North Somerset Council rejects West of England devolution deal

North Somerset Council’s members last night voted not to accept the devolution deal being offered by Government, which includes the requirement for a combined authority and directly elected mayor for the West of England. The decision follows that made by councillors in Bath and North East Somerset Council last month where they asked their leader to renegotiate the deal to remove the requirement for a directly elected mayor.

Cllr Nigel Ashton, Leader of the Council 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, 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 today 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.”

The other three councils in the West of England are due to meet on Wednesday 29 June to decide whether to accept the deal or not.

Here is the motion agreed by Council:

This Council:

(i) remains fully committed to strengthening current partnership arrangements including the workings of the Strategic Leaders Board which has delivered significant benefits to the residents of North Somerset, in particular through the co-ordination of strategic planning, transport and economic development

(ii) supports the principles of devolution and believes that these will be best achieved by building on existing arrangements in the West of England, particularly the co-operation between the four unitary authorities, and therefore rejects the imposition of a directly elected mayor as part of the proposed deal

(iii) welcomes the interim decision of Bath and North East Somerset Council to seek to re-open discussions with Government and remove the requirement for a directly elected mayor, which is what we have always proposed

(iv) asks the Leader and Chief Executive to work with the Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, and other West of England authorities, in approaching Government with a view to delivering the deal whilst identifying a governance model that reflects the particular character of the West of England, and the clear views of people in North Somerset that an additional layer of government is unnecessary and unwanted.