North Devon Council leader calls for amendments to Devon and Somerset devolution bid
- Credit: Archant
Leader calls for acknowledgement of road and rail aspirations but opposition leader says draft doesn’t go far enough to protect North Devon interests.
Council leaders got around the table again on Friday for more talks on a devolution bid for Devon and Somerset.
The meeting in Cullompton gave ‘Heart of the South West’ partners the chance to agree a detailed proposition for devolved powers from Westminster.
North Devon Council leader Des Brailey said North Devon had put forward ‘a few amendments’ to the latest draft proposal, including mention of the A361 North Devon Link Road alongside a major programme of improvements to the A303, A358, A30 corridor and M5 junctions.
“There is also an aspiration that we should at least mention the possibility of a rail link from Barnstaple to London,” added Mr Brailey.
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But leader of the district council’s Liberal Democrat opposition group, Councillor Brian Greenslade, said the emerging bid still ‘failed to properly recognise’ the needs and potential that northern Devon and Exmoor could deliver.
He also expressed concerns that a draft paper reflecting the aspirations of northern Devon would not form part of the higher level submission to the Minister.
Mr Greenslade, who expressed similar concerns in September last year, said: “I welcome the Government’s devolution agenda, however the prospectus as it currently stands seems very light on the economic contribution our large rural areas can make, especially agriculture.
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“It is surprisingly very light on the enormous uphill struggle local people have in terms of finding a decent home at affordable purchase or rental prices.
“I have argued long and hard that the separate nature of the northern Devon economy should be recognised in this bid under the fundamental promise of ‘double devolution’.
“Our representatives at the table must fight harder than this for northern Devon and Exmoor or we will be bypassed by the other players in Plymouth, Exeter and Somerset.
“We cannot afford not to be on the first devolution bus to the Minister.”
But Mr Brailey said the proposal was ‘a high-level draft’ that outlined the growth, skills, housing and health and wellbeing issues in Devon and Somerset.
“It is not about saying what we want for Ilfracombe, Barnstaple or Bideford,” he said.
“What we are saying is that we will create 163,000 new jobs, build 179,000 new homes, and bring an additional £4billion to the UK economy by 2030.
“We are saying ‘give us the tools and let us have the money to do all these things’. We can come in with the rest later.
“We are working very hard and I will fight our corner but the real corner fighting isn’t taking place yet.
“The time for bidding will be when the Government gives us the money and we say ‘this is what we want for northern Devon’.
“It’s got to be a level playing field for all of us. At this stage the most important thing for us is to be in the game – you’ve got to be in it to win it.”
In September last year, 17 local authorities, the Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, three clinical commissioning groups and the local enterprise partnership signed a ‘statement of intent’, seeking further talks with the Government.
North Devon councillors will discuss the latest draft at the next full council meeting on February 24.