Devolution in the South West
Letter sent to The Rt Hon George Osborne MP & The Rt Hon
Greg Clark MP - Statement of Intent: 4 September 2015.
Statement of Intent accompanying slides: 4
Press Release issued - Somerset puts down
devolution 'marker': 4 September 2015
Press Release issued - Devon
and Somerset bid for more powers to boost prosperity: 2
Devolution Prospectus 2016: 2 February 2016
Heart of the South West Devolution Prospectus
Cover Letter: 29 February 2016
Heart of the South West Devolution FINAL
Prospectus: 29 February 2016
What is devolution?
Devolution is the redistribution of powers and funding from
national Government to groups of local authorities. The Government
wants devolution to deliver improved productivity, a more skilled
workforce, more housing and reduced public sector costs.
Why is it important?
Devolution gives us freedom to make decisions more locally than
This will mean we can be very precise in how and where we spend
money, and focus closely on the problems in our area. Greater local
control over the decisions that impact on all our lives gives us
the chance to improve our roads, railways, and digital
connectivity, to create jobs and build homes where they are needed,
and give more support to grow our economy.
A single voice from 23 different organisations across Devon and
Somerset is a very powerful voice. Decision making, controlled and
delivered locally, will help us to build on our achievements so far
and lead to economic growth, savings and efficiencies, a more
resilient and connected area, and increased productivity.
What will a devolution deal do and how will it benefit
Until a deal has been signed we cannot be certain what
powers, responsibilities and funds we will be given. We are working
to agree a devolution deal that gives us powers and funds over
- Transport- having a greater say in infrastructure investment
such as road and rail improvement will help improve access to work,
training and essential services for our residents and
- Connectivity- we are pursuing a commitment to 100% superfast
broadband coverage across the Heart of the South West.
- Learning and Skills-helping people, especially young people, to
develop skills they need to get work in our area.
- Business Support- having the freedom to join up a range of
Government agencies locally to provide a better, more coordinated
offer to businesses.
- Employment Support- we want to influence the new Department for
Work and Pensions Health and Work Programme and other Government
initiatives where they have not been devolved to us.
- Land and Housing- greater influence over the use or disposal of
central Government land and assets, and working with Government on
planning reforms. We want greater powers to build the homes our
local people need, and to support our economy as it grows.
- Health and wellbeing-making the connection between jobs,
connectivity, skills and wellbeing will help our population to age
well and become healthier. Our proposals have a direct
relationship with the wellbeing of our communities, especially
mental health and increasing the numbers of people able to access
- A new Productivity Plan- this new plan will explain how we will
deliver greater prosperity. It will be an overarching, strategic
document which our devolution deal will feed into. A key objective
will be improved skills and employment prospects particularly for
our younger population and people who have had difficulty finding
What is a Combined Authority?
Combined Authorities are a new way for local authorities to work
together on key strategic functions that cross geographic council
boundaries. They allow councils and partners to do things which are
better done together rather than separately. Ours will be
responsible for delivering the devolution deal.
Combined Authorities are legal bodies with powers of decision
making granted by Parliament. Examples include transport,
regeneration and skills. Members of the Combined Authority are
democratically elected Councillors from partner councils.
Government is offering to devolve powers and funds to our area.
For this to happen we must demonstrate strong governance
arrangements and in this instance we have proposed a Combined
Why are we looking to create one?
Partners in the Heart of the South West believe that a Combined
Authority is the most democratic, cost-effective way to deliver a
devolution deal for our area, and work with our neighbours. Devon
and Somerset have much in common and our economic futures are bound
together. We have similar challenges but also know that some areas
are more successful than others.
A Combined Authority is an efficient option: it is transparent,
publicly accountable and gives a voice to all partners.
Why this particular geography?
A Combined Authority is required to cover an area that makes
sense economically. For example an area within which many people
commute to work or where there are strong links between local
businesses and communities.
A Combined Authority also needs to be big enough to pull
together the resources needed to support economic development. Our
Combined Authority is large enough to take advantage of economies
of scale, and the Government agree that our size and membership is
the right one. A strong argument in our favour is the common
boundary between our proposal and the Heart of the South West Local
Enterprise Partnership through which the local authorities and
business representatives already work together in many of the areas
covered by the proposal.
Will there be an elected mayor?
We do not believe an elected mayor is necessary for our plans
and do not propose one. Also, the Government has told us that
because of our large geography and its rural-urban make-up an
elected mayor is not a priority at this time.
Who will hold the Combined Authority to
The elected members of the participating local authorities and
partners will hold the Combined Authority to account.
The Combined Authority will also have at least one scrutiny
committee and an audit committee. These committees will scrutinise
the Combined Authority in public and in the same way as they do for
your council. The work (including decisions) of the Combined
Authority will be transparent and subject to local authority access
to information requirements and Freedom of Information rules.
Would devolution save money?
One of our objectives is to make the public sector more
efficient and save money. With less bureaucracy and more economies
of scale, devolution will reduce costs.
The Government expects devolution deals to be fiscally neutral -
it does not want to spend any more money than it already spends.
But our communities should benefit from economies of scale,
delivering better outcomes.
How can I make my voice heard? What consultation will
To make comments or find out more about our emerging Combined
Authority and devolution deal please contact your local authority
in the first instance or address any queries to your council Leader
or local Councillor.
There will be full stakeholder and public consultation on the
draft devolution deal once it is produced, including proposals for
the Combined Authority.
Finally, all member councils will carry out local consultation
as part of their own decision-making when approving the final
What are the timescales for creating it?
The experience of other parts of the country is that timescales
can be changeable. However our hope is that we will agree a deal
through the 2016 Government's Autumn Statement and set up the
Combined Authority by 2018. There is an option to establish a
shadow Combined Authority in advance of 2018 if all of the councils
decide to do so.
What is important is that we get the best deal we can, so if
timescales need to change then we will do that but keep you
What difference has the vote to leave the European Union
made to our plans?
It is still very early to know what the precise impact will be
and we are actively watching events as they unfold. What is clear
is that we still have challenges in the Heart of the South West -
poor connectivity, skills shortages, a need for more homes and jobs
- which must be addressed.
Getting additional powers and funding will put us in a better
place to deal with challenges, and take advantage of the
opportunities that may arise from our exit from the European
We are working with Government to understand the implications of
the leave vote - in the meantime partners have agreed to press
ahead with devolution for the Heart of the South West.