Mendip District Council has agreed to back a bid which would see more powers devolved from Westminster to the South West.
At a meeting of Full Council on Monday 11 July councillors agreed to sign up to the principle of creating a Combined Authority for the Heart of the South West, as the basis for negotiation with central Government towards a devolution deal for the area.
This vote comes in Mendip comes as uncertainty hangs over the proposal to devolve the neighbouring West of England combined authorities – South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bristol and Bath – to a mayor.
Councillors agreed that Mendip would benefit from a devolution deal, particularly by increasing economic growth and housing availability within the district.
Cllr Harvey Siggs, Leader of Mendip District Council, said: “I’m pleased that Full Council has backed this devolution bid, which I firmly believe would be a positive move forward for the residents of Mendip and the whole of the South West.
“Devolving more powers from Westminster to the Heart of the South West partnership would provide councils in the region with greater powers and control to implement improvements at a local level, while also providing us with a stronger voice in Government.
“Securing the right devolution deal will also help us achieve three key ambitions of raising productivity levels; improving health, care and wellbeing; and improving connectivity and resilience.
“For too long, the South West has been treated less favourably than other areas of the country. By working together, we will have a stronger voice in Westminster and will be able to make decisions at a more local level, decisions which really can benefit our local area.
New powers would be overseen by a Combined Authority consisting of representatives of Devon and Somerset county councils, Plymouth and Torbay councils, the 13 district councils in the two counties and Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks.
The Combined Authority would not take over any powers or funding from existing authorities and they would have a say in the constitution and decision-making powers of the new body.
Full public consultation on any proposal to introduce a Combined Authority will take place as part of the negotiation process with the Government and is required before an Order can be made in Parliament to establish such an authority.
The HotSW Partnership has already submitted its ‘Prospectus for Productivity’ to the Government in a bid to win more powers to boost jobs and growth. The partnership says it wants a ‘devolution revolution’ to improve the lives of people in Devon and Somerset.
The partnership’s Prospectus for Productivity says the changes that are proposed would result in higher productivity and better-paid jobs, improved road, rail and broadband links and more homes for the region’s growing population.
There would be radical reforms to integrate health and social care to allow the ageing population to be better looked after, tailored support for growing businesses and the creation of a centre of excellence for skills development.
The devolution revolution would see more powers and finance devolved from Westminster to the region to close the productivity gap and allow local people to benefit from a thriving economy. Currently productivity in the South West is running at less than 80 per cent of the national average.