Devolution deal for West of England progresses after South Gloucestershire vote

July 03 2016

PEOPLE in South Gloucestershire will have their say on a devolution deal for the West of England, which would involve the election of a so-called metro mayor.

PEOPLE in South Gloucestershire will have their say on a devolution deal for the West of England, which would involve the election of a so-called metro mayor.
South Gloucestershire Council agreed to put the controversial deal out for consultation, with the ruling Conservatives backing the move worth £1 billion. That involves a £100 million investment up front and £30 million a year for 30 years.
The proposal for the area formerly making up Avon was turned down by North Somerset but South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset have decided to move on with the scheme.
South Gloucestershire’s Labour councillors abstained on the vote, preferring to defer the matter until there is more certainty after the European Union referendum result.
The Labour group’s leader, Pat Rooney, said: “The referendum result and its political fallout constitutes a very significant and material change of circumstances since this deal was negotiated.
“We have never opposed the deal but feel that it would have been prudent to wait and see who is running the Government in a few weeks’ time and what their attitude is to devolution and metro mayors.”
The Liberal Democrats said they were worried about the deal, with too many unanswered questions about the plan.
Their group leader Ruth Davis said the money available would do nothing to tackle an infrastructure crisis.
She said: “In order to give us even this tiny amount, we’re being forced to accept a metro mayor that everyone agrees they don’t want and a new, centralising combined authority. It’s crackers.”
But council leader Matthew Riddle said: “The deal will unlock £1 billion of investment for the West of England and provide a welcome boost to the local economy for people living in South Gloucestershire.
“I look forward to reading the results of the consultation and seeing what local people have to say on it.
“I will be using the consultation period to go back to Westminster to continue to push for an even better deal if we can get one.”
The council will debate the issue again in October, when the consultation results will be available.
Under the deal proposed, the combined authority will take powers from Westminster and Whitehall, taking decisions which previously were determined by civil servants and Government ministers.