Cornwall, Devon and Dorset could get combined authority with extra powers from Westminster

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is set to publish a White Paper with South West set to be latest region to receive new powers

[Are we about to see “The Great South West” combined authority replacing our counties with the elimination of our distinct regional cultures? And who might we expect to be its Mayor? The man with the Midas touch? Is this another of un-elected Dominic Cummings’ “Moonshot” ideas? – Owl]

By David Parsley 

Boris Johnson’s plans to ‘level-up’ the nation could lead to a new single authority for the South West of England with policy making powers in areas such as education, health, energy infrastructure and transport.

The Government’s White Paper on Devolution and Local Recovery, which is due to be published within weeks, will make reference to “regional partnerships” and herald the creation of formally recognised regional partnerships supported by the Government investment.

The Great South West group, an economic alliance that claims to have the support of the Prime Minister, believes the region should be given the same status as the Northern Powerhouse.

A spokesman for the group said: “Our aims include securing commitment from Government to recognise the economic potential of the area as part of its levelling up agenda, and to provide strategic backing and investment to fulfil our aims.”

At the heart of the Great South West’s proposals is £45bn of investment to create the cleanest economy in England, and the first to be net zero carbon.

Matt Barton, head of strategy at Cornwall Council, said: “The hope is that the Great South West will be one of the first to benefit given it has already submitted an ambitious prospectus ambition to Government.”

Plans not going far enough for some

However, the plan to hand powers from Westminster to the South West is unlikely to go far enough for some campaigners, including Sir Gary Streeter, the Conservative MP for South West Devon.

Sir Gary said: “The Great South West project is an attempt to inject some much-needed coherence into this region’s dialogue with government. Unfortunately, the government is now introducing a White Paper on devolution which may delay our recognition as a coherent region.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said the White Paper was imminent.

She said: “We have set out a clear commitment to level up all areas of the country by empowering our regions through devolving money, resources and control away from Westminster.

“We are considering a range of options and will set out our detailed plans in the White Paper that will be published this Autumn.”

Labour MP opposes plans

However, Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, is against any move that led to counties losing their own individual identities.

“This is a ridiculous proposal from Boris Johnson – tearing up decades, if not centuries of people in England identifying with their county and in the case of historic cities like Exeter and Plymouth, with their city,” said Mr Bradshaw.

“What we need in the South West are local councils that are empowered and have the funds to deliver on behalf of their local communities and a coherent regional body like Labour’s Regional Development Authorities, which the Tories abolished, which can provide strategic leadership on economic development priorities across the South West and other regions as a whole.”