United call for more devolved power from Westminster

Plymouth has joined forces with councils in Devon and Somerset to outline a case for more devolved powers from Westminster.

Council leader Tudor Evans has signed a ‘Statement of Intent’ which is being submitted to the Government today (Friday) on behalf of public sector organisations across the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership area.

The Government has said it wants to devolve powers and budgets from Westminster to local authorities – particularly if it helps drive economic growth and reduce reliance on the public purse.

Today’s Statement of Intent signals a united push to gain more powers and budgets from Central Government.

At this stage the document will set the scene for further discussions with government. Its key themes are:

• Economy
• Health
• Infrastructure and local resilience

Councillor 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.”

Councillor Ian Bowyer, leader of the opposition at Plymouth City Council added: “This is at a very early stage, but we share a lot of common goals with partners across the region. By working together we can achieve more.”

In the last few weeks leaders and senior officers from 17 councils and two park authorities have been in discussions to explore the potential for more control over certain funding pots and more involvement in policy areas that are currently out of the scope of local councils.

The partners involved in the devolution bid are:

• Somerset County Council
• Somerset’s district and borough councils: Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset, Taunton Deane and West Somerset
• Devon County Council
• Devon’s district and borough councils: East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge and West Devon
• Plymouth City Council
• Exeter City Council
• Torbay Council
• Exmoor National Park
• Dartmoor National Park
• Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership

The Government has said it expects any devolution proposals to reflect Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) boundaries and be supported by each area’s LEP.

It set a deadline of 4 September for organisations to express an interest in devolution plans ahead of the Autumn budget.