Business bosses backing devolution

The agreement was announced in Parliament today.

The agreement was announced in Parliament today. - Credit: Archant

Business leaders from across the South West have written to North Somerset Council in support of a £1billion devolution deal.

The Mercury reported last week how the council, along with its partners in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset, is due to vote on a deal by July 4.

If the four councils agree, a metro mayor could be in place to run the new West of England city region by May 2017.

The proposed deal includes benefits for Weston’s food and enterprise zone and Junction 21, and the authority could use business rates to fund infrastructure.

Now, private sector representatives of the likes of Bristol Airport, Wessex Water and Knightstone Housing, have signed a letter supporting devolution.


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In a letter, the business leaders said they were concerned about declining productivity, skills shortages, inadequate transport and infrastructure and the spiralling cost of housing.

They said: “These issues are constraining our businesses now, increasing our costs and impacting on the lives of our employees.

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“We believe this devolution deal will create the foundations to achieve a real and sustainable economic boost to the region, providing significant funding and more local autonomy and control over powers and resources.”

If the deal goes ahead, the Government will provide the region with £30million a year for 30 years. It would also hand back more powers over transport, adult education and housing.

The letter continues: “We have confidence that this structure will work well for all four councils.

“It builds on the successful joint working relationships that currently exist and strengthen the position and profile of the West of England with central Government and with businesses and other stakeholders, nationally and internationally.”

Councillors last week told the Mercury they expect North Somerset to reject the deal, largely due to its opposition to a metro mayor.

Cllr Richard Nightingale said it would be ‘one of the largest changes that North Somerset has ever seen’. Despite this, there is unlikely to be a public consultation or referendum.

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