Crawley council leader questions county’s devolution ambitions

Cllr Peter Lamb SUS-140108-120547001
Cllr Peter Lamb SUS-140108-120547001

The leader of Crawley Borough Council has raised questions over how handing powers from central government to county councils in the South East would help the town.

Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate) highlighted cultural and historical differences between the counties’ communities.

He said Crawley was closer to London than Chichester and added: “I’m not necessarily saying it’s going to be a bad thing.

“It would be better for Crawley if we had better localised powers.”

He added the Sussex communities in Crawley, rural areas and the coast had ‘very different’ sets of issues.

West Sussex County Council will call for central government powers to be transferred to a county council level, it was announced today (Friday May 22).

The council will argue the devolution would help co-ordinate its services, improving the economy and attracting more investment.

Under the proposed changes, local authorities could have fiscal autonomy, and additional responsibilities relating to road and rail infrastructure, health and social care, and employment.

WSCC has commissioned research into the benefits that would follow for communities in the South East if county councils were given greater autonomy by the Government.

Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, said she would now look to work with other councils across the South East to take forward the work and prepare the case for greater devolved powers to be given to county authorities.

Mrs Goldsmith said: “This work highlights the very strong economy in the South East but that economic success comes at a price which county councils deal with day in day out.

“We are acutely aware that we need to nurture our vibrant economy which continues to be the economic powerhouse for the South East.”

The work highlights that seven councils alone in the South East produced more than £133 billion in GVA in 2012 – making them the third largest contributor to the UK’s economy – and they have more active enterprises than Scotland and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority together.

The research emphasises the potential benefits of devolution and the need for central government to change. It describes an offer to the Government that would help sustain growth for the whole UK economy and identifies an initial list of potential ‘devolution asks’. These are grouped into five areas:

- Fiscal devolution – access to defined additional funding sources.

- Road and Rail Infrastructure – to influence or share planning decisions.

- Employment and Skills – roles in areas such as apprenticeships/troubled families

- Social Care and Health – additional roles in influencing the care market.

- Infrastructure for the Future – broader longer term initiatives.

Mrs Goldsmith added: “There is considerable work to do to prepare a case, particularly around infrastructure, social care, our work on the troubled families agenda and skills.

“To me, this work is about building a case to put to the government about how devolution could help resolve some of those really key issues around infrastructure and adult social care.”

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