Council chiefs and business leaders say they want a ‘devolution revolution’ to boost prosperity in Devon and Somerset.

They have agreed a detailed plan to submit to Government that would result in higher productivity and better-paid jobs, improved road, rail and broadband links and more homes for the region’s growing population.

There would be radical reforms to integrate health and social care to allow the ageing population to be better looked after, tailored support for growing businesses and the creation of a centre of excellence for skills development.

The bid follows months of concentrated work by council chiefs in Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay with 13 district councils, Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, the local NHS and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.

They want more powers and finance devolved from Westminster to the region so they can close the productivity gap and allow local people to benefit from a thriving economy.

Currently productivity in the South West is running at less than 80 per cent of the national average.

But the document offers Government that, if local councils have greater freedom to act, by 2030 they will help deliver:

• 163,000 new jobs
• 179,000 more homes
• Higher wage levels which are above the national average
• Apprenticeship starts up by 400 per cent
• Every young person in education, employment or training
• A better qualified workforce
• Faster, more rail services with greater capacity
• Faster road journeys with less congestion
• 100 per cent superfast broadband coverage
• A UK centre of excellence for skills development

The bid points out that the South West already has world-beating expertise in a number of significant areas such as knowledge-based skills in Exeter, marine industries in Plymouth, nuclear technology at Hinkley Point and aerospace in Yeovil as well as its traditional industries like agriculture, fishing and tourism.

Somerset County Council leader John Osman said: “This is a truly exciting opportunity for all the local authorities involved in this work. We have come together with the common aim of making the most of devolution for our residents and shared priorities around skills, employment and infrastructure.

“The bid reflects our pride in what the region has to offer and our ambitions for its future potential. I look forward to taking the next steps with colleagues from across the South West.”

Devon County Council leader John Hart said: “We are presenting a united front to the Government and saying this is our vision for our region, let’s negotiate on how you can help us to achieve it.

“I firmly believe, as local people, we can do things more effectively and more efficiently locally than being told what to do by London.

"This is the first time in my political lifetime that the Government has offered local government the opportunity to draw down powers like these.

“This could mean real power coming to the South West. This is a real opportunity for this council and other councils and we would be foolish not to seize it.

“We should be working together for the benefit of the people of Devon and the South West.”

Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans said: “We’ve been lobbying Government as part of the city’s asks on many of these issues, but by working with other authorities and organisations our voice will be louder in Whitehall.

“Devolution means we make more decisions locally about how we spend and how we deliver. I’m particularly passionate about ensuring more is done to improve opportunities for our young people to get the skills they need for good jobs with real prospects.”

Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver said: “Working together and providing a strong, unified approach is the best way to achieve devolution in the South West. The proposals we are putting forward outline the shared common goals we have in this region , such as maximising economic growth, creating new homes and jobs, and improving skills as well as our infrastructure.

“We are committed to working with our partners to develop devolution proposals, not just for the benefit of residents in Torbay, but for the whole region.”


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