Business leaders in Greater Birmingham have urged local authorities in the West Midlands to work urgently for a devolved combined authority.
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) said it was essential that the seven authorities in the West Midland capitalised on the announcement by Chancellor George Osborne that he will give more power to those English regions “who want to take this bold step into the future”.
Birmingham Chamber president Greg Lowson said: “Now is the time for the component parts of the West Midlands to work together to grab this tremendous opportunity being offered by the government.
“And we urge them to think carefully about the added value of having an elected mayor. The Chancellor has made it abundantly clear that only cities that have an elected mayor will be given control of local transport, housing and skills.
“Birmingham’s electorate rejected the idea of an elected mayor for the city alone, as Manchester did, but a mayor could unlock even more resources for a combined authority.”
A Cities Devolution Bill will be in the Queen’s speech later this month and leaders of Greater Manchester’s 10 councils have already agreed to the area’s first mayoral election.
Mr Lowson added: “The Chancellor’s unequivocal criteria for devolution makes it a whole new question for the West Midlands.
“We agree with Mr Osborne that trying to run everything in the country from London has made people feel remote from the decisions that affect their lives.
“This is not good for prosperity or democracy and it’s time people in the West Midlands were empowered to decide their own policies on important issues.
“We are encouraged by signs from some of the more reluctant areas in the region, like Solihull and Coventry, that devolution under a Greater Birmingham banner is becoming more acceptable.
“So it is essential that we grasp this opportunity with utmost speed. And soundings undertaken by the Chamber indicate that there is widespread support from the business community in the region.”