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Mayor looks for neighbour's view to 'evolve' over CA membership

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The West of England CA mayor hopes North Somerset Council will “evolve” a desire to become part of the combined authority as its involvement would strengthen the case for further government investment in the region.

Speaking to LGC following the launch of the combined authority’s draft strategy to promote economic growth yesterday, Tim Bowles (Con) said the region would benefit from North Somerset, which voted against the devolution deal last year over the requirement for an elected mayor, agreeing to full participation.

He said: “North Somerset is an important part of the work we are doing. Making sure we have a really strong, joined up message always helps [make a case for further government investment].

“Personally it would be great to see [North Somerset join the combined authority]. That is something that has got to evolve through North Somerset, its leaders and everyone involved.”

The draft strategy, which will be finalised in the autumn, sets out the principles of the combined authority’s approach to economic growth.

These include supporting the region’s technology sector to develop further, providing the right mix of skills to ensure all residents can benefit from growth and improving infrastructure such as housing, transport and broadband provision.

North Somerset is already part of the West of England Joint Committee and Mr Bowles said the council is involved with the combined authority “on a daily basis”.

Earlier this month he questioned the government’s commitment to devolution and giving areas the powers needed to successfully implement industrial strategies.

Mr Bowles told LGC that he is frequently in talks with various government departments over future investment, but said he would like to see a change in the dynamic of devolution.

Mr Bowles said: “One of the things that I have been talking very much with government and other mayors is how devolution works so that we are genuinely getting investment pots devolved to us so we can then start working that into the project, as opposed to going back continually to government to bid on specific projects.

“It is not purely about different parts of deals but also how those deals work so it gets back to the fundamental of what the whole piece is about – that regional government is allowed to make those decisions that are vital to the region.”

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