Letter in favour of West of England devolution

23rd June 2016

Dear Councillors

Although all attention is on the EU referendum today, there is a decision being made soon afterwards which will affect everyone in B&NES, but which only 65 people will get a chance to vote about.

The West of England has negotiated with the Government for a package of new devolved powers to come down to us from government. Part of this is a financial deal of up to £1 billion over 30 years. Part of the requirement from central government is an elected mayor who, in partnership with the councils, will take responsibility for the new powers and funding and chair the combined authority. B&NES will have an equal seat at the table, along with the other councils, with our current powers and rights of veto if two or more councils say no to something. Any new mayor will be elected by all the residents of all the councils involved.

North Somerset have turned down the offer; Bristol and South Gloucestershire are tipped to say yes. B&NES Council are to decide next week.

This is an immense decision, with implications for the next generation. It should be taken in the best interests of everyone who lives in Bath & North East Somerset. It is too important to be decided on political or partisan lines. There has been a long tradition of wariness about being involved politically with Bristol; the very mention of Avon is enough to set hackles rising; and the dislike of any mayoral role is well known.

We appeal to councillors to put aside those concerns, which are historic and tribal, and consider how we might all benefit from what is being offered, even if it’s not perfect. Collaboration is the best way forward for all bodies, and the West of England is the centre of the most productive tech cluster in the UK and the most dynamic creative hub outside London. Whatever the concerns about working alongside other councils and accepting a strategic overview, they are outweighed by the potential to develop a regional powerhouse which will further generate economic growth, create jobs, improve educational opportunities and promote closer ties with like-minded people and companies.

We ask all councillors to put aside any suspicions or historic antipathies, and vote for a better future for the young people of B&NES.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Taylor, Director, Bath Bridge

Louise Prynne, Chief Executive, Bath Business Improvement District

Ian Bell, Executive Director of Bath Chamber of Commerce and the Initiative in B&NES

Matt Atkinson, Principal, Bath College

Simon Barbato, CEO of Mr B & Friends and Director of the Year, Institute of Directors.

David James, Chief Executive, Bath Tourism Plus.

Sandy Bell, President, Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce

Greg Ingham, Chair of Creative Bath

Robin Kerr, Chairman, Federation of Bath Residents’ Associations

Colin Skellett, former Chair, Local Enterprise Partnership