Somerset summit puts devolution on the agenda

A major meeting to discuss the potential for devolving key powers to South West local authorities took place in Somerset today.

Top of the agenda across the South West was more control over skills funding to ensure local people have the right skills to gain well-paid employment. There was also considerable agreement on devolved powers to tackle major transport initiatives.

More than 30 local authorities, from Cornwall to Gloucestershire, attended with a shared aim of working together to make sure the region’s voice is heard and secure a fair share of resources to support business and residents.

Around 70 people attended the meeting at Dillington House, near Ilmnster, this morning. It was set up by the Leader of Somerset County Council, Cllr John Osman and co-hosted by Cllr John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council and Cllr Harvey Siggs, Leader of Mendip District Council.

Cllr Osman hailed the meeting a success and said that he will be inviting Somerset’s district councils to a ‘mini summit’ shortly.

“Our proposals are ambitious, because we are ambitious – for the region, its people and economy,” he said. “There are already many examples of where local authorities in the region have come together and been stronger as result. Today builds on that and could play an important role in how local authorities address some of the major issues facing us in years to come.

“Today’s meeting is just the start of what will be a long journey, but it was enough to show there is the appetite and commitment to move forward.”

A number of smaller combined authority proposals are already well advanced and there was a commitment of all those making applications to work closely with each other and future councils.

“Delegates understandably want to put their individual cases forward, but they also want to join up where it makes sense and from time to time to speak with one voice across the South West. It was heartening to have this level of agreement,” said Cllr Osman.


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