North Somerset Council votes against ‘unwanted’ mayor

PUBLISHED: 19:41 07 June 2016 | UPDATED: 08:22 08 June 2016

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North Somerset Council has voted to reject plans for an ‘unwanted and unnecessary’ metro mayor this evening (Tuesday).

A total of 39 members backed the proposal put forward by council leader Nigel Ashton which said it broadly backed the principles of devolution but believes in working together with South Gloucestershire Council, Bristol City Council and Bath and North East Somerset Council, rather than answering to a mayor.

Instead councillors voted to re-open discussions with the Government and remove the metro mayor requirement.

Cllr Ashton said: “I am disappointed that despite all our efforts, the deal proposed by Government is not attractive enough for us to support.

“I believe strongly, and this view has been supported by my fellow councillors this evening, that we shouldn’t accept the deal offered in March.

“Devolution of funding from central Government is attractive in principle, but not at any cost. We have worked hard with our fellow West of England partners to get the best available deal for the area, but too much remains that we are not prepared to support.

“We have a great track record of successful joint working across the region, and we can continue this without the additional costly and bureaucratic layer of decision-making that a combined authority and metro mayor would bring.

“Prior to the Council’s decision we asked our town and parish councils and local residents to give us their views on the proposed deal, and the vast majority have expressed a similar view, and do not want an additional level of government or metro mayor.

“I will be contacting the Bristol mayor and the leaders of Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire tomorrow (Wednesday) to appeal to them to join me in getting a better deal, and one which we can all support.

“We remain committed to continued joint working with our neighbouring councils, and with their support we will unite in going back to Government to secure delivery of a deal that reflects the needs of the West of England.”

In a 90-minute debate, the vast majority of councillors expressed concerns over the proposed deal including a lack of democracy.

Cllr Chris Blades said: “There are a lot of people in the country worried about democracy.

“Devolution does what it says on the tin and devolves power and puts another layer of bureaucracy in the democratic process.”

* For full story, see Thursday’s Weston Mercury.

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