• Devon County Council votes to publicly consult on potentially thorny devolution plans

    10th December 2015 | News | Claire
  • I voted against the plans because I am concerned that the rather vague proposals are almost exclusively focused on big business, such as the supposed benefits of Hinkley Point C – which is about to be handed to the Chinese … yet underwritten by the British taxpayer to the tune of £17bn, with the Chinese government being given extraordinarily preferential rates for electricity production.  Not exactly a south west success story.

    Other big industries mentioned in the plans included the Met Office, manufacturing, marine businesses and specifically referred to were road and rail.  Specifically NOT referred to were small businesses, and it is small businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy here – and our beautiful environment contributes to their success. This wasn’t mentioned either.

    Renewable energy was omitted, which was very worrying considering the tacit backing of of Hinkley’s nuclear power plant. The very successful but fledgling renewable energy industry in the south west is now under massive threat, with the government poised to scrap a whopping 87 per cent of the subsidy overnight, probably next week…which could cripple the only form of sustainable clean energy we have and lead to thousands of job losses – in the south west alone…. see subsequent blog post on this!

    The theme appeared to be “big is best” and in my view this missed what Devon and Somerset was about.

    I criticised the government for “strong-arming” councils into putting together plans to devolve services and threatening them with less favourable treatment if they did not.  I said this approach made me suspicious about its motives. 

    Of course, funding is now a massive problem for local government, with the huge austerity cuts – and if services and funding are devolved further, the government can effectively wash its hands of a a load of earache – and simply blame councils for not delivering. Cynical that view might be – but that is how it works.

    I said it was inconceivable that there wouldn’t be public consultation on such monumental plans and leader John Hart announced when he introduced the item that he supported my amendment to publicly consult on any bid. And this was backed by the vast majority of councillors at the end of the debate.

    You can see the itemised webcast here, which will be available shortly – http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/178945

    See earlier blog posts about this here – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/public_consultation_urged_over_devolution_plans_tomorrows_county_council_me