The West Midlands Combined Authority: business dominance against local democracy

The attached paper is a detailed case study of the WMCA: what is wrong with it and what we can do to change it. 

England has a highly centralised system of government. Devolution to Combined Authorities could provide the opportunity for local citizens to have much more power over the policies that shape their daily lives. But Combined Authorities are a neoliberal economic and social project dominated by business interests and excluding democratic public participation. Local politicians have the power to open them up to democratic reform, empowering citizens and their organisations to reshape their policies to meet social priorities. It’s a question of political will and public pressure.

The attached paper is in seven parts, followed by notes, appendices and references:

Part 1: Neoliberal devolution (p 1). Some key ideas that together provide a theoretical framework for understanding the policy of Combined Authorities.

Part 2: The West Midlands Combined Authority (p 3). The governance of the WMCA and the role of business representatives within it, with some comparisons with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Part 3: Scrutiny: holding the WMCA to account? (p 13). Why the Scrutiny arrangements can’t hold the WMCA to account, and the potential conflicts of interest of the business representatives.

Part 4: Jobs and skills: what the WMCA claims (p 18). An analysis of the claims for increases in productivity, skills and jobs, including “HS2 growth”.

Part 5: The “skills gap”: the evidence (p 25). What is wrong with the WMCA’s argument, including the neglect of inequality.

Part 6: “Public service reform” (p 32). Reforms in a context of cuts, and a focus on Mental Health.

Part 7: For a new combination of representative and participative democracy (p 35). Practical steps towards a more democratic WMCA.

Richard Hatcher

1 March 2017

The paper is here:

1703 1 WMCA paper FINAL



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