SOUTH WEST businesses want devolution of powers to the region – but they fear tax hikes and want some control over decisions.
About 100 people attended the first Devon Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence in Devon Business Conference where a key debate on centred on regional devolution.
And George Cowcher, the chamber’s chief executive, said: “The overwhelming view was that decisions taken locally are preferred to decisions taken in London.
“But business needs to be more involved than it is at the moment.”
He added: “The big question is how business engages with that and make sure it influences (devolution).
“There is nervousness about local determination of business rates.
“Business needs to be highly influential over these decisions.”
He said there is a key role for organisations such as Devon Chamber of Commerce to play.
“The devolution deal is about improving productivity,” he said. “Business needs a dialogue.”
A panel discussed the devolution issue and featured Julia Goldsworthy, former Lib Dem MP and now decentralisation driver at PWC; Chris Garcia, chief executive of Heart of the South West LEP, and Tony Greenham, director of economy, enterprise and manufacturing at the RSA.
The discussion was facilitated by Dr Adam Marshall, acting director general of British Chambers of Commerce.
“He was giving a national perspective and was keen to see this new chamber put Devon on the map,” Mr Cowcher said.
The conference, held at Exeter Racecourse, attracted businesses from across the county, including Plymouth.
There were speakers from organisations including Plymouth University, Met Office, hotelier The Brend Group, and Newton Abbot’s Westaway Sausages Ltd.
Businesses were attracted from sectors including tourism, hospitality, manufacturing and digital.
Sponsored by Redrok UK and Wessex RFCA, the conference also included a mini business expo and a networking lunch.”