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Counties call for 'radical' rural devolution

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Devolving fiscal powers to county councils could rebalance the economy and help deal with any negative impact of Brexit, a report has found.

Research by Oxford Economics published today says growth is set to slow to under 2% each year over the next decade as a result of the vote to leave the European Union.

But the report, Understanding County Economies, says providing counties with full devolution of public spending and tax raising powers would boost rural economies, create one million new jobs and generate public sector savings of £11.7bn a year over a five-year period.

The report, which was commissioned by the County Councils Network, said that county areas contribute significantly more than the country’s biggest cities to the economy, collectively generating a net surplus for the Treasury.

The study also highlighted weaknesses in county economies, such as low productivity levels, a high concentration of unskilled jobs and a high proportion of export industries which could be adversely affected by Brexit.

CCN has argued that counties are crucial to the government’s industrial strategy but say it is currently too focused on urban city regions.

CCN chairman Paul Carter called for a “radical next phase” of devolution to rural areas.

He said: “Successive governments have overlooked county areas in comparison to their metropolitan counterparts. The government’s industrial strategy and the country’s post Brexit fortunes depend on whether the potential of England’s sleeping economic giants – its county areas - is unleashed.”

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