EDDC gives green light to devolution deal

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7712-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7712-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A devolution deal aimed at boosting jobs, wages and productivity in the South West has been signed off by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

At a specially-convened meeting last night (Thursday), members from all parties voted overwhelmingly to proceed with the Heart of the South West (HOTSW) bid.

The deal, if successful, would give the HOTSW partnership, which includes 13 other local authorities across Devon and Somerset, greater autonomy from Whitehall.

EDDC says the deal could attract more investment to East Devon and lead to more - and better paid - jobs.

Last night’s vote gives the council’s leader, Councillor Paul Diviani, the authority to negotiate on behalf of EDDC during the bid process.

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He said: “We know that there may be no additional money coming in as a result of participating in devolution, but there are ways of working smarter and making existing funds work harder for all of our residents.

“Devolution is important for the district and will bring many benefits, so we do need to be engaged in the process.

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“It may result in increased investment in East Devon, produce more and better paid jobs and, with more powers and finance devolved to us, it will allow us to close the productivity gap and let local people benefit from a thriving economy.”

But critics have raised concerns that because a successful bid would likely mean no extra cash from central government, residents could end up ‘paying more for fewer services’.

Speaking at last night’s meeting, Cllr Cathy Gardner, ward member for Sidmouth Town, said: “Councils are facing a financial crisis as a result of government cuts: Devolution is being proposed as a way to mitigate the effects of this.

“There is no new money coming from central government.

“The changes to business rates being suggested are not enough on their own.

“The remaining money has to come from increasing local charges.

“This will affect everyone: we will be paying more in local taxes whilst also paying more to use the services those taxes used to cover. And you will pay more for less.”

HOTSW plans to submit its bid to government by the end of February, which will be followed by negotiations over the deal.

EDDC says it hopes to sign the finished devolution deal ‘within the first half of 2016’.

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