Latest Public Sector News

27.01.16

South west makes a devolution bid that ‘Whitehall can’t refuse’

Councils in the south west have become the latest to join the devolution crusade, with politicians and business leaders having agreed to submit a prospectus to the government, parts of which include radical reforms to regional services.

The bid is the culmination of months of work by council chiefs in Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay with 13 district councils, as well as local NHS clinical commissioning groups, the Heart of the South West LEP and Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks.

As well as the often-seen plans for better-paid jobs, higher productivity, improved road and rail, tailored support for businesses, better skills development and more homes for the region, the devolution package is also one of the few to focus on integrating health and social care.

But it was also largely focused on regional statistics which show that productivity in the south west is running at less than 80% of the national average, meaning the region needs an immediate boost.

Plymouth’s leader, Cllr Tudor Evans, said: “We lag behind the rest of the country in terms of productivity and need to act now to improve the opportunities for our young people, so that they have the right skills to get good high value jobs and grow their careers in this region, helping us all to become more prosperous.

“We also want to see more local people employed in some of the major opportunities coming our way. We are making the government an offer they can’t refuse.”

If the devolution requests are agreed to by Whitehall, the south west could see over 160,000 new jobs, 179,000 more homes, a 400% boost in apprenticeships, higher wage levels above the national average, a £4bn uplift to the economy and 100% superfast broadband coverage.

The centrepiece of their bid’s argument is that this is more growth than what the three core cities of Birmingham, Bristol and Nottingham have delivered together over the last 15 years. According to the leaders, they are making “an offer the government can’t refuse”.

Devon’s leader, John Hart, said the councils have come together as an united front to negotiate with Whitehall on how all visions can be achieved.

“I firmly believe, as local people, we can do things more effectively and more efficiently locally than being told what to do by London,” Hart argued.

“This is the first time in my political lifetime that the government has offered local government the opportunity to draw down powers like these. This could mean real power coming to the South West. This is a real opportunity for this council and other councils and we would be foolish not to seize it.”

(Top image c. Robert Pittman)

Comments

Biggles   01/02/2016 at 14:04

What about the Cornish, cut off from the rest of Britain?

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25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >