Council leaders have welcomed Government backing for a Devon, Plymouth and Torbay County Deal aimed at delivering on key economic and social priorities for the area.

The announcement by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove commits the Government to working with a strong partnership of councils on the detail of a deal as part of the Government’s levelling up policy.

When finalised, it’s hoped the County Deal with Government will provide councils across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay with extra powers and influence to improve economic and social conditions in all the communities they serve.

Councils have identified skills and training, affordable housing, health and social care, and transport and digital connectivity as priorities to help tackle inequality and poor social mobility.

Alongside these challenges are opportunities for clean economic growth which it is hoped an eventual deal with Government will help realise.

Cllr John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council, said: “I warmly welcome today’s announcement. This is a ground-breaking opportunity for our councils working as a strong team to partner with Government on a deal that’s right for all our communities and best for business.

“Our councils are ambitious to spread opportunity and prosperity to all parts of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, to end deep-rooted inequalities in our cities, towns, rural and coastal communities, and fulfil the huge potential for clean economic growth. Working with Government we have within our grasp the opportunity to transform the future for people and communities right across Devon.  

“We want to drive up skills and training, create many more opportunities for our young people to live and work in our wonderful county. We want to deliver more affordable homes that meet the needs of local people and capitalise on our world-leading expertise in marine technologies and climate change research.

“The photonics and microelectronics sector in Torbay, ambitious joint initiatives such as the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport and Exeter University’s proposed Net Zero Plus Innovation Hub for the South West are excellent examples of enterprise and innovation we must build on.

“It is vital that through this Deal with Government we support the ambitions of areas such as North Devon, Teignbridge and Torridge to drive up prosperity for all residents.

“This is the task ahead and one we will want to achieve in close collaboration with our partners in the health sector, in business, universities and colleges, towns and parishes, housing associations and national parks. There is real strength in our unity and by working together we can achieve much for the people of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.”

Cllr Nick Kelly, Leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “For too long, decisions that impact Plymouth and Devon have been made in London. Devolving funding and power to the most local level possible is absolutely the right thing to do.

“This is a bold and exciting step towards a better deal for Plymouth, that will also benefit every part of Devon and Torbay. It's not about individual councils losing power - it's about us coming together to have one voice and being a credible partner with the Government and others to be able to get investment and development, having more power and influence on funding and decision making locally.

“It is still very early days. And there is a lot of work to do to shape what this formal arrangement might look like moving forward.

“However, we believe that this partnership will act as a stimulus to help drive our local economy, deliver more jobs and a stronger local labour market, open more shops, offices and houses, and enjoy better travel and transport and infrastructure. This deal will also help us to breathe new life into our city centre.

“We expect the deal to unlock and accelerate our ambitions around the city’s high potential opportunities in marine autonomy, particularly the massive opportunity in the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport, and also in our emerging sectors like health diagnostics and creative digital.

“I look forward to beginning the journey towards a Devon devolution deal that enables us to deliver for our people and communities across Plymouth and the wider region.”

Cllr Steve Darling, Leader of Torbay Council, said:  "This is a welcome opportunity to work with partners across Devon and with Government to build on the foundations we are already putting in place around our electronics, photonics, tourism and fishing industries. We hope that this will accelerate our plans to ensure our residents have the skills, housing and infrastructure to benefit from a brighter, thriving place.

"The partnership administration in Torbay has sought, over the past three years, to empower its community more and we anticipate that this deal with now empower communities across Devon with powers that have previously been ceded to central government. We have an ambitious agenda for making Torbay the premier resort in the UK and are keen to work with partners across the area to drive the regeneration and growing aspirations of our local communities.

"Whilst we are at the very early stage of these negotiations, we expect that a County Deal will enable us to tackle the challenges that Torbay faces including our housing crisis, climate change and the need for better paid jobs for local people."

Cllr Bob Deed, Leader of Mid Devon District Council and Chair of the Devon Districts Forum, said: “This announcement recognises the ambition of our area and the determination of our collective place leadership to achieve better outcomes for our communities.

“We look forward to working with the Government to help deliver the devolvement of decision making, create the conditions for quality places and spaces, and to secure a deal that provides for local influence, innovation and, most importantly, investment.

“Today is a first step on this journey and we embrace this opportunity, together with our partners across the Devon area, to seek real and meaningful betterment; maximising the health, wealth and quality of life outcomes and opportunities for all of the communities across Devon.”

Devon, Plymouth and Torbay County, Unitary and District councils view work on the Deal with Government as a natural and logical next step in a strong track record of partnership work across Devon and the South West. A Deal will provide opportunities for deeper collaboration with stakeholders such as universities, colleges, business, the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors, National Parks, town and parish councils.

There is no requirement nor plan for local government reorganisation or elected Mayors. Council leaders want to avoid disruption to services and additional layers of bureaucracy. Instead, they are considering the establishment of a non-mayoral combined authority that would enable councils to work together strategically whilst respecting the sovereignty of their respective authorities.

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