Liberal Democrats in B&NES have hit back at claims that the government devolution agreement represents “the best possible deal” for local residents and are accusing the Conservative Council of failing to negotiate effectively with government.
Lib Dem Group Leader, Councillor Dine Romero (Southdown), commented:
“This devolution agreement represents a very poor deal for residents of Bath and North East Somerset, many of whom will see that the Council Leader has not negotiated well with the other Leaders, or with the Government, on our behalf. The Liberal Democrats are entirely supportive of the principle of devolving decision making and funding down to Councils or even groups of Councils but absolutely reject the imposition by government of a Metro Mayor and the recreation of Avon by the back door.”
“I would urge local people to examine the detail of the agreement; it has little benefit for our area. Whilst the headline figure of £1 billion sounds like a lot of money, this is over 30 years and shared between the four councils in the West of England. As in the old Avon days, investment and political will are likely to be focussed on the very large problems facing Bristol and its Northern fringe. B&NES is unlikely to receive its fair share – local projects would likely not be seen as ‘strategic’ by comparison – but would still be burdened with extra responsibilities.”
“Not only that, but the Mayor’s planning powers are deeply worrying. This devolution agreement would allow the Mayor to develop infrastructure plans for the whole region. That will inevitably mean new houses all over the southern fringe of Bristol in B&NES and North Somerset as Bristol cannot meet its development targets. We are already growing at a sustainable rate. We simply cannot take the extras that the Conservatives are forcing on us.”
“Clearly the Leader of Council has failed to impress on his Government that we are the third most profitable area of the country contributing to the UK PLC. Nearly all other areas, including the much vaunted Northern Powerhouse, take money from the Treasury. The West of England Partnership has already proven that it works. Trust it and let it get on with the job.”