East Devon backs devolution bid to boost prosperity
PUBLISHED: 14:44 04 March 2016 | UPDATED: 12:02 17 March 2016
'Prospectus for productivity' now submitted to The Government for decision
A devolution revolution to improve the lives of people in East Devon has taken another step forward as Devon and Somerset councils have submitted their ‘prospectus for productivity’ to the Government.
The counties want more powers and finance devolved from Westminster to boost jobs and develop economic growth – a move which won cross-party support from East Devon District Council five weeks ago.
After months of work, the prospectus has now been submitted to the Government after being separately endorsed by every local authority in the two counties.
Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, said: “It is rare that opportunities such as this come along and it is no exaggeration to say that this is probably a once in a lifetime chance to bring greater control in decision making to a more local level. This in turn will help increase economic prosperity and attract inward investment, which will ultimately benefit everyone in East Devon.
“Although we will be working in collaboration with other councils and organisations in Devon and Somerset, we will maintain our democratic independence and I want to see productivity and prosperity improved through the provision of commercial opportunities. We will be building more new homes, which will mean more opportunities for people to live and work in this fantastic part of the world. There is something here for everyone from our beautiful beaches and coast to our two AONBs.
“This is an exciting time and we must all grasp this opening with both hands to ensure that our ambitions for everyone in East Devon are realised. I hope that people will embrace devolution and everything that it offers to improve life in East Devon and beyond.”
The council’s and business leaders say the changes they propose would result in higher productivity and better-paid jobs, improved road, rail and broadband links and more homes for the region’s growing population.
There would be radical reforms to integrate health and social care to allow the ageing population to be better looked after, tailored support for growing businesses and the creation of a centre of excellence for skills development.
The submission of the bid follows months of concentrated work by council chiefs in Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay with 13 district councils, Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, the local NHS and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.
They want more powers and finance devolved from Westminster to the region so they can close the productivity gap and allow local people to benefit from a thriving economy.
Currently productivity in the South West is running at less than 80 per cent of the national average. But the document promises that, if local councils have greater freedom to act, by 2030 they will help deliver:
• A £4 billion uplift to the economy
• 163,000 new jobs
• 179,000 more homes
• Higher wage levels, which are above the national average
• Apprenticeship starts up by 400 per cent
• Every young person in education, employment or training
• A better qualified workforce
• Faster, more reliable rail services with greater capacity
• Faster road journeys with less congestion
• 100 per cent superfast broadband coverage
• A UK centre of excellence for skills development
The bid points out that the South West already has world-beating expertise in a number of significant areas such as knowledge-based skills in Exeter, marine industries in Plymouth, nuclear technology in Somerset and aerospace in Yeovil, as well as its traditional industries like agriculture, fishing and tourism.
Devon County Council leader John Hart said: “We are presenting a united front to the Government and saying this is our vision for our region, let’s negotiate on how you can help us to achieve it.
“I firmly believe, as local people, we can do things more effectively and more efficiently locally than being told what to do by London.
“This is the first time in my political lifetime that the Government has offered local government the opportunity to draw down powers like these.
“This could mean real power coming to the South West. This is a real opportunity for this council and other councils.
“We should be working together for the benefit of the people of Devon and the South West.”
Steve Hindley, Chairman of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Businesses across the Heart of the South West are the driving force that will deliver transformational growth and are keen to be at the helm of a prospective devolution deal alongside local authority partners.
“We look forward to working with Government and investors as we embark on this journey towards prosperity and increased productivity that will benefit not only the Heart of the South West but the UK economy as a whole.”