Before reading the report below, does anyone recall Kaa the Snake singing “Trussssst in me” to Mowgli in Jungle Book? Lyrics:
“Trust in me, just in me, Shut your eyes and trust in me, You can sleep safe and sound, Knowing I am around
Slip into silent slumber, Sail on a silver mist, Slowly and surely your senses, Will cease to resist
Trust in me, just in me, Shut your eyes and trust in me.”
The whole song is here on You Tube:
From a correspondent:
“This afternoon, EDDC Chief Executive, Mark Williams, gave a presentation on Devolution to a special session of the Combined Overview & Scrutiny Committees. The meeting, was apparently at the request of Cllr Roger Giles, who chaired the meeting, held at Knowle Council Chamber, Sidmouth.
Mr Williams introduced the Heart of the South West devolution bid, by using the analogy of a train journey just beginning. We are still “on a single track towards Exeter”, en route for London. The government had “opened conversations” about devolution, and the Heart of the South West (HOSW) is currently being led by Devon County, Somerset County, Plymouth City and Torbay.
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves” about what a low productivity region this is, the CEO cautioned, and listed the following key areas devolution would focus on:
1.Health,care & wellbeing ……Devon County is taking the lead, but EDDC says more can be done in e.g.housing & leisure.
2.Housing & Planning…..Constraints to attracting more businesses include the lack of readily available appropriate land; inadequacy of the A 303; Western Power supply constraints; and the issues around rural broadband. The “challenge of the lack of affordable housing” had to be tackled.
3.Employment & skills…Aim is to reduce to zero (‘Not in Education or Employment’) NEETs in the area. On-going career opportunities needed, with the increasing instability in the workplace.
4.Business support…..There should be more, and with better co-ordination. Aim to look for alternative, more lucrative, businesses than tourism & the care industries.
5.Governance ..Options might be e.g. elected mayor? Combined authority? EDDC favours Place Based Boards with local focus, such as Greater Exeter & Growth Point.
In conclusion, Mr Williams explained the devolution bid as “Our ask”. EDDC wants to work in partnerships, with Exeter, Teignbridge, Devon County Council & Exeter University. Meetings are held at the Science Park, seeking innovation and more investment. The ambition is for Exeter to become a centre for data sciences and analytics, with the possibility of a new Exeter Institute of Technology.
Some “golden opportunities” would be in marine-based developments (Plymouth);nuclear energy (from Chinese-funded power station proposed for Hinkley Point, and Bridgewater College now centre for nuclear studies); and environmental futures (e.g. the Met Office, Exeter Science Park).
A 30- year strategic labour & employment plan would be presented to central government, emphasising resilience of infrastructure, and resilience of “a population that is productive”.
A draft paper will be issued on Monday, said Mr Williams, and he “would be happy to circulate it to (Council) members”. He predicted that it probably “won’t depart from this presentation” .
Admitting that the time pressure to get the bid submitted meant that there was no possibility of “forensic scrutiny” , he acknowledged that had caused some frustration.
“There is no secrecy,” he declared. “And someone has to take responsibility”. That “someone”, recommended for HOTSW delegated powers in Mr Williams’ report, would be EDDC Leader, Paul Diviani.
In the ensuing debate, questions from councillors came thick and fast, asking for much more detail, particularly on the financial basis of the devolution bid. And Councillor Rob Longhurst (East Devon Alliance Independent ) told his colleagues “ I don’t think we should be asked to authorise someone to sign a document that we haven’t seen.”
“It’s a matter of trust”, retorted a Conservative colleague, hitting the nail squarely on the head.
(Report of the meeting to be continued…)