Further discussions ahead on ambitious deal to devolve power from Whitehall

Further discussions on an ambitious bid to devolve power from Whitehall to local authorities in Devon and Somerset will be held in East Devon next week.

The Full Council will be debating the Heart of the South West (HotSW)  devolution deal at its meeting on December 16. The discussions follow the council’s Cabinet, and Overview & Scrutiny Committees recommendations earlier this month to move ahead with the process.

Twenty organisations across the two counties – including 17 local authorities – are working in partnership on the HotSW devolution bid in response to the Government’s offer to devolve power and budgets from Westminster to local authorities.

On Wednesday December 2, councillors from the cross party Overview and Scrutiny committees discussed how the bid proposals would impact on the district and recommended that:

1. Clear objectives be set in preparation for negotiation if the bid proves successful in reaching Government discussion;

2.  An oversight group be set up of Portfolio Holders and appropriate members to follow the process of the bid;

3. The work and the process to date be noted;

4. The Leader be given delegated authority to sign the proposed Devolution Bid on behalf of EDDC subject to ratification of Council on 16 December 2015;

5. An element of rural proofing is put forward for inclusion in the draft bid.

The Council’s Cabinet unanimously supported the recommendations.

Leaders and Chief Executives of the HotSW organisations involved are now developing key themes as part of the bid, including economic growth, health, social care and wellbeing. The focus, through joint working and pooled funding, is to deliver greater prosperity and wellbeing not only to those living across the Heart of the South West but to improve our contribution to the prosperity of the nation. 

The partnership has a single, ambitious and compelling vision for productivity-led growth for the Heart of the South West delivered through a single productivity strategy with a single investment programme, focused on delivering £4 billion gain for the UK.  

Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, said:

Devolving the powers and resources to those best able to tackle our challenges and maximise our opportunities will release the productivity, competitiveness and growth that we and the nation need.

We also want to focus on keeping people healthy through preventative measures, increase our contribution to the national economy, accelerate housing delivery and respond to environmental challenges, balancing protection of the environment with sensitive investment.

Cllr Roger Giles, Chairman of the Council’s Scrutiny Committee, who also chaired the joint meeting with the Overview Committee, said:

The committee members held a full and frank discussion about the bid, helping to move forward the process.

Several councillors were understandably keen to see full details before endorsing the arrangements. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the details of the bid next week.

The bid is expected to be submitted to the Government in January.

• For more information on the devolution deal, including frequently asked questions, visit the Heart of the South West devolution website page.