Three county councils have joined forces to demand devolution of more power over taxes and transport to south east England.
Leaders from West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey have written to recently appointed communities secretary Greg Clark, demanding a meeting to hash out how greater influence will be delivered to local government.
All three leaders have called for access to a greater share of locally raised taxes, the ability to influence road and rail infrastructure decisions, additional power over apprenticeships and skills and new ways of delivering care services.
They attest such powers would help the counties better manage local transport infrastructure, growing demand on school places, housing and support for the elderly and vulnerable population.
West Sussex leader, Louise Goldsmith, East Sussex’s Keith Glazier, and Surrey CC’s David Hodge wrote: ‘Together we can ensure that the right decisions are made in the right places to guarantee that the current contribution to our nation’s success and finances is not only continued but also expanded to the full potential it can reach.
‘Our three counties are special places with a strong sense of identity and place. They are achieving the delicate and fundamental challenge of balancing strong growth and preserving a beautiful environment. However, their ability to sustain that crucial balance needs us all to work differently.’
All three have called for a ‘one place, one budget’ approach for the South East.
They claim districts and boroughs also have a ‘crucial role’ in the campaign for successful devolution, reshaping local services as the region takes on greater autonomy.
Ms Goldsmith said: ‘I do think devolution is the future for local government. It is as exciting as it is challenging. But it will allow us to deal with those difficult issues so much better if we have greater powers and freedoms. Such opportunities do not happen often in local government but if and when they do we should embrace them for the benefit of those we serve.’
Mr Glazier added: ‘We want decisions about how services are delivered made closer to the people affected by those decisions. With more autonomy we believe we can help to grow the local economy and encourage greater investment in our county and our region.’
Mr Hodge said: ‘Our residents and businesses are at the heart of our plans and only through collaborating and working as one team – using the local expertise we possess – can we be certain to make the services people rely upon fit for the future.’