The member of parliament for North Somerset, Liam Fox, has recently spoken out against plans recently announced in the March Budget by George Osborne to merge Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, and Bathnes authorities into one West of England authority.
The proposed Devolution Agreement document sets out the plans to offer a combined West of England authority control over policies including planning, transport, skills and employment. The city region could get an elected mayor and an additional £30million a year, which could rise to £1billion over 30 years.
Dr Fox said “As part of the government’s devolution agenda, there has been a proposal to have a Metro-Mayor covering South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath and North Somerset. Let’s be clear. This is the re-creation of Avon by stealth and I fundamentally oppose the idea. If we want devolution, let us devolve down to existing democratic local government structures. We do not need another layer imposed on top of us—especially where our local authorities are working so well together.”
“The system of Metro-Mayors was designed to deal with failing urban authorities in the North of England. There is no need to impose it on the more rural authorities in the rest of the country.”
The devolution agreement will now go to all four West of England councils – North Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset – to decide whether to accept the deal.
Leader of North Somerset Council, Councillor Nigel Ashton, said:
“The West of England has worked hard to negotiate the best available deal. North Somerset’s councillors have previously voted to reject an arrangement which requires the appointment of a directly-elected mayor and they will now need to consider whether there is enough in the deal proposal to take a different view.”
The decision is likely to be made whether to support the plan at North Somerset’s council meeting in June 2016. If all four councils agree to the proposal the first election for the directly elected Mayor will be held in May 2017.