A POTENTIAL devolution deal for Devon is a 'dead duck', according to one senior county councillor – although the county council’s leader is continuing to back the idea.
Outline approval was given in March to transfer money and powers to local leaders across the whole of Devon – part of ‘levelling-up’ proposals by the government – and it is hoped a deal could be offered by the autumn.
The ‘tier two’ arrangement doesn’t need an elected mayor, nor would it change the established council structure. Instead, a combined board would be created with the leaders of Devon County, Torbay and Plymouth councils, as well as district representatives.
But speaking at a county council cabinet meeting this week, opposition leader Julian Brazil (Lib Dem, Kingsbridge), who’s also leader of South Hams District Council, poured cold water on the project.
'I think we shouldn’t be wasting our time with that. It’s a dead duck,' he said. 'We’ve got a zombie government who will be very lucky if anything comes to fruition before September of next year, when we’ll probably be in the middle of a general election and it will never happen.
'I think our time would be much better spent spelling out what we see as a good devolution deal for Devon, and that certainly isn’t contained in what we’ve got on the table at the moment.
'So I think if we want to conserve resources and to prioritise, that should just drop off the list straight away.'
But council leader John Hart (Conservative, Bickleigh & Wembury), who is part of negotiations with the government, disagrees with his opposite number.
'Anything that gives us extra money and advantages is useful. It’s worth saying that the minister is actually going to be talking to Devon, Plymouth and Torbay shortly in relation to this.'
After Cornwall recently dropped out of plans to go for a ‘tier three’ devolution deal with an elected mayor, Cllr Hart said Devon’s bid is 'the one that’s actually been stable throughout the whole of the conversation so far'.
And he stressed: 'If Cornwall come in on a tier two, they should have no advantages that Devon hasn’t got.'
In an update last month, councillors were told any new powers are likely to include more say on housing, devolution of adult education funding and more control of public transport commissioning.
If a deal is offered by the government, it will be subject to approval by local councils and a formal consultation process.