Business leaders in the Black Country have welcomed plans to strengthen ties with Birmingham after city council leader Sir Albert Bore suggested a region-wide local enterprise partnership.
Paul Bennett, president of Black Country Chamber of Commerce, welcomed comments by Sir Albert, who called for closer ties between the neighbouring areas.
The proposals had previously drawn derision from Walsall Council leader Mike Bird, who ruled out any merger between the Birmingham and Black Country LEPs in an interview with the Post.
However, Mr Bennett said that the relationship “should be one of allies rather than rivals” and was critical of political response.
He said: “Local politicians need to recognise that we elect them to focus upon our jobs not their’s. Change takes political courage, but the future prosperity of the Black Country and wider region demands strong civic leadership right now and that requires a pragmatic evaluation of the Black Country in a global market and its relationship with Birmingham. We need to move the debate beyond local politics and bin collections and put it into a global context.”
Sir Albert had raised the idea of a united West Midlands-wide LEP, saying the region would be better served by a single organisation.
“I think there needs to be changes to the LEP structure. I talk about the economic geography of the region not the LEP area,” he said.
However, Coun Bird, said: “Our answer to Sir Albert is no.
“We have told him this and if he doesn’t understand that I am sad for him.
“We do not want to join Birmingham and the Outer Mongolian LEP under any circumstances, and if they don’t like that, tough.”
However, Mr Bennett said in areas such as transport infrastructure, cross boundary co-operation was “absolutely essential”.
“The expansion of Birmingham Airport would bring huge benefit to the Black Country, yet it is not in the Black Country,” he added.
Mr Bennett said it was important to recognise that China has more than 100 cities with populations in excess of one million. He said some people needed a “reality check” about the abilities to compete on a global stage, with, for example, China having 20 cities with more than five million people.
Chambers of Commerce in Birmingham and the Black Country recently issued a joint communication on local transport governance matters.