DEVOLUTION for Devon and Torbay has taken a big step forward with the publication of Government proposals for a ground-breaking deal that could re-draw the future relationship between local government in Devon and Torbay, and Whitehall.
The proposals announced by Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young at an event in Paignton on Thursday, January 25, would enable more decisions to be taken locally by people who know their areas best and on things that matter to local people such as building more affordable homes, investing in new quality jobs and skills, and improving public transport.
The 40-page proposed Deal sets out in detail proposals that could see the transfer of a range of powers and funding to a Devon and Torbay Combined County Authority (CCA), subject to public consultation.
Under the proposals the new body would have direct control of adult education to create up to 50,000 new training and retraining opportunities by 2030.
Through Local Skills Improvement Plans, the proposed CCA will work with business and education leaders to create a stronger, joined-up relationship between employers and schools, colleges and universities to provide the skilled workforce the local economy needs for the future.
The Government is proposing to transfer more than £16 million of new funding to invest in new green jobs, homes, skills, and business growth and accelerate Devon and Torbay’s transition to a net-zero economy, capitalising on the area’s world-leading expertise in green science and technology.
The Government is offering a stronger partnership with Homes England, capitalising on the Affordable Housing Programme and Brownfield Infrastructure and Land Fund to create a joint action plan for affordable housing schemes for local people and reduce homelessness.
The proposal includes additional land assembly and compulsory purchase powers and would facilitate greater Community Land Trust-led delivery.
On transport, the proposed Deal builds on Devon County Council and Torbay Councils’ long history of working well together on local transport planning.
The proposed Deal will strengthen this joined-up approach with Devon and Torbay working as equal partners on a CCA and improving the efficiency and co-ordination of public transport.
There is an ambition to introduce a single ticketing system for travellers and investment in services to provide greater access to public transport.
The Government is also offering to transfer responsibility for developing, designing and delivering the next stages of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund from 2025.
The CCA would be responsible for working with Devon County Council, Torbay Council, District Councils and the business and education sectors to support high growth business sectors such as advanced marine engineering, defence, photonics and digital, and improve the look and feel of local communities with street and town centre enhancements.
Speaking at the EPIC, the Electronics and Photonics Innovation Centre in Paignton, Mr Young said: “This marks a significant milestone as we finalise the Level 2 devolution agreement with Devon and Torbay.
“This transformative deal is set to channel additional resources and authority away from Whitehall, empowering local communities.
“Located in the heart of the South West, this deal will give the region a chance to progress Net Zero ambitions and accelerate wider low carbon business transition.”
The Leader of Devon County Council, John Hart, said: "This proposed Devolution Deal is hugely significant and long-awaited. If agreed, the devolvement of funding and powers will enable us as a partnership to make a real difference to people’s lives in ways that matter to most of them.
“It will enable us tackle real challenges, such as the shortage of affordable housing, and a need for more investment to support local businesses.
“It will bring new training and re-training opportunities, increasing productivity and pay. And it will bring improved coordination of public transportation across Devon and Torbay.
“This proposal also puts Devon and Torbay in a new and very different relationship with Government, one where we will have a stronger voice in Whitehall and an ability to influence policy for the benefit of our residents, communities, and businesses.
"This is just the beginning of new opportunities that we can build on.”
Councillor David Thomas, Leader of Torbay Council said: “This proposed Devolution Deal between Torbay, Devon and the Government has been years in the planning and it is real positive step forward that it has been published.
“With us having the control over the decision making and the funds to go with it, this will really help ensure that we can tackle those local issues that impact those who live and work in Torbay and Devon. With pockets of deprivation across both local authority areas, being able to tackle our priorities like improving skills, supporting our residents to gain the right employment and providing the right joined up transport links will really benefit everyone.”
“I am really looking forward to our closer working relationship with Devon and progressing our plans proposed in this Deal.”
A PROPOSED COMBINED COUNTY AUTHORITY
The Government has chosen Devon and Torbay as one of only a small number of local authority areas in the country to form a Combined County Authority (CCA), that will not require an elected Mayor or changes to the current structure of local councils.
The new powers would be devolved to a proposed CCA – a partnership comprising Councillors representing the councils of Devon and Torbay, including District Councils, and representatives from business and education.
Together, the partnership would deliver on a jointly agreed programme, working alongside a wide range of other local stakeholders, to tackle key local priorities.
What happens next?
The next step will be for the County Council and Torbay Council Cabinets to each meet on February 2 to consider support for the proposed deal and also approve a six-week public consultation on a draft proposal to establish the Devon and Torbay Combined County Authority (DT CCA).
Subject to the outcome of Cabinets’ consideration, public consultation will begin on February 12.
The results of the consultation will be considered by Devon County Council and Torbay Council in April, and subject to a decision by both authorities, followed by submission of a final Deal proposal to Government for approval.
If approved, the DT CCA would be established through secondary legislation introduced by Government.
For more information, visit the Devon and Torbay Devolution Deal webpage: https://www.devontorbaydeal.org.uk .