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Plymouth deserves better than to be relegated to a chess piece in political games

December 4, 20230

Devolution offers an exceptional opportunity for Plymouth and its neighbours to unlock additional funding, join up our efforts and take control of local issues which matter to our region. Positive discussions had taken place for Devon, Torbay and Plymouth councils to submit a joint Level 2 bid. Once completed, the deal will transfer powers and money from central government down to Devon, a sum which may exceed £70m, enabling the councils to take a leading role in decision making for our area. 

 

This deal will deliver an array of benefits for the next five years and provides the precedent and legal basis for further future devolvement. This includes direct control of adult social care, unlocking 50,000 new training and retraining opportunities; funding from the Government’s £16.4bn Green Capital; control of the implementation of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund; a strategic partnership with Government to improve affordable housing and reduce homelessness; joint-up public transportation which includes a single ticketing system; and £250,000 Government funding to set up a combined authority. 

 

Many regions are already experiencing the unique benefits of devolution. Our neighbour Cornwall was the first county to agree a devolution deal in 2015. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, London, North of Tyne, South Yorkshire, Tees Valley, West of England, West Midlands and West Yorkshire have also agreed deals. These all vary in scope but share the same principle: better decisions are made closer to the local people, communities and businesses they affect. 

 

Our county faces many unique structural challenges which has meant that we have often been sold short by Westminster. This deal provides a one-off opportunity for Plymouth City Council to correct this trend. If we work with Devon County Council and Torbay Council, we can be greater than the sum of our parts. The Local Government Association have a great explainer on the benefits of devolution which you can read here. It is vital for the Council to put its weight behind this deal to ensure that we are not left out. 

 

Despite this, the Labour Leader of Plymouth City Council Tudor Evans has made a political decision to cut Plymouth out of the deal. Tudor does not wish for the Council to relinquish its control of public transport and pool resources. To be clear, the agreed level two deal does not require an elected mayor, nor change the established council structure. Rather, a Combined County Authority would be established with the leaders of Devon, Torbay and Plymouth councils, along with district representatives. 

 

There are no circumstances under which Tudor’s control of public transport outweigh the multitude of benefits served to our City by Plymouth City Council having a seat at the table. Tudor has put his own political interests above those of our City – an irresponsible move which I wish to call him out on. We in Plymouth deserve better than to be relegated to a chess piece in Tudor’s political games. I call on the Leader to renter Plymouth into the deal.

 

Your input is valued. If you would like to raise any issues about devolution, please contact me via johnny@johnnyforplymouth.co.uk or 01752 876979. Surgeries can also be booked with me through these channels. Furthermore, if you would like to be notified about what I am doing here in Plymouth, including when I next write an op-ed for the Herald, please sign up to my mailing list here.

Luke Jones

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