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Anger at 'nasty' Devon devolution deal

Wednesday, 28 February 2024 15:00

By Guy Henderson - Local Democracy Reporter @GuyAHenderson

Signing the Devon/Torbay devolution deal

Council leader says he sees 'little advantage' in plans

A devolution deal giving more powers to Torbay and Devon is "a nasty and dangerous move by a nasty and dangerous government," it has been claimed.

Members of Teignbridge Council raised a chorus of concerns about the deal which will see Devon County Council and Torbay Council working together as a Combined County Authority (CCA).

Public consultation has just begun, and the government says the deal will benefit the whole county by giving it more say in how money is distributed and spent on things such as transport strategy, housing and adult education.

But critics fear district councils will lose out as Devon and the Torbay unitary authority take control. The relationship was also described at a recent county council meeting as "the Torbay tail wagging the Devon dog."

A Teignbridge full council meeting heard that the ‘cabinet’ running the new CCA would have three members from Devon, three from Torbay and two to represent the county’s eight district councils. There will also be representatives from the business and education sectors, as well as the police and crime commissioner.

Cllr John Farrand-Rogers (Lib Dem, Moretonhampstead) said the deal is ‘nasty and dangerous’ and added: “Torbay is the same size as we are, and they have their own priorities.

“They shouldn’t be deciding for us what our priorities are.”

Teignbridge Council leader Martin Wrigley (Lib Dem, Dawlish NE) said he is concerned that devolution would weaken the council’s position when dealing with Homes England, a public body that helps fund affordable housing. In future, the agency would deal directly with the CCA.

He added: “We would like to continue the relationship directly with them, so that we are not competing with other districts in Devon for the funding to build council homes.

“We do not need to be competing with Torbay to build affordable housing. I don’t want us to be competing with Torbay, I want us to be competing on a national level.”

And, he said, the way the CCA would be overseen, with just two cabinet seats for district councils, was "horribly wrong."

He continued: “I see little advantage to us. I see quite a lot of disadvantage.”

Cllr Phil Bullivant (Con, Bradley) said devolution would bring decision-making closer to the people and would benefit everyone in Teignbridge, but Cllr Richard Daws (South Devon Alliance, Ambrook) disagreed.

He said: “This will reduce the relevance of Teignbridge to the level of a town council.

“I think it’s wrong, and we need to resist this with every fibre of our being.”

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