WEST Midlands Mayor Andy Street suffered his first setback since being elected last year when his plans to add more than £10 a year to the average Council Tax bill was rejected by his cabinet.
The Conservative mayor faces a cabinet made up of five Labour council leaders and two Tories who, voting on party lines, rejected his budget proposal.
Mr Street wanted to set a £10,80 precept, an extra charge, on the average band D council tax bill to raise £7.5 million for the running of the West Midlands Combined Authority.
But in a protest led by Coventry City Council leader George Duggins and seconded by Walsall leader Sean Coughlan, the Labour dominated cabinet voted it down in a protest at Government funding cuts.
It was a first vote on the proposed budget ahead of public consultation and there will now be negotiations between the mayor and council leaders before their next meeting in February.
Councils are already implementing Council Tax increases of up to five per cent, of which two thirds is being specifically raised to fund under pressure social care services. Further increases in police and fire service charges, which make up a small part of the overall Council Tax bill, are also being proposed.
Since being elected as the West Midlands first mayor last May Mr Street, the former managing director of John Lewis, has sought to build cross party consensus with his Labour colleagues and steered away from blatant party political posturing.
But Labour council leaders used the vote to make a political point about the Conservative Government cutting funds to local authorities who are in turn forced to raise Council Tax.
The £10.80 a year increase was designed to raise £7.5 million to run the combined authority and if not approved insiders say the mayor may have to raid budgets set aside for projects - such as public transport, housing development and even the Commonwealth Games - to cover basic costs.
But there is optimism on all sides that agreement can be reached.
A West Midlands Combined Authority spokesman said: “The report to the WMCA Board was the first formal stage of a scrutiny and consultation process that will run until February 9 when the Board is scheduled to make a final decision on the proposed budget.
“This consultation process is designed to enable WMCA members to scrutinise, discuss and table any amendments such as the one seen at Friday’s meeting and this process will continue over the next four weeks.
“Options are being considered in light of the Board’s decision and further discussions on the draft budget will be held with WMCA members, the business community and other stakeholders in the run up to February 9.”
UPDATE - Mayor to face questions over budget
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street will be questioned about the region’s proposed budget for the coming year at a public meeting in Birmingham.
The combined authority's scrutiny committee, chaired by Sandwell councillor Peter Hughes, will quiz Mr Street about his £178 million budget proposals at a meeting on Wedesday, January 24.
Cllr Hughes said: "This is the first meeting ever where the West Midlands Combined Authority Mayor, Andy Street, will be questioned directly about the finances of the organisation and budget for 2018/19 and proposals for funding his office.
“I feel that we are acting as a voice of the people in scrutinising finances that will have a direct impact on West Midlands residents.”
The public are invited to attend the meeting, at the Combined Authority offices in Summer Lane from 10am, but only questions posed by the committee will be permitted. They must also book a place in advance here.