Jan 292024

After years in the making, the Government published its proposals for a ground-breaking deal this week that could re-draw the future relationship between local government in Devon and Torbay, and Whitehall.

The proposals are a big deal for Devon and Torbay, and could, if all agreed, bring many great opportunities that would improve the lives of residents in Devon and Torbay, and those who work and visit here.

Proposed transfer of powers and funding to local government

The Minister for Levelling Up, Jacob Young, was at the EPIC Centre in Torbay yesterday to sign a ground-breaking deal that could transfer significant decision-making powers and funding, from Whitehall to local government in Devon and Torbay.

The proposed Deal could mean that more decisions can be taken locally by people who know their areas best, and on things that matter to local people, such as building more affordable homes, investing in new quality jobs and skills, and improving public transport.

Mr Young was joined yesterday by the Leaders of Devon County Council and Torbay Council, two local MPs, and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

But before the proposal can be confirmed, it first needs to be supported by the two councils, followed by a six-week public consultation.

So what is the Devolution Deal?

The 40-page proposed Deal sets out in detail proposals that could see the transfer of powers and funding to a Devon and Torbay Combined County Authority, subject to public consultation.

The proposed Combined County Authority would be a partnership made up of Councillors representing the councils of Devon and Torbay, including District Councils, and representatives from business and education.

Together, that partnership would deliver on a jointly agreed programme, working alongside a wide range of local stakeholders to tackle key local priorities.

The Government has chosen Devon and Torbay as one of only a small number of local authority areas in the country to form a Combined County Authority (hereafter CCA), that will not require an elected Mayor or changes to the current structure of local councils.

What would the Deal allow the local councils to do?

It would allow important decisions to be taken locally by people who know their areas best, on things that matter to local people, such as building more affordable homes, investing in new quality jobs and skills, and improving public transport.

Here’s a summary of the highlights:

  • under the proposals, the CCA would have direct control of adult education to create up to 50,000 new training and retraining opportunities by 2030
  • it would create a stronger relationship between employers and schools, colleges and universities to provide the skilled workforce the local economy needs for the future
  • it would see the Government transfer over £16 million to invest in new green jobs, homes, skills, and business growth, and accelerate Devon and Torbay’s transition to a net-zero economy
  • there would be a stronger partnership with Homes England to create a joint local action plan for affordable housing schemes for local people, and reduce homelessness
  • it would lead to even closer working between Devon and Torbay to improve the efficiency and co-ordination of public transport. There is an ambition to introduce a single ticketing system for travellers and investment in services to provide greater access to public transport
  • Devon and Torbay would be responsible for developing, designing and delivering the next stages of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund from 2025
  • there would be a significant boost to high growth business sectors in Devon and Torbay, such as advanced marine engineering, defence, photonics and digital

Find out more on the Devon and Torbay Devolution Deal website

So what does the Government say about it?

Yesterday’s signing means that almost 60 per cent of people in England will now live in a place with a devolution deal.

Levelling Up Minister, Jacob Young, said:

“Today marks a significant milestone as we finalise the Level 2 devolution agreement with Devon and Torbay. This transformative deal is set to channel additional resources and authority away from Whitehall, empowering local communities.

“Located in the heart of the South West, this deal will give the region a chance to progress Net Zero ambitions and accelerate wider low carbon business transition.”

“This is just the beginning of new opportunities”

The Leader of Devon County Council, John Hart, said:

“This proposed Devolution Deal is hugely significant and long-awaited. If agreed, the devolvement of funding and powers will enable us as a partnership to make a real difference to people’s lives in ways that matter the most to them.

“It will enable us to tackle real challenges, such as the shortage of affordable housing, and a need for more investment to support local businesses. It will bring new training and re-training opportunities, increasing productivity and pay. And it will bring improved coordination of public transportation across Devon and Torbay.

“This proposal also puts Devon and Torbay in a new and very different relationship with Government, one where we will have a stronger voice in Whitehall and an ability to influence policy for the benefit of our residents, communities, and businesses.

“This is just the beginning of new opportunities that we can build on.”

Councillor David Thomas, Leader of Torbay Council said:

“This proposed Devolution Deal between Torbay, Devon and the Government has been years in the planning and it is a real positive step forward that it has been published.

“With us having the control over the decision making and the funds to go with it, this will really help ensure that we can tackle those local issues that impact those who live and work in Torbay and Devon. With pockets of deprivation across both local authority areas, being able to tackle our priorities like improving skills, supporting our residents to gain the right employment and providing the right joined up transport links will really benefit everyone.”

“I am really looking forward to our closer working relationship with Devon and progressing our plans proposed in this Deal.”

What happens next?

DCC’s Cabinet and Torbay Council’s Cabinet will each meet on Friday 2 February to consider support for the proposed Deal and also approve a six-week public consultation on a draft proposal to establish the Devon and Torbay Combined County Authority (DT CCA).

Subject to the outcome of Cabinet’s consideration, public consultation will begin on Monday 12 February. The results of the consultation will be considered by both councils in April, and subject to a decision by both authorities, followed by submission of a final Deal proposal to the Government for approval.

If approved, the DT CCA would be established through secondary legislation introduced by Government.