Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans is making sure key Plymouth issues are high on the agenda of new Government Cabinet members.
Councillor Evans has written to key members of the new Cabinet setting out some of the most pressing issues for Plymouth and asking for meetings at the earliest opportunity to discuss them.
They include support for the Mayflower 400 celebrations, addressing underfunding in areas such as public health, progressing the City Deal, investing in rail infrastructure and support for Devonport Naval Base.
In a letter to Greg Clark, the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Councillor Evans set out the huge financial challenges facing the City Council and how it is addressing them proactively with an ambitious transformation programme. He called for Mr Clark to support this transformation with greater flexibility over finances.
He also outlined progress with Plymouth’s City Deal and the plans to finalise the business case for a Marine Enterprise Zone at South Yard with Mr Clark’s department.
In his letter to Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for Armed Forces, Councillor Evans also welcomed the support for Plymouth’s Enterprise Zone bid for South Yard, which will enable the city to fast track developments to create a marine production campus employing 1,200 people, but told the Portsmouth MP that Plymouth needed to be treated fairly over the Dockyard and Naval Base.
He wrote: “We would respectfully request your ongoing support and impartiality with regard to safeguarding the value of HM Devonport Dockyard and Naval Base to Plymouth’s economy and underpinning our overall marine offer.”
And in his letter to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, Councillor Evans asked for further talks on further support for Plymouth’s plans to match skills with employers’ needs, particularly in growth areas such as the marine sector.
The City Council already had high level discussions with Government about the city’s plans for the Mayflower 400 celebrations. In his letter to John Whittingdale, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Councillor Evans asked to continue the discussions about Plymouth’s plans to celebrate the anniversary, which provides an outstanding opportunity to act as a catalyst for major economic growth and cultural enrichment on both sides of the Atlantic.
He said: “This needs to include supporting us through promoting Mayflower 400 to Government counterparts across the Atlantic, for CDMS, BIS, UKTI and other government departments such as the FCO to work with us on these visits.”
Councillor Evans has met with Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin several times over the last few years to press the case for Government investment in the rail infrastructure in the South West.
Following Mr McLoughlin’s re-appointment Councillor Evans reiterated the need to address decades of underfunding and create a South West Peninsula railway that is fit for purpose through a programme that provides a resilient and reliable railway, faster journey times, better connectivity and sufficient capacity and comfort.
He also called for the Secretary of State to ensure one of his priority decisions is to confirm approval for First Great Western to go ahead with the procurement of the build and financing of a new train fleet for the South West.
Councillor Evans has asked Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, calling on his support in addressing the very low levels of funding the Government provides Plymouth for public health compared to other parts of the country.
Plymouth receives only £47 grant per resident which compares very badly to the funding received by much better off areas.
Councillor Evans also highlighted Plymouth’s pioneering work in integrating health and social care commissioning.
He said: “Our model puts individuals firmly at the centre of all our commissioning and gives us the ability to pool or align funding across a much wider range of the public services that contribute to good health and wellbeing.”
He added: “We could go even further if the Government allowed us additional freedoms and flexibilities.”
Councillor Evans said: “We have worked hard over the last few years to build relationships with Government ministers and make sure the city is much higher up the national agenda. We absolutely have to address decades of underfunding in areas such as rail infrastructure, funding to roads and for vital services such as public health. We cannot afford to lose momentum and will be making sure we maintain Plymouth’s profile in Westminster. Along with our partners we will be knocking on their doors and continuing to bang the drum for Plymouth.”
The letters can be read on the Council’s website: http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/letterstocabinet