work together on projects to maximise business opportunities for Worcestershire and the region, remove barriers for growth, encourage innovation and increase job creation, whilst ensuring effective and efficient investment.”


The county council released a statement this afternoon after more details emerged on a 'super council' for the West Midlands.

Birmingham City Council's leader, Sir Albert Bore, this afternoon said he was pleased with how the talks were going with neighbouring areas and envisioned an authority "stretching from Wolverhampton to Coventry and beyond, and from east Staffordshire to Redditch" which could "rebalance the national economy".

The county council's statement, released in the last few minutes on behalf on Cllr Hardman, said: "The news coming from Birmingham City Council's chief executive, Mark Rogers, regarding an imminent announcement on a West Midlands combined authority again puts the issue of the devolvement of further powers to local levels into focus.

"Our view is clear. Devolution is a good thing but what happens in the cities should happen in counties like our own.

"Given the counties account for around 48 per cent of the Gross Value Added to the nation's economy, not doing so would be an opportunity missed.

"We are continuing to build our 'world class' Worcestershire and have a clear plan to keep our county open for business.

"The pace on this issue is stepping up and things are beginning to crystallise a little more.

"I am keen on working towards putting in place a shadow Economic Prosperity Board for Worcestershire by early 2015."