Earlier this week, Devon's top politicians paid Whitehall a visit:
Futures Forum: Demanding devolution for Devon and Somerset >>> >>> ‘Give us the power and we will create a better skilled workforce to enhance our whole economy’
The problem is that they didn't bring Exeter's top politicians along with them:
Council leader angry at Exeter 'snub' as talks agree devolution deal for Devon and Somerset
Tory MP for South West Devon Gary Streeter says he doesn't know leader Pete Edwards but says he will be "very pleased" when he sees the plan
BY PHIL GOODWIN 15 SEP 2017
The leader of Exeter City Council has complained that he was left out of talks in London to secure devolution for Devon and Somerset.
Devon county council leaders as well as those from Plymouth and Torbay council chiefs were invited to the Westminster meeting this week with Jake Berry, the Minister responsible for devolution and coastal communities.
Following the meeting, it was announced by Devon County Council Tory leader John Hart that an agreement had been reached to devolve powers to an economy estimated to be worth £34 billion, more than Birmingham.
Peter Edwards, leader of the Labour-controlled city council, warned that the deal had no "mandate" from Exeter and revealed he had not been invited nor even told about the planned announcement.
Tory MP Gary Streeter, who organised the meeting and drew up the guest list, said he had never heard of Mr Edwards but offered an assurance that he would be "pleased" with the deal being struck.
Mr Hart emerged from the gathering on Thursday to declare that a plan had been agreed by "the two county councils, the two unitaries, all the district councils, the Local Enterprise Partnership, the two national parks and NHS representatives".
"We have 17 local authorities working closely together on this plan with our other partners," he added in a statement.
But hot on the heels on the press release came a strong response from Cllr Edwards.
He said: “Mr Hart went to this meeting without my knowledge. I would be interested in knowing if any other district councils took part or knew about it. He met me the day before and didn't feel the need to mention it, let alone say he intended to indicate we were all signed up. I don't have that mandate from my council - and he certainly doesn't.
“We agree there is a need to go to Government and to unlock funding. We have been eager to see this happen and to see what is on offer. But we don’t agree that you should be offering up a new combined authority for Devon and Somerset blindly without knowing what any deal is. Councils could be giving up all their powers - without knowing that the prize is.
"Exeter has a strong economic agenda - it would be madness to jeopardise that without knowing what any benefits could be - or even if there are any benefits. My council's position is that we could welcome devolution – but only once you know what any benefits are.”
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Mr Streeter, MP for South West Devon, told Devonlive.com that there had been no snub and said "none of the districts" had been invited.
"I invited the county and unitary councils," he added. "It was just a meeting to find out where we are in the devolution process with ministers, post election, with councils to report back. It was a lively successful meeting - the others will find out next week when a full report is made."
Asked if Cllr Edwards, a longstanding councillor and city leader since 2010, was right to feel aggrieved, Mr Streeter added: "I don't know him but I am sure he is a wonderful person. We don't have dealings with Exeter or North Devon - it is very parochial. I don't know who this gentleman is but once he gets the full story he's going to be very pleased."
The South West currently receives only about 90 per cent of the public spending that goes into other regions and some areas, such as Torridge, Torbay and Newton Abbot, have some of the lowest earnings in the country.
Alongside the skills agenda, the partnership is also focused on improving road and rail links to the South West and creating more housing for local people.
Announcing the deal, Mr Hart said he recognised that the Government was currently focusing attention on the Brexit negotiations but he wanted to get devolution back firmly on the agenda.
“I do not want our very strong bid for greater autonomy to get bogged down in Brexit,” he said.
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“In fact, one of the key planks of our devolution plan is how we can improve training and skills in the region and boost productivity. That actually complements Brexit because it will help greatly strengthen the economy of our region and help boost trade.
“At the moment training and skills comes from a fragmented budget delivered by a whole host of organisations. We’ll be telling the minister: ‘Give us the power and we will create a better skilled workforce to enhance our whole economy’. We can upskill our people, increase inward investment and provide the skilled workforce that employers need to prosper.”
One of the ways this would be achieved is by streamlining the way young people are provided with careers advice and education information and guidance in schools and colleges.
Mr Hart continued: “We have 17 local authorities working closely together on this plan with our other partners. We have worked together as a team in producing the productivity plan and we have the united will to get on and succeed.
“We’re not holding out a begging bowl. The £30 million a year for 30 years that we could receive is a useful sum of money but ultimately we want the powers to get on and do what needs to be done so that the people of our region can get better jobs and have a better life in a thriving economy.”
Council leader angry at Exeter 'snub' as talks agree devolution deal for Devon and Somerset - Devon Live