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Government gives green light to finalising a Devon and Torbay Devolution Deal

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The Government has confirmed plans to finalise a ground-breaking Devolution Deal with Devon and Torbay. This will include new funding to support skills training and new jobs in the area’s growing green economy.

This is part of a wider package of powers and funding being negotiated for transfer from Whitehall to local government in Devon and Torbay.

Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young has confirmed  that the Government is committed to continuing negotiations to conclude a deal with Devon and Torbay councils.

In a letter to the Leader of Devon County Council, John Hart, and the Leader of Torbay Council, David Thomas, the Minister also praised their “constructive leadership on the devolution agenda”.

Mr Young said he was pleased to be able to offer new capital funding to support local priorities, a reference to Devon and Torbay councils’ plans to expand the green economy.

Working with business and education leaders, this funding will aim to accelerate Devon and Torbay’s transition to a net-zero economy and capitalise on expertise in environmental science and technologies, with a focus on  new green jobs, homes, skills, and business growth, seeking to attract additional private sector investment into these areas.

It is just one element of a much wider package of devolved powers and funding which are the subject of advanced negotiations with Government. Councils are also seeking greater local control and resources to tackle key local challenges such as the need for more affordable housing and improved public transport. 

The Deal being negotiated with the Government does not require an elected Mayor for Devon and Torbay. Instead, the Government will introduce secondary legislation to create a Combined County Authority (CCA) for the area.

The CCA will comprise councillors representing the councils of Devon and Torbay including District Councils. It will be a democratically accountable decision-making body responsible for key economic functions including transport, skills and business support. The CCA will include representatives from business and education to provide a strong voice for these sectors.

Plymouth City Council’s involvement in the Deal has ended. The City Council did not wish to combine with the County Council and Torbay Council as a single strategic Local Transport Authority delivering joined-up transport services. 

Devon and Torbay have a long history of working well together on transport matters, with a Joint Devon and Torbay Local Transport Plan already in place.  Under a Devolution Deal, as the upper tier authorities on a new Combined Authority the two councils would continue to do so as equal partners, taking shared responsibility for strategic transport functions to support economic growth and deliver better public transport across the area.  

Subject to Government confirmation of a Deal in principle, the Cabinets of the County Council and Torbay Council  will be asked to launch  public consultation on the setting up of a proposed CCA, with a final decision coming before their respective Councils in March 2024. 

Commenting on the Minister’s announcement, John Hart,  Leader of Devon County Council said:

“I warmly welcome the Minister’s confirmation  that Government wishes to agree a Deal with our partnership of Devon and Torbay councils.

“The prospect of finalising a Deal soon is hugely significant. It will put 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.

“The Minister’s confirmation of the offer of additional  funding to support our green economic ambitions is just the beginning of new opportunities we can build on.

“We have, for a long time, worked well as neighbouring authorities to deliver good public services for Devon residents and to tackle key local priorities. The prospect of significant Government funding and powers devolved locally will enable us as a partnership to make a real difference to people’s lives in ways that matter most to them – using our new powers to deliver more affordable and  social housing by our District Councils, promoting green economic growth, creating skilled jobs and training opportunities, and providing better public transport.

“I am sorry that Plymouth won’t be with us, but that is the City Council’s decision and we must respect their right to do so. We will continue to work in partnership with them wherever we can for the collective benefit of all our communities and businesses across the area.”

Councillor David Thomas, Leader of Torbay Council said:

“The Minister’s welcome announcement shows there is real momentum in Government for this Deal. Finalising it will be an important and positive first step in a process of further devolution with the potential for our areas to evolve and grow, and to pull down vital extra funding and powers over time.

“We see real opportunities from our continued working together on transport and other key issues across Devon and Torbay, we are confident this devolution deal will bring positive benefits for our residents, economy and communities.

“We recognise and fully respect Plymouth’s decision, and we are committed to continue working in partnership with them as we always have for our collective benefit.”

David Thomas
David Thomas, Leader of Torbay Council