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05.08.15

Gloucestershire pushes for devolution

Public authorities in Gloucestershire have submitted their bid to the government asking for greater control over the county’s economy, public sector and healthcare services.

The document, entitled ‘We are Gloucestershire’, is backed by the county council, the six district councils, GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership, the police and crime commissioner and the clinical commissioning group.

It hopes to dialogue with the government about the county’s social care and health spending, transport networks, housing, businesses and schools in an effort to sign a devolution deal by autumn.

Cllr Steve Jordan, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, said: “Devolution will build on existing partnership work to allow more local input in designing and integrating services and so giving the best value for money spent.

“It’s not just a case of devolving power from Westminster as we must ensure that all decisions are taken at the appropriate level.”

Devolution infograph

In the document, the partners call for whole area governance to and place-based budgets as solutions to scattered decision-making and multiple conversations with the government.

They also ask for shared asset management, subsidiarity and greater local control over tax and spending as ways to stimulate investment in prevention work, maximise the use of public sector resources and deliver services correctly and for less money.

“We have a significant advantage in Gloucestershire as the boundaries of our key organisations already match. We also have a single health and wellbeing board, with the majority of acute, community, mental health and social care services provided by three countywide NHS trusts, the county council and a single regional ambulance service,” the document said.

GFirst LEP intends to drive county-wide economic planning through devolved accountability and budgets. Infrastructure and transport decisions would also be simplified to accelerate investments in housing and transport links.

As a result, the county hopes to achieve significant economic growth through devolved powers, including creating 34,000 new jobs, 47,000 new homes, and 200 new businesses.

Dr Diane Savory, chair of GFirst LEP, said: “We already have an excellent reputation with central government, which will help to simplify decision making, and make sure planned growth happens when and where it should. Gloucestershire should be at the forefront of showing how successful devolution can be.”

The document also argued that a fully integrated approach to health and social care, through a fully delegated authority for all commissioning budgets, would be more effectively resourceful.

Clinical chair of NHS Gloucestershire CCG, Dr Helen Miller, added that this especially necessary in a “county which has an ageing and a growing population”.

Similarly a community-based budgets would focus support where needed and allow for greater investment in prevention and diversion from crime.

Leaders from Cotswold, Stroud, Tewkesbury and Gloucestershire councils all backed the move, reiterating that they already have an “excellent track record of working together”.

Though Gloucester City Council does not have a direct relationship with the devolution deal, it is still supportive of the move and hopes to contribute to the partnership to make sure powers are devolved.

Its leader, Cllr Paul James, said: “We’re already working closely with our partners across Gloucestershire and this bid just takes us further along that journey.

“I want to get the best for our city and what we’re asking for ensures that we can deliver local services for local people and make our money go further at the same time.”

Two months ago the city and county council signed a memorandum of understanding where they agreed to combine some back office and frontline customer services, seeking to “optimise inter-organisational opportunities” through shared services.

A Gloucester City Council spokesperson told PSE that the county’s devolution bid was brought up in a full city council meeting last week. Councillors agreed to investigate what role they can play in the move and how they can work together.

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