By Jennifer Sprinks
South-western councils have banded together to argue for greater local control over skills, construction standards and planning to drive regeneration.
Chairman of The Way Ahead advisory group, Baroness Dean of Thornton-Le-Fylde, denied that the particular issue of assuming control over skills would be controversial: 'We are not in a fight with the Learning & Skills Council. We will work with them but it must be about what the south-west wants.'
However, LSC director of strategy and communications Rob Wye said: 'The system does allow the flexibility to translate national targets into regional and local variations. It is distracting to renew these structures when we could be looking at working together more effectively.'
As part of its call to be able to access Planning Gain Supplement revenue, the region proposes£80m is provided by government over the next eight years to 'pump prime' necessary infrastructure work.
It plans to secure agreements with developers to repay initial investments once profits start to flow from the development.
Speaking at The Way Ahead's conference Unlocking the potential of South West England, deputy prime minister John Prescott reiterated the government's proposal for the supplement to be channelled directly back to the local areas in which it is raised.
'We do not intend to take money out and reinvest it in a London pot. It must go into infrastructure in the area.'
Flexibilty shopping list:
>> Freedom to meet regional and local skills needs by setting its own targets
>>To impose higher mandatory construction standards as part of its plan to create sustainable communities
>>To be able to use some of the revenues from the proposed Planning Gain Supplement to complement its planned Regional Infrastructure Fund.