Brighton & Hove City Council is developing a bid that overlaps with one prepared by its neighbours, while Hull City Council’s position is unclear amid conflicting options in Yorkshire.
The intricate negotiations involved show the complexity of defining combined authorities where there are multiple possible boundaries.
East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey CCs are to send their Three Southern Counties (3SC) bid to ministers by the 4 September deadline for expressions of interest in devolution.
A West Sussex statement said the three were working in partnership with the area’s 23 districts, 12 clinical commissioning groups, police and local enterprise partnerships.
It said: “A memorandum of understanding is being drawn up with the neighbouring devolution bid in Brighton & Hove. This is very much the beginning of the journey but the progress has been positive.”
Brighton & Hove is not part of 3SC and is promoting a separate devolution bid taking in Adur DC, Worthing BC, Lewes DC, Mid Sussex DC, Arun DC and Eastbourne BC, all of which are among the 23 members cited by 3SC.
A Brighton & Hove statement said there had been “close contact” over the two bids and the memorandum of understanding would “ensure that their ambitions align”.
It added: “The submission on 4 September is the first stage of a long process of negotiation and discussions with colleagues in government and partner organisations.
“We have a strong working relationship with our colleagues preparing the 3SC bid. Should both bids be successful, we are confident that there are sufficient shared interests in both proposals to ensure we get a deal that delivers the best possible outcome for our residents and businesses.”
Meanwhile, North Yorkshire CC is submitting a devolution bid with two options. The first is a devolution deal for the entire historic county of Yorkshire even though separate deals are in force in South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, neither of which has supported this option.
If the Yorkshire-wide proposal proved unacceptable, North Yorkshire said it would instead seek a ‘north and east Yorkshire’ deal with City of York Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
An East Riding statement added Hull to this configuration, which it would entirely surround.
Hull leader Stephen Brady (Lab) said he supported the Yorkshire-wide option, but were it not accepted, “Hull asserts it must be an integral part of the Leeds City Region devolution proposals as our functional economic areas adjoin.”
Cllr Brady added: “Ensuring that Hull is a full member, and not just an associate, of a combined authority is, in our view, critical to realising the true benefits of devolution for the city.”