‘Economic powerhouse’ promise of devolution


- Credit: Archant

District leaders are to make the case for a major project which could see East Devon join forces with other South West authorities to gain more independence from Westminster.

If successful, the bid would mean greater autonomy from central government and more control over things like economic growth, infrastructure and health and social care.

In September, East Devon District Council (EDDC) signalled its intent to pursue devolution along with 16 other local authorities in Devon and Somerset.

The Heart of the South West partnership hopes to follow in the footsteps of Cornwall Council, which has already successfully negotiated a devolution deal with the Government.

The venture is aiming to transform Devon and Somerset into an economic ‘powerhouse’, creating 163,000 new jobs, building 179,000 new homes and improving journey times to the region by 2030.

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And at a pair of council meetings this week, EDDC’s leadership will outline the benefits of devolution and seek permission from members to move ahead with the bid.

An EDDC spokesperson said: “If a successful bid is negotiated with the Government, then it is likely that the strategic importance of East Devon as a prime location for growth, jobs and housing will be recognised and we will see more investment into our local economy.”

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But Councillor Matt Booth has urged caution on rushing into any deal. The independent ward member for Sidmouth Town told the Herald: “It’s a huge ask and a huge task – it has to fit in with the financial plans of 16 other local authorities.

“I’m not for it. I think that it is just another way for central government to wash its hands of its responsibilities.

“If central government did its job properly, there wouldn’t be any need for devolution.

“But if we do go ahead, then as councillors we need to find a way to keep the process open and a way to bring it back to members.”

EDDC’s cabinet and overview and scrutiny committees will convene on Wednesday (December 3). Members at both meetings are being asked to give the council’s leader the power to sign the devolution bid - which has yet to be finalised - on behalf of EDDC. The finished bid is expected to be submitted to Whitehall on December 18.

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