Essex Council call for “Southern powerhouses’ power

Politics / Thu 28th May 2015 at 02:55pm

“If it’s good enough for cities, it’s good enough for counties” – Essex County Council responds to the Queen’s Speech

The Leader of Essex County Council, Cllr David Finch, has renewed calls for England’s ‘southern powerhouses’ to be included in the Government’s plans for devolving powers to local level.

The Local Government Devolution Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech today (Wednesday May 27) offers cities greater control over housing, transport, planning, policing and health, with new powers given to directly elected mayors.

Cllr Finch, who had been calling on the Government to adopt a broader devolution bill that was open to cities and counties alike, welcomed the announcement in the Queen’s Speech and said that the door was open for County regions to put together deals which could see them reap the rewards of greater local control.

He said: “If it is good enough for the northern powerhouses, it is good enough for Essex, because we are a southern powerhouse in our own right and a net contributor to the UK economy. With greater powers and flexibility we could do even more, creating more jobs, growing the economy, and improving public services.

“The UK has one of the most centralised system of taxation anywhere in the world. If we could retain business rates and invest more in the skills and infrastructure we need where we need it to grow Essex’s economy, everyone wins.

“No-one knows Essex like the people who live here, work here and run businesses here. We have much to offer – three major ports and two international airports for a start.”

Cllr Finch also said the Government’s apparent insistence on a directly-elected Mayor at the head of any devolved powers would not be a show-stopper in the counties and regions.

“The important thing is that we have the discussion and find a solution which is right for Essex,” he said. “In counties or even county regions, it could be a ‘county governor’, with similar powers to metropolitan mayors or a “public services commissioner” covering all public services.”

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