Thursday, 27 November 2014

Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part 11: Greater Exeter, Greater Bristol and devolution for the South West

In view of long-standing views about the need for unitary authorities in the South West
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part nine: Heseltine speaks again..... "Devon County Council should become a unitary authority with both Devon and Cornwall having directly elected mayors."

... and following on from the Scottish devolution debate
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils...

... not only are Manchester and Bristol looking at the 'economies of scale'
Talks could change the way our region is run | SouthWestBusiness Blog

... but Exeter is clearly looking to expand:
Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge councils to form Greater Exeter, Greater Devon Partnership | Exeter Express and Echo
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part ten: "Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge councils to form Greater Exeter"

The debate is really heating up:

South ​West councils make devolution pitch as Scotland gets income tax powers

By GDemianyk | Posted: November 27, 2014

Cornwall and Devon are demanding greater powers over taxation and spending following the Scottish referendum and promise of more powers north of the border

South West authorities are demanding devolution to the region as Scotland was in line to get new responsibilities over income tax and welfare in the aftermath of the independence vote.

Cornwall Council and Devon County Council have been at the vanguard calling for greater “self-rule” to English regions, with greater powers over stamp duty and council tax at the top of many wish-lists.

The Smith Commission, which was set up to examine what further powers could be transferred to Edinburgh, has recommended that the Scottish Parliament should be able to set its own income tax rates, with all of the cash earned staying north of the border.

The Scottish Parliament should be allowed to create new benefits in areas where it has devolved responsibility, but should also be given the power to make discretionary welfare payments in any other area, while a range of benefits that support older people, carers and the sick and disabled could be fully devolved, the report said.

In Cornwall, which boasts a vocal nationalist movement led by Mebyon Kernow, many, including the Liberal Democrats, want an elected assembly similar to Scotland and Wales. But Labour and the Conservatives oppose and extra tier of government.

A poll commissioned by the University of Exeter, published yesterday carried out by Survation, underlines strong support for Cornish devolution. Of 500 voters in the Camborne and Redruth constituency polled, 60% were in favour of power being devolved from Westminster to Cornwall, with only 19% opposed. Of the creation of a formal Cornish Assembly, 49% were in favour with 31% opposed.

Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said a Labour government will move more civil service jobs outside London as part of its devolution package, which involves giving economic power and £30 billion in funding to county regions as well as cities.

Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) should be re-located wholesale to the far South West.

Leaders of English councils, ranging from London mayor Boris Johnson and to district and county council coalitions, yesterday published an open letter calling for a Smith-like commission to agree a “comparable package of measures” for south of the border.

Councillor John Hart, the Conservative leader of Devon County Council, said giving the county the proceeds of stamp duty would bring Devon over £100 million a year. The council also wants the freedom to raise council tax without having to hold an “expensive” referendum.

Councillor Hart said: “Devon has some of the lowest wages and some of the highest house prices in the country. (Stamp duty devolution) would enable us to do much more with training, skills and job creation. This has been offered to Scotland and I see no reason why the people of Devon shouldn't enjoy the benefit too. (With council tax freedom) we could say to the people of Devon ‘we can do this for you with a zero increase, this with two per cent, this with four per cent’ and so on. They would have a real choice about the level of services they wanted and what they were prepared to pay for.”

Cornwall Council has called for a package of “devolved powers and budgets” to “allow local areas to make real decisions based on genuine local priorities”. Responsibilities and tax-raising powers it would like include a share of increased tax revenues generated in Cornwall, greater local control over council tax and business rates and powers to vary localised taxes.

Labour’s Mr Bradshaw said: “This is a great opportunity for regions like ours: for the whole-scale transfer of power and resources out of Whitehall and Westminster, reversing decades of damaging centralisation in London. It will also force politicians to finish the job of reforming our outdated institutions, including replacing the unelected Lords with a senate elected from the regions. I would also like to see whole government departments moved out of London, with Defra or the Department for the Environment and Climate Change) being the obvious candidates for our region, given our potential leading role on renewable energy and the importance of the natural environment for the Westcountry.”

South ​West councils make devolution pitch as Scotland gets income tax powers | Western Morning News

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