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West of England devolution model backed by just half of surveyed public

Just half of those surveyed about the planned West of England devolution deal agree that establishing a West of England Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) would benefit the region, the results of a month-long public consultation exercise revealed.

The consultation, which received 2,011 responses, confirmed just 55% of participants said that, on balance, a MCA would be the best way forward. But 34% did not agree with this model, while 9% said they did not know and 2% did not answer.

The engagement exercise saw respondents submitting answers online, on paper and, in some cases, directly to government. Information and surveys were made available through public buildings such as local libraries and Citizen Service Points, as well as via parish councils, community facilities and drop-in events.

The £1bn deal, first unveiled during this year’s Spring Budget by former chancellor George Osborne, is based in the south west, namely including Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

Last month, the councils in this catchment voted in favour of putting the deal forward for public consultation, with Bristol mayor Marvin Rees arguing the package has “the potential to unblock a billion pounds of funding across crucial areas such as housing, transport and skills”.

“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,” he said at the time.

If the proposed model gets the green light, the MCA would be established in the first part of 2017, with elections for the position of mayor to take place across all three local government areas in May, as with other devolved areas.

With the consultation now over, the three councils will submit a joint consultation to communities secretary Sajid Javid MP, who will review the findings alongside the Strategic Governance Review, the proposed Governance Scheme and any other representations that have been made directly.

If Javid determines that the deal should go ahead, each council will be asked to endorsed his decision around October. At that time, the three local authorities “independently will come to a balanced view about what will be best for their areas”.

When announced in the Budget, the devo deal proposed a devolved transport budget, including £5m to improve resilience on the Dawlish rail line, and powers over adult skills. Another £19m gained from stamp duty receipts would be sent to community-led housing schemes in areas where the impact of holiday homes is most acute.


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