Devolution is essentially the transfer of some government responsibilities to local councils.
I am not opposed to the principle of devolution, however, Chancellor, George Osborne has strong-armed councils into taking on these extra responsibilities, which gives me a cause for considerable scepticism.
A group of councils in Devon and Somerset, as well as the NHS and businesses are currently negotiating a deal to be put to ministers for devolved powers.
As Devon County Council prepares to shave off nearly £40m again, from its budgets in a few weeks, thanks to austerity measures, it will be even less well equipped than before to provide vital services.
But now Local Enterprise Partnerships (run by largely by business people) must take a leading role in preparing a bid to government for devolved powers. Ministers have insisted that bids must be business focused.
At the Devon County Council meeting in December, councillors voted in favour of my motion to allow public consultation on the bid. Although, from Mr Swire’s recent opinion, one might be forgiven for thinking that this was a Conservative proposal!
East Devon District Council Independents (especially the East Devon Alliance councillors) have been very proactive in raising concerns about plans, which up until now have been extraordinarily vague and tricky to get to grips with.
From what I have seen however, the bids will be very big business focused. And politically conservative, with a huge emphasis on the importance of Hinkley Point for example … while renewable energy, which has been a thriving industry in the south west – or at least it will be until the 64 per cent subsidy cut hits in a few weeks, doesn’t appear to get a look in.
My other comments on his column are: Handing revenues from business rates to councils may result in Cornwall having massively reduced funding and Devon either having a small increase or a reduction in revenue. I did this research for an interview on Sunday Politics a few weeks ago. All is not what it seems here.
Secondly, re Hinkley, the British taxpayer is subsidising this project to the tune of around £17bn. And inexplicably, the govt is guaranteeing massively preferential rates for electricity produced to the Chinese govt, infuriating economists.
Apart from handing over the keys of our most sensitive form of energy to an oppressive regime, we already have a thriving energy industry in the SW. That is the renewable energy industry. The only form of clean sustainable energy available.
But the govt has crippled this industry, resulting in perhaps thousands of job losses, by reducing the subsidies by 64 per cent, which will come into force, probably in a few weeks.
The question for me is does he actually know any of this or does he just not care?
Mr Swire might not like Independents expressing opposing views to government policy (has he ever voted against the party line?) but I tend to take the view that councillors (and MPs) are here to represent constituents, not to protect corporate interests or nod in sage agreement with every ministerial announcement.
I have raised many important issues in many of my columns in my Express & Echo column and invited Mr Swire’s to respond.
He appears to favour silence, however.