Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have achieved the first step in a cross-boundary move to agree a positive vision for devolution for the West of England. At last night’s Council meeting, Labour received Conservative and Liberal Democrat backing for a motion proposed by Labour Leader Pat Rooney which called for the devolution of greater powers and resources to the sub-region and set out a positive ambition for the area.
Labour councillors in the other three West of England councils will be moving a similar motion in their councils. It is believed that this is the first time that the four sets of councillors have been asked to consider a critical cross-boundary issue in such a co-ordinated manner.
The agreed motion calls for powers over skills and local bus and rail services to be delegated to a more local level, better co-ordination and partnership across health and policing, and greater powers of scrutiny over the Local Economic Partnership and other decision-making bodies spending public money.
The motion opposes the idea of a centralised ‘metro mayor’ but warmly welcomes any proposals for devolution that pass the tests of democracy, accountability and scrutiny.
Labour’s Leader in South Gloucestershire, Councillor Pat Rooney, says:
“Devolution to the English regions is a hot political topic at the moment and my ambition, and that of my Labour colleagues, is to achieve a full model of devolution at least equal to that offered to other parts of England. I am delighted that Labour councillors have taken the initiative to table this motion in our four councils, and proud that South Gloucestershire is the first council to approve it.
As the democratic voice of local people we are listening to our residents all the time, so it is the local councils who should drive the agenda on what devolution should look like on the ground in the West of England. It should not be imposed on us by central government, and it should be about the things that matter to residents, such as transport, education and jobs. Unfortunately too often the focus has been on governance arrangements and boundaries, so we must drag the debate back to the issues that really matter.
This motion is a positive statement of our ambition and commitment to work closely together and, with additional powers and resources, transform the West of England for the better.”