Devolution decision due – risks of saying ‘no’ laid out in council document
PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:47 08 June 2016
North Somerset could lose out on road-repair grants and risk being unable to attract investors if it does not agree to take more powers from the Government, a report has revealed ahead of a vote tomorrow (Tuesday).
North Somerset Council must decide if it wants to go ahead with a £1billion devolution deal on Tuesday.
A council document published ahead of the meeting warns of potential risks if executive members do not sign on the dotted line. It says North Somerset may be at the back of the queue for future funding from the Government, and could be excluded from key discussions on the district’s future.
The authority has been working on the devolution deal with Bristol City, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset councils.
If they agree to the deal as it stands, the new combined West of England authority will be run by an elected metro mayor, who will control £30million-a-year to invest in the area, and powers over transport and adult education.
North Somerset councillors have previously expressed fears that a Bristol-centric mayor could act against the district’s interests.
While North Somerset councillors will vote on Tuesday on whether they want the area to be part of the new authority, the other councils will not cast their ballots until June 29.
The report says: “Should North Somerset Council decide not to proceed with the devolution agreement, the decisions made by the other West of England councils would be based on whether or not to continue without North Somerset.”
If the council withdraws from the deal, it will miss out on its share of £30million a year.
The report says: “The early indications are that Government, while continuing to pursue investment outside of devolution areas, is likely to prioritise those areas participating in the devolution process.”
It says the council could miss out on some road maintenance grants, which may be prioritised for devolved areas.
It adds that if the other authorities go ahead without North Somerset, the district could be excluded from talks on employment, planning, transport and housing even if the decisions would impact the area.
Another risk is the ‘generally lower profile for North Somerset affecting investors’ perceptions arising from being marginalised from West of England’.
The council notes Bath and North East Somerset Council (BANES) wants talks with the Government about removing the metro mayor requirement from the agreement.
North Somerset’s councillors will decide to vote for one of four options.
Firstly, to approve the deal and ‘continue to negotiate to secure the most advantageous deal which fits with the council’s priorities and objectives’.
Secondly, it could reject the idea outright and withdraw from the process.
Alternatively, it could decide the metro mayor proposal is ‘unwarranted’. It would then aim to renegotiate the deal, along the lines of BANES’ proposal.
Or it could try to join another devolution area. The report says this is possible, but unlikely within the published timescale, which aims to see a mayor elected in May 2017. This would also need the agreement of other authorities and the Government.