Calls for the region’s combined authority to be named “Greater Birmingham” have gained surprise support – from the Black Country.
Mike Dell, chair of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce Devolution Group, followed in the footsteps of Andy Street, chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, in calling for the name.
Talks are currently taking place between leaders of seven West Midland councils about setting up a combined authority to work together on areas like infrastructure, skills and planning.
The Post revealed last week that opposition to the title “Greater Birmingham” had led to leaders plumping for the name West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
However, Mr Dell, who is also managing director of Oldbury metalwork firm BC Barton, said that name would sell the region short as compared to the likes of Greater Manchester and Greater London.
He said: “The name ‘Birmingham’ is recognised on the world stage, West Midlands is not and we do not want to be trying to explain where we are. It is important that we put aside parochial perspectives and work together.
“The Greater Birmingham Combined Authority will be the means by which the Black Country will get its hands on transport infrastructure and skills monies that will underpin our growth. Within Greater Birmingham, Black Country businesses can demonstrate their worth on an international stage and secure the long term future of the region."
The name of the combined authority, which is expected to be rubber-stamped next year, has become an area of fierce debate.
When the Post reported leaders had opted for WMCA, it prompted an angry response from many.
On the Post site, Barry Lyndon said: “An artificial name which has dogged our regional identity since its creation in 1974, now given a new lease of life. Nice work, guys.”
Joynal Abdin added: “If this remains and is allowed to happen, it’s the worst of all outcomes.”
Internal Exile said: “Lamentable. The ‘West Midlands’ sounds like what it is - a meaningless name devised by bureaucrats and for bureaucrats.”
Talks are still taking place between council leaders in Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton, among others, over the combined authority.
It is key to accessing a pot of billions of pounds worth of spending power currently overseen in Whitehall.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine called on council leaders to embrace the process and take greater control over their economies, speaking to the Post this week.
In response, Mr Dell said: “Business leaders should not be frightened to tell the mandarins of Whitehall about the appetite for change within the region.
“The Black Country has its blueprint for a £34 billion economy. Business people know the steps that need to be taken and will work with politicians to create an agenda for change. The risk to the Black Country of doing nothing is greater than that to Whitehall.”