City deal could help council finances

NORTH Somerset is set to benefit from improved links with neighbouring councils that could ‘offer a glimmer of opportunity’ for the council to deal with its financial woes.

North Somerset Council is currently in discussions about becoming part of the city deal, which would allow it to improve transport links, create new jobs and develop the local economy.

The deal is part of a Government scheme to devolve more powers to councils, and although it would be centred around Bristol, North Somerset is one of the authorities which could benefit.

The new deal could deliver 40,000 jobs and more than �1billion of investment to support growth in the region over the next 30 years.

Council leader Nigel Ashton and his colleagues from Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council and Bath and North East Somerset Council have already visited 10 Downing Street for discussions about how the move will benefit their respective areas.

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The deal would allow the authorities to keep 100 per cent of growth in business rates over 25 years to invest in projects, while they would also benefit through having new powers on rail planning.

It is also designed to give local businesses and the council more influence in skills provision while transport infrastructure could also benefit from increased funding.

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Discussions on the deal are only at an early stage and North Somerset’s chief executive Graham Turner told councillors at the authority’s full meeting on September 25 that officers were still working out exactly how it would benefit the district.

He told the assembled councillors: “The city deal offers a glimmer of opportunity for us to tackle our financial troubles.”

At the meeting councillor John Crockford-Hawley expressed concerns that the plans would in effect be reuniting authorities which had once been part of the wider Avon County Council.

But Mr Turner said: “This is not Avon, what this is doing is demonstrating that four authorities are absolutely, perfectly capable of working together for the best outcome for the whole area.”

He added that the council could formally enter the deal next year.

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