Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 15 January 2016


The government is keen on the devolution of powers to local government. This started with the "Northern Powerhouses" – the idea being to hand down more spending power and responsibility to our large cities, Manchester Liverpool and Birmingham. The idea is spreading rapidly and the government is now inviting bids from all kinds of cities and regions around the UK. For example, Cornwall is going to get additional powers this year and extra spending in exchange for a revised municipal structure, including far fewer councillors. Maybe this is just large enough to be viable because of the extra EU money they receive.

Usually the government require a devolved area to sign up to a directly elected mayor, so there is just one person accountable for decisions made.

I support these plans but have some concerns. This kind of devolution works better for larger cities where critical mass and economies of scale come into play. What about smaller cities like Plymouth and rural areas? This is where it gets messy. Bids have been invited from authorities all around the country to come up with viable and coherent units of territory to which power can be devolved, with councils working together and sharing resources. The incentive is to get more money from the Treasury.

Because Cornwall has already been approved as a stand-alone council, our natural region namely Devon and Cornwall, is no longer available.
So where next or do we get left behind?

Devon (including Plymouth and Torbay) and Somerset have been talking for some months about putting in a joint bid to be a devolved unit. This mirrors the Fire and Rescue area and the boundaries of our Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, but little else. Nonetheless a bid is being prepared and will be submitted shortly.

There are complications. Many Somerset MPs do not want to be bracketed with Devon and Plymouth, as they feel they look east and not west. They are kicking up a fuss. Also, Somerset does not mean the whole of the county for this purpose as its two northern unitary authorities are excluded. They do not want to go in with Bristol, so a plan for a stand-alone Somerset based on the old county boundaries is being floated.

The shape of local government may be about to change dramatically, but nobody can currently predict quite what it will look like.  There is much more water to flow under this bridge.

posted by Gary @ 08:36