Elected mayor not on cards for South West devolution deal

PUBLISHED: 12:38 04 July 2016 | UPDATED: 12:38 04 July 2016

County Hall in Exeter.

County Hall in Exeter.

Archant

Devon and Somerset's proposals for devolution from central Government do not require an elected mayor, council bosses have assured.

It comes after a recent summit meeting of council leaders and Greg Clark, the local government secretary.

It has been revealed new powers will instead be overseen by a combined authority consisting of council representatives from across the region. This includes Devon and Somerset county councils, Plymouth and Torbay councils, the 13 district councils in the two counties and Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks. The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) would also have a non-voting seat on the body.

Council leaders and partners have already backed the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Devolution Partnership deal and each authority will now be asked to formally sign-up to the principle of creating a combined authority.

This will in turn allow negotiations towards a deal to move forward – allowing regional control over finance, powers and responsibilities previously overseen by Westminster.

It is believed devolution will improve the region’s productivity which is currently running at less than 80 per cent of the national average.

During the summit assurances were also made that the new body would not take over any powers or funding from existing authorities, who would all have a say on the decision-making powers it would hold.

A full public consultation on any proposal to introduce a combined authority will also take place.

The HotSW Partnership has already submitted a ‘Prospectus for Productivity’ to the Government in a bid to win more powers to boost jobs and growth.

It is hoped the changes proposed will result in higher productivity, better-paid jobs, improved roads, rail and broadband links and more homes as well as radical reforms to health and social care, seeing better care for the ageing population, tailored support for growing businesses and the creation of a centre of excellence for skills development.

Devon County Council Leader John Hart said he firmly believed, as local people, they could do things more effective and efficiently than someone in London.

He added: “This is the first time in my political lifetime 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, LEP’s chair, said they were backing their local authority partners to secure the best deal for the HotSW.

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