Excellence in Governance and Scrutiny – Setting up the West Midlands Combined Authority

The task of setting up the West Midlands Combined Authority was led by the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Governance Team and was established by statutory order in June 2016. It was based on extensive consultation across the West Midlands region both online and via roadshows on whether the establishment of a combined authority would be beneficial to the region and, following the agreement of the devolution deal for the West Midlands, whether the proposals in the ‘Scheme’ document, outlining the devolved functions, would also benefit the region.

Efficiency and income generation

The challenge:

Carrying out the necessary legal groundwork and formulating the governance and scrutiny arrangements required achieving consensus and buy-in across a range of important areas with Government and across seven local authorities, each with its own political make up and priorities.  It also covered three Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas and its board includes a number of non-statutory members.

The solution:

A dedicated team was set up with a number of workstreams involving representatives from across the seven local authorities to consider all of the combined authority’s activities and powers. These workstreams then fed back to the Central Board.

One of these workstreams focused on governance. The LGA part funded the costs of a Policy Officer (£4,000)  who was seconded by the City of Wolverhampton on a full time basis to support this workstream.   The City of  Wolverhampton funded the balance of these costs which amounted to £32,000 in 2015/16.  The Policy Officer played a very significant role in this work which resulted in the City of Wolverhampton Council winning the 2017 MJ Award for Excellence in Governance and Scrutiny.

This structure ensured all major players were fully engaged, that lines of communication were clear and it promoted a spirit of transparency throughout. Given the tight timescale involved, it was critical to quickly establish protocols
and ensure the project maintained momentum.

The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable):
 
The West Midlands Combined Authority is now in place, up and running, enshrined in law and ready to take on further responsibilities as they are devolved. It has secured the biggest devolution deal in the country with around £8bn of initial investment together with control over adult skills, employment and transport.

How is the new approach being sustained?

By 2030 the West Midlands Combined Authority aims to deliver half-a-million new jobs, 1.9 million homes and attract an extra 20,000 businesses to the region.

The constitution of the combined authority has transparency and robust governance at its heart. It will make decisions over transport and infrastructure investment and strategies to boost the region’s economy – things that affect the everyday lives of four million people.

Lessons Learnt:

Following Central Board meetings, the legal teams met on a weekly basis. These meetings involved all matters relating to the establishment and governance of the West Midlands Combined Authority e.g. the constitution, having a Mayor.

This proved to be an effective way of maintaining momentum and actioning latest developments/decisions.

The West Midlands Combined Authority can demonstrate good practice in terms of processes followed, how it engaged with the different parties involved and maintained constant and constructive dialogue. The stakeholders included the three Local Enterprise Partnership constituent members, the seven metropolitan districts i.e. Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley, Solihull, Birmingham, Coventry and Sandwell. 

Residents and interest groups across the West Midlands played a key part in the creation of the combined authority through their feedback on proposals both during online consultations and via events and roadshows. As a result of
this it will continue to make those key decisions in a democratic and inclusive manner.

Contact:  Mark Taylor, Strategic Director, People
Mark.Taylor@wolverhampton.gov.uk

LGA contact: Grace Abel, grace.abel@local.gov.uk

https://www.wmca.org.uk

This case study forms part of our productivity experts resource.