Somerset puts down devolution ‘marker’

Somerset County Council and 19 partners across the region today outlined their case for a devolution deal which would benefit the South West and the whole of the UK.

A ‘Statement of Intent’ has been submitted to Government in response to its appetite to devolve powers and budgets from Westminster. With key themes of Economic growth; Health, social care and wellbeing; and Infrastructure and local resilience, the document is not a fully worked-up proposal, but sets the scene for discussions with Government about what powers could be devolved.

It has been prepared by Somerset and Devon local authorities and follows meetings held in August, kicked-off by a devolution summit organised by Somerset County Council. In total, 20 local partners are involved in the submission, which will have the support and endorsement of the business community through the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, which covers Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.

Cllr John Osman, Leader of the County Council, who called the initial August summit, said: “A lot of authorities have done a lot of work in a very short time to prepare this document – that’s another example of what can be achieved when authorities in the region pull together where we have common ground.

“These are very early stages, but we are ambitious and believe that devolution would help us create jobs, build the right infrastructure and make progress on key issues like health and social care integration.

“We have shared goals with our partners and will be working very closely with them in the coming weeks and months to move things forward.”

Speaking on behalf of Somerset’s five district councils, Cllr John Williams, Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for all Authorities across Somerset to accept devolved powers with budgets and demonstrate we can deliver improved outcomes for our community. In getting this joint statement together we have seen remarkable cross-Council and cross-border working. With those shared aims already evident it augurs well for the preparation of the fully worked up details for our devolution proposals yet to come.

This is all about Somerset Councils working together to maximise opportunities to enable us to punch above our weight. The level of cooperation between all Somerset Councils is to be applauded. We now have our statement of intent which sets out how we can take control of the all-important themes proposed and move to a fully worked up submission. The need to deliver better outcomes for our communities is paramount.”

Steve Hindley, chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said: “The Heart of the South West LEP is delighted to be a partner alongside the local authorities in their proposed deal for devolution. We will be actively supporting and continuing to work with business to bring about step-change in investment to leverage transformational growth, generate more prosperity and unleashing the area’s economic potential.”

The Statement of Intent is now available on the Council’s website www.somerset.gov.uk/devolution

The partners involved in the devolution Statement of Intent are as follows:

  • Heart of the South West LEP
  • Somerset County Council
  • Somerset’s district and borough councils: Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset, Taunton Deane and West Somerset
  • Devon County Council
  • Devon’s district and borough councils: East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge and West Devon
  • Plymouth City Council
  • Exeter City Council
  • Torbay Council
  • Exmoor National Park
  • Dartmoor National Park

 

Notes:

The Government has declared its desire to devolve powers and budgets from Westminster to local authorities. It expects any devolution proposals to reflect Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) boundaries and be supported by each area’s LEP.

If an area’s devolution plans include something that the Spending Review might focus on, for instance better use of public assets, then interest should be expressed by 4 September, though this is not a deadline for a fully worked-up devolution proposal.

The Leader of Somerset County Council organised a devolution summit on 5 August, which was attended by almost all South West local authority Leaders and Chief Executives. Somerset’s Leaders and Chief Executives met on 18 August and a similar meeting took place between Devon local authorities on 20 August.

It was agreed that they work together and with the LEP to put together a Statement of Intent/expression of interest.