‘Better in than out’ as region prepares bid to get more local powers from the Government

Council leaders say they hope to get the best deal for North Devon as plans to devolve powers to the South West rumble on.

North Devon and Torridge councils are among 20 Devon and Somerset partners taking part in the South West’s devolution bid, which would see the creation of a new body to take decisions on issues such as transport, education and health at a regional level and not a national one.

They have already issued a ‘Statement of Intent’ and are due to submit a formal bid for devolution to the Government on December 18, shortly after being debated by North Devon and Torridge councils.

North Devon’s chief executive Mike Mansell said the proposals were not about merging councils or forming larger authorities, but taking decisions jointly on issues affecting the region as a whole.

“The biggest fear would be if we didn’t join in and were left out,” he said.

“We will have a greater voice in things like strategic transport and education. So instead of just talking about the A361 in isolation, we are talking about it as part of the strategic South West transport network.

“It’s about the context of the greater good rather than us just doing our own bit.”

The new body would represent numerous Devon and Somerset councils, with each member entitled to one vote and a veto.

NDC leader Des Brailey said: “There will be differences, we won’t always agree. Our job is to take care of North Devon, but it would also be better if we are working with others.”

He said the usual business of the council would continue as normal, with devolution business an extra on top of that.

NDC’s executive will debate the proposal on December 16. A deal is expected to be agreed by the Government in March, but little is expected to change until 2017.

TDC leader Jane Whittaker said the devolution bid, known as Heart of the South West, represented the best hope of ensuring decision making continued to be made locally.

“Obviously, both district councils will want to ensure the best possible outcome for northern Devon through this bid. I think it represents an exciting opportunity for change that we need to be a part of so that we can help shape any proposals and benefit from the outcome.”