‘Devolved Devon’ drive brings 11 councils together

The boss of Devon County Council has outlined the case for a devolution deal from the government, with Torbay part of the arrangement. Devon is one of nine areas given provisional backing to make more decisions locally. When finalised, it is hoped councils will be given extra powers.

Ollie Heptinstall www.devonlive.com

Talks with Whitehall departments are now under way, the county council’s chief executive Dr Phil Norrey revealed on Monday. The council is working with fellow unitary authorities Plymouth and Torbay on the deal, together with Devon’s eight district councils.

Speaking to Today on BBC Radio 4, Dr Norrey said decisions on how government money should be spent are better made locally. “We’ve got a better idea of what matters to local people and where we’re going to have the biggest impact,” he said.

“And the reality is that central government’s very compartmentalised and we have the opportunity to bring together the various agendas on the ground – linking up things like our response to climate change, housing, economy and skills, and transport.” Any major democratic reorganisation – such as having an elected mayor for Devon, or creating one overall council similar to Cornwall and Somerset – has already been ruled out.

Instead, a combined authority without a mayor may be set up. In February, Devon issued a statement saying this would “enable councils to work together strategically whilst respecting the sovereignty of their respective authorities.” Dr Norrey added they were speaking to the different branches of the government: “to see how far we can push our ambitions, and we are a very ambitious partnership across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.”

It is possible that a deal for Devon could be finalised by the autumn.