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Devon and Somerset developing bid for 'double devolution'

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Councils in Devon, Somerset and adjacent unitaries are planning a devolution bid based around skills and job creation.

The deal could see some powers passed down to groups of districts to administer.

The area’s two county councils, two unitaries and 13 districts have agreed to work together on the bid followed a meeting last week bringing together council leaders from across the south-west.

Authorities in Dorset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and around Bristol are progressing their own plans and Cornwall has already agreed a devolution deal with the government.

This activity had previously left Devon and Somerset CCs, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council without devolution proposals.

At last week’s meeting the councils formally agreed to work together on a devolution bid. Devon and Somerset CC leaders now plan to hold further meetings with their districts to develop the bid, which it is hoped can be submitted to the government by the 4 September deadline.

Devon leader John Hart (Con) told LGC: “[Communities secretary] Greg Clark will want to see a united front and I think we are almost there on that.”

Cllr Hart said he envisaged a ‘double devolution’ model under which the counties and unitaries would receive powers from central government and then pass them down as appropriate to groups of districts, depending on the nature of their local economy and priorities for encouraging training and job creation.

“We are agreed that the big things needed are on skills and economic growth, but this is a large area and not everywhere needs the same things,” Cllr Hart said.

“Plymouth is a centre of maritime industries and is progressing its city deal, and also works with Cornwall so we will need ‘soft’ boundaries across the region.”

‘Soft’ boundaries would enable each part of the south-west to reach its own devolution deal but still collaborate with neighbours when appropriate, he said, for example over the massive investment due for the Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset, which would affect the whole region.

Cllr Hart said it was too early to discuss governance models and whether that could include a combined authority or any other basis.

Somerset leader John Osman (Con) told LGC those at last week’s meeting “want to put their individual cases forward, but they also want to join up where it makes sense and from time to time to speak with one voice across the south-west”.

He added: “It was heartening to have this level of agreement.”

Potential devolution deal members

Devon CC

East Devon DC

Exeter City Council

Mendip DC

Mid Devon DC

North Devon DC

Plymouth City Council

Sedgemoor DC

Somerset CC

South Hams DC

South Somerset DC

Taunton Deane BC

Teignbridge DC

Torbay Council

Torridge DC

West Devon BC

West Somerset DC

 

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