Partners buoyed by constructive devolution meeting

Posted on: 19 January 2018

Ambitious plans to boost the economy of Devon and Somerset will be the subject of regular meetings between council leaders and senior Government officials.

The Heart of the South West devolution proposals have taken a significant step forward with a positive meeting between regional partners and key civil servants.

Leaders and chief executives representing local authorities from Devon, Somerset, Plymouth, Torbay, Exeter and East Devon alongside the Local Enterprise Partnership met with staff from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

They discussed how they and the Government could work together to expand the region’s economy and improve productivity through a devolution deal and agreed to hold regular meetings to move the ambitious plans forward.

“We explained our vision for the area and how to help it become more prosperous”, said Councillor David Fothergill, Chair of the Heart of the South West Shadow Joint Committee.

“We discussed skills, transport infrastructure, broadband access, ways to provide more homes where they are needed and support for businesses to grow, innovate and export more. We also talked about the specific challenges faced by rural communities.

“Civil servants were impressed at our unity of purpose and desire to see the whole of our area benefit. They have asked for more information on our package of ambitious offers and asks and have agreed to meet with us on a regular basis”.

For well over two years Devon and Somerset county, unitary and district councils, along with Clinical Commissioning Groups, National Parks and the Local Enterprise Partnership have been working towards a devolution deal. It would potentially bring additional funding and decision making powers to the local level to help increase productivity and economic prosperity.

A Joint Committee for the Heart of the South West area (HotSW) is being set-up, a move agreed by all 23 partnership organisations. It will be vehicle for further devolution discussions with Government and the delivery of a Productivity Strategy across the area. It is due to meet for the first time in March.

A devolution deal for the area would potentially see the partners take responsibility for extra powers and budgets with the aim of delivering huge benefits for all residents including higher productivity, better-paid jobs, improved road, rail and broadband links and more affordable homes for the region.

Councillor John Hart

Devon County Council leader John Hart said: “I repeat my long-held view that we can deliver more effectively and more efficiently for our local communities than Westminster and Whitehall.

“The clock is ticking down to Brexit and we have impressed on the civil servants that we, as a partnership, stand ready to take advantage of the opportunities that will provide and to mitigate the challenges it will present. We stand ready and united to get on with the job.”

The Government has made clear its view that an elected Mayor would not need to be part of any HotSW deal.

All the authorities worked together to jointly submit a Productivity Prospectus to the Government outlining the region’s case in February 2016. The full Prospectus for Productivity can be found on Somerset County Council’s website https://somersetnewsroom.com/devolution/. This work will culminate in a Productivity Strategy being agreed by the HotSW Joint Committee at its first formal meeting on 2nd March 2018.

The partners that make up the HotSW devolution partnership are: Dartmoor National Park Authority, Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council, Exmoor National Park Authority, Mendip District Council, Mid Devon District Council, North Devon Council, Plymouth City Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset County Council, South Hams District Council, South Somerset District Council, Torbay Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Teignbridge District Council, Torridge District Council, West Devon Borough Council, West Somerset Council, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (the LEP), NHS Northern, Eastern and Weston Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups.

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