"GREATER BRUM" DEAL COOKED UP IN PANIC, SAY CONSERVATIVES

City Conservative leader Councillor Wendy Thompson said that the first that most people in Birmingham and the Black Country will have heard about the deal was when they opened their papers, logged onto the Internet or turned on their radios or televisions this morning.

"We are talking about the way our communities are run, here," said Councillor Thompson. "There has been no consultation, no sounding of opinions, no discussion of where the borders of this new structure will fall and no discussion on what powers it will have."

Councillor Thompson added that she suspected that the five Labour leaders of the Black Country and Birmingham authorities had gone into panic mode because of their party's lukewarm response to new calls for devolution in England following the Scottish referendum.

"They have been talking about 'City Regions' for years and have got nowhere, only to find that Manchester are suddenly getting more money. Yet, there has been no examination of how the Manchester combined authority will be run or whether that setup would fit our needs in the Midlands. It is a back room deal struck in a hurry.

"What many people fear is that we end up with a regional government that costs more money to run but doesn't fill in a single extra pothole, or employ a single extra Police officer or neighbourhood warden."

Councillor Thompson also questioned the speed at which the four Black Country leaders (all Labour) had simply 'gone in with Birmingham'.

"The Black Country has well over a million people on its own, as well as links to areas to the west, in Staffordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. Could we not at least have discussed this as a viable alternative?"

Councillor Thompson concluded that, for Wolverhampton, it was an admission of failure on behalf of the City's Labour leaders. "In their press release this morning, the leaders talked about skills, jobs and growth. If going into this conglomeration is the only way that Wolverhampton under Labour can achieve long-term prosperity, it speaks volumes for the current leadership and the decades of failure over which they have presided."