Devolution agenda starts to unravel in regions


Stumbling blocks to devolution plans remain in place in a number of regions, particularly over the government’s insistence that combined authorities should have elected mayors.

It follows comments from Lord Kerslake, former head of the civil service, that devolution is 'piecemeal and incoherent'.

Many devolution deals include handing new powers to councils over transport and planning.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority will come into being on Friday but is still negotiating with the Government over the content of a future devolution deal.

Legislation to establish the authority was passed earlier this month, following a debate in which local MPs complained about the devolution deal on offer.

Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar, said: ‘The existing proposal is wholly insufficient for our local authorities to be able to confirm their commitment to a mayoral combined authority.’

Cambridge City Council has rejected devolution plans

She added: ‘They and I do not believe that what is on the table is consistent with the vision that was signed up to last October.’

Cllr Sue Jeffrey, chair of the shadow combined authority, told Transport Network: ‘All five local authorities have signed up to the devolution deal in principle, and we are working our way through negotiations with Government.

‘Our aim has always been to bring investment and jobs into the Tees Valley and if the prize is worth having, we know that we will have to have a directly elected Mayor.’

The neighbouring North East Combined Authority has postponed until May a decision on whether to accept a devolution deal, following Gateshead Council’s rejection of the proposals.

The combined authority is seeking ‘appropriate clarification and commitment from Government’ on a number of ‘outstanding issues’.

Elsewhere, both Cambridge and Cambridgeshire councils have rejected a devolution deal for East Anglia announced in George Osborne’s budget, with concerns being raised over the government’s insistence on an elected mayor.

The councils involved are now engaged in further talks with the Government.

Devolution proposals for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight also appear to have stalled over the issue of a mayor, with Hampshire County Council rejecting the idea as unsuitable for the area.

In a statement, the council said: ‘In the spirit of devolution, it is Hampshire County Council's view that governance models should not be imposed by national government but developed locally following consultation with local people, and should represent the most effective and accountable form of local governance for the management of the local area, its economy and its essential local public services.’


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