Devon and Somerset councils call for more devolved powers
Posted on: 4 September 2015
Council leaders across Devon and Somerset today called for more devolved powers from Westminster.
The two county councils, Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council and the 13 district councils have all submitted a Statement of Intent to the Government.
They have been joined by Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership which represents local businesses and councils in Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay.
Their Statement of Intent is in response to the Government’s offer to devolve power and budgets from Westminster to local authorities which work together.
The key themes are economic growth, health, social care and wellbeing and infrastructure and local resilience.
The document sets the scene for discussions with Government about what powers could be devolved and will be followed up with more detailed proposals.
It has been prepared by Devon and Somerset local authorities and follows meetings held by council leaders in August.
In total 20 local partners are involved in the submission, reflecting the Heart of the South West LEP boundaries.
Devon County Council leader John Hart said:
“It is really important that we present a united front to the Government and we have achieved a high level of agreement on the key issues affecting the South West.
“I have always said that we can do things more effectively and more efficiently locally than being told what to do by London. We are saying to Government: ‘You devolve and we’ll deliver’.
“These are very early stages but we are ambitious and we believe that devolution would help us create jobs, build the right infrastructure and make progress on key issues like health and social care integration.
“We have shared goals with our partners and will be working very closely with them in the coming weeks and months to move things forward.”
Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans said:
“As a region we are already developing stronger relationships through ambitious and far-reaching schemes such as the City Deal and the Peninsula Rail Taskforce.
“This statement is about telling Government we want to have some serious conversations about the issues that are important to all of us.
“The skills we need here to make sure our economy is strong and our businesses thrive, for instance, is something we need to look at.
“We all want to make sure local people have the right skills to gain well-paid employment and believe the right power and funding to target this can make a difference.
“This is about creating the space for collaborative working across the Heart of the South West LEP area – to benefit the people living here.”
Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver said:
“Working together is the way forward. Devolution will ensure that we have greater control to make the right choices to improve the lives of our residents. It will give us the opportunity to make decisions locally – specifically around the three main points.
“It is vital that we all pull together and provide a strong, unified approach. Torbay is committed to working with our partners to develop devolution proposals in this region.”
Somerset County Council leader John Osman said:
“A lot of authorities have done a lot of work in a very short time to prepare this document – that’s another example of what can be achieved when authorities in the region pull together where we have common ground.”
LEP chair Steve Hindley said:
“The Heart of the South West LEP is delighted to be a partner alongside the local authorities in their proposed deal for devolution.
“We will be actively supporting and continuing to work with business to bring about step-change in investment to leverage transformational growth, generate more prosperity and unleashing the area’s economic potential.”
The Statement of Intent is now available on the council’s website here.
The partners involved in the devolution bid are:
- Devon County Council
- Devon’s city, district and borough councils: Exeter, East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge and West Devon
- Plymouth City Council
- Torbay Council
- Exmoor National Park
- Dartmoor National Park
- Somerset County Council
- Somerset’s district and borough councils: Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset, Taunton Deane and West Somerset
- Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership
The Government has declared its desire to devolve powers and budgets from Westminster to local authorities. It expects any devolution proposals to reflect Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) boundaries and be supported by each area’s LEP.
If an area’s devolution plans include something that the Spending Review might focus on, for instance better use of public assets, then interest should be expressed by 4 September, though this is not a deadline for a fully worked-up devolution proposal.
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