Chancellor sets out progress on devolution deals

8 Jul 15

Cornwall is set to be the first county to secure a devolution deal from the government, while discussions are underway to reach devolution deals with four cities in England, George Osborne has announced.

In his Budget speech, the chancellor said that the first of the government’s new county deals would give Cornwall “a greater say over local decisions.”
This forms part of the government’s plans in its Devolution Bill.

Cornwall, which published its Case for Cornwall last winter calling for greater local powers, had been concerned that devolution was taking place only in combined authorities, and that it would miss out as its location made such a structure problematic.
The Case for Cornwall has called for control over bus services, partial localisation of fuel duty income to pay for roads, a greater role in energy generation and devolution of health and housing.

Today’s Budget document stated: “The government intends to support towns and counties to play their part in growing the economy, offering them the opportunity to agree devolution deals, and providing local people with the levers they need to boost growth.”

The move was welcomed by the County Councils Network, which noted that for the first time, local councils in prominently rural areas will take control of the franchising of bus services, infrastructure and skills investment.”

In his speech, Osborne also added extra powers to those being devolved to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which will cover fire services and a land commission in the city following the deal to create a mayor. Proposals unveiled so far include the devolution of NHS spending to the region.

The chancellor stressed this devolution was “in return for a directly elected mayor” and similar deals were “available to other cities who want to go down a similar path”.

Work was in progress on similar deals for the Sheffield, West Yorkshire and Liverpool city regions, but was also contingent on them accepting elected mayors.

Osborne also welcomed the formation of the new combined authority for the West Midlands.

The government “remains open to any further proposals from local areas for devolution of significant powers in return for a mayor, in time for conclusion ahead of the Spending Review”, the statement said.

Following the statement, Local Government Association chair Gary Porter said that without radical devolution “the government’s aims to boost housebuilding, abolish youth unemployment and find £12bn of savings from working-age benefits cannot be achieved”.

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