Combined authority approves budget plan but defers added precept

Andy Street

The West Midlands Combined Authority has approved its new budget – but without an additional precept.

The precept would have added £10.80 to council tax bills for the average band D properties across the region.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street had wanted to use the precept to raise an additional £7.5m to help towards improvements to transport infrastructure and alleviate other costs.

However, in a major test of his authority, Labour council leaders from Coventry and Walsall – two of the seven constituent local authorities on the WMCA board – were supported by their Labour colleagues and vetoed the additional levy.

Members of the WMCA board met on Friday (February 9) and gave their backing to the proposed budget, which will provide the combined authority with more than £170m to cover its plans for 2018/19.

Following discussions between Mr Street and the WMCA board, an alternative funding package has been found for this financial year only.

This has seen plans for the introduction of a precept deferred for a year.

Despite the snub to his office, Mr Street said he was pleased with what had been achieved.

He said: “We have worked hard together to reach a financial agreement that does not affect spending and investment schemes.

“The leaders felt that in the current financial climate a precept on the council taxpayer in this coming year was not right at this time and I have listened to that view.

“I am delighted that we have now been able to agree a funding arrangement which both addresses those concerns and allows us all to continue to work on behalf of the West Midlands.”

Mayoral running costs of £823,000 will be covered by money from the Mayoral Capacity Fund – a scheme announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year, as well as a contribution of £265,000 from the constituent authorities following a rebate granted them then returned to the WMCA in 2017/18.

The authority said deferral of the precept would not materially change its reported position on the planned investment of more than £485m into the investment programme for 2018/19 to 2020/21.