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Oxon, Bucks and Northants propose combined authority

Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire county councils have banded together to propose the creation of the first non-metropolitan combined authority.

The plan, published earlier this week, would see the councils build upon the joint working between LEPs in the counties to create a new authority that can take on responsibilities for transport and skills development as well as spatial planning.

The proposed authority will need an Order of Parliament to be formally established. The combined authorities established so far have been limited to metropolitan regions, such as Manchester, Sheffield, West Yorkshire and Liverpool.

As PSE has previously reported Sheffield and Manchester’s combined authorities have both recently received devolution deals to give the regions more control over budgets, skills, housing and transport.

Councils in Teeside have also recently banded together to propose a new combined authority and councils in Derbyshire have also entered talks about merging functions.

The leaders of the new trio “alliance” in the south unveiled their plans on Tuesday at Silverstone.

"It's not a super-council," said Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth. "Each council will still have its own sovereignty within its own boundaries.

"What we're talking about is a combined authority that's going to provide the economic drive for infrastructure, for the skills agenda, because business doesn't recognise boundaries."

Bucks council leader Martin Tett said: “Rural non-city locations can punch with huge economic impact, so it's absolutely right that we combine our voice locally so we can compete with other city areas across the UK.

“To do this we need proper and effective devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources from government. I'm particularly excited about the opportunities for the whole of Buckinghamshire, the economic gain from East West Rail and the potential of a new Oxford-Cambridge expressway road.

“The benefits could bring billions more to our three economies, which is great news for the future.”

The three council leaders signed an offer, called ‘a shared approach to driving prosperity’, to government to increase economic growth across the counties. They will now be seeking a meeting with Whitehall officials to discuss the plan.

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