National and Devolved Politics

01.07.16

Councils move forward with next step of £1bn West of England devo deal

Bath, Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils have voted in favour of putting the proposed £1bn West of England devolution deal forward for public consultation.

After considering all the aspects of the complex deal, which is the largest in the country and worth more than £1,000 per head of population, the local authorities decided that, on balance, the proposal presented the best available.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “This is the right decision. Now more than ever our region needs to be in charge of its own destiny.

“This deal has the potential to unlock a billion pounds of funding across crucial areas such as housing, transport and skills. It brings decision-making powers, on issues that were previously held in Westminster, closer to local communities here in Bristol.

“It brings us closer to a second or third deal too – ones where we can negotiate more ambitious terms that meet even more of Bristol’s needs.

“It’s important to make clear that this deal does not mean the merger of any councils. It is purely about handing funding and powers down from government, not up from the council.

“I am grateful to Councillors, including Scrutiny, who have considered all aspects of this deal very carefully and decided that, on balance, it is the right thing to move forward and put the proposed West of England Mayoral Combined Authority to public consultation.”

Deal details

The consultation, which will start on Monday 6 July and run until 15 August, will give the public the opportunity to have their say on the scheme, including the government’s proposal for a West of England Combined Authority mayor to oversee the devolved arrangements.

The deal negotiated with the government would devolve agreed funding and additional powers to the region, including decisions about transport, investment, funding, skills training, business support, housing and strategic planning.

Cllr Matthew Riddle, leader of South Gloucestershire Council, said: “I am delighted to announce that the devolution deal proposed by the government has been agreed by South Gloucestershire Council.

“The deal will unlock £1 billion of investment for the West of England, and provide a welcome boost to the local economy for people living in South Gloucestershire.”

Next steps

The consultation, which will be carried out in accordance with the timetable set by the government. will be carried out jointly by the three authorities. The results then go back to the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government who will take account of the outcome when deciding whether the West England devolution deal should go ahead.

It is then expected that the councils will then take a final decision in October on whether to consent to the parliamentary order putting the devolution deal in place.

Councillor Tim Warren, leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “This has been a very complex decision for all concerned. After many months of negotiations with government, we have secured the best possible deal for our   area –one that far outweighs any other devolution deal done elsewhere in the country, both in terms of the funding secured and safeguards in place to protect the absolute autonomy of Bath & North East Somerset Council.

Earlier this week, the future of one of the recently proposed East Anglian devolution deals was put in doubt after two councils in Norfolk rejected it.

And the government’s work on devolution was dealt a blow by the Public Accounts Committee, which said the ‘unclear and inconsistent' devo process could threaten the 2017 mayoral elections.

(Image: c. Adrian Pingstone)

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