It’s official: Devon and Somerset councils plan to merge: whither EDDC’s new HQ?

“Councillors from across Devon and Somerset have agreed on a joint devolution bid to secure greater control over skills, growth and employment in the region.

The decision follows a summit of county, unitary and district council chiefs in Exeter today, which brought local authorities one step closer to a devolution deal for the region.

Current plans propose an organisation based on the boundaries of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), with a focus on economic development and job creation.

Commenting on the progress, Devon County Council leader John Hart said the level of agreement had been “very encouraging”.

“It’s important that we present a united front to the Government,” he said.

“I have always said that we can do things more effectively and more efficiently locally than being told what to do by London.

“The big themes we hope to focus on are on skills, economic growth and improving productivity, as well as infrastructure so we can ensure our road and rail network is more resilient than it has been in the past.

“Doing the very best for our older residents by coordinating health and social care and affordable homes for our young people are also key themes.”

The announcement follows the confirmation of a devolution offer for Cornwall last month – the first non-urban deal of its kind.

LEP chief executive Chris Garcia was at the meeting, along with leaders from Devon’s eight district councils and Torbay mayor Gordon Oliver.

Councillors have previously indicated a bid could involve a “double devolution” model, under which the counties and unitary authorities would receive powers from central government and pass them down – where appropriate – to districts.

There has also been discussion of “soft” boundaries which would enable different parts of the region to reach individual devolution deals while still collaborating with neighbouring authorities.

The next round of devolution applications are due for submission in September.”