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Essex Council welcome budget “strides” for more powers

Politics / Wed 18th Mar 2015 pm31 05:23pm

THE strides to devolve more powers to other parts of the country announced in today’s (Wednesday) Budget have been welcomed by the leader of Essex County Council.

However, Councillor David Finch has urged the Chancellor to give Essex and other counties similar freedoms and flexibilities announced today for West Yorkshire and those recently agreed for Manchester. The Chancellor also said the government would continue to develop a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

Earlier this month Leaders, Chief Executives and senior officers from all Greater Essex councils met to discuss ambitious devolution ideas which could see the transfer of powers and funding from central Government to Greater Essex authorities.

A letter expressing the interest of Greater Essex Councils in exploring devolution has been sent to the Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government.

Commenting on today’s Budget Cllr Finch said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement today of the greater steps being taken towards devolving more powers away from Whitehall to our local areas. But this should be the start not the limit of the empowerment of local places across England.

“Devolution is an opportunity to revitalise our democracy and will unlock economic growth. We should not disenfranchise Essex businesses and make our young people feel like second class citizens because we don’t have these powers as well.

“Essex has delivered £450 million savings over the last five years. I believe that not only can councils such as Essex continue to provide quality services but ensure they are provided and operated more efficiently than they currently are.”

Cllr Finch also welcomed the review of business rates announced in today’s budget.

He said: “Essex is a place where businesses want to come as they know they can develop and flourish. However, we believe it is vital that to continue to support this growth we are able to retain more of the business rates generated in the county.

“The government’s acknowledgement that the current system needs to change is an encouraging step in the right direction. We will definitely be looking to take advantage of the Chancellor’s open door offer to discuss the possibility of Essex receiving the same deal as Cambridge and Manchester in keeping 100 per cent of the additional growth.”

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