Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Dr Kay Barnard has written about the "West of England" devolution deal, announced in the Budget 2016.
Her comments are below:
The government has announced a devolution deal for the “West of England” area around Bristol. The deal involves the introduction of a new metro mayor in exchange for significant new powers over improved transport, planning, skills and employment. Bristol and the surrounding local authorities will also receive control of a £30 million per year investment fund over 30 years to boost economic growth.
This is potentially good news. But this deal comes with a warning. Devolution should not just be a transaction between different levels of government. What will make devolution a success is, most importantly, involvement by the very people who will be affected by any final decision on the arrangements. This has not happened.
The Liberal Democrats have long been in favour of taking power away from Whitehall and empowering local communities. However, we have yet again seen the Conservatives' top-down approach to devolution; with the carrot of extra cash being dangled in front of councils to sign up to elected mayors. And this deal has been made less than a week since the people of Bath and N.E. Somerset (B&NES) voted 'no' to having a city mayor. In Bristol, all the power over the council has been concentrated in one pair of hands, a backwards step in local democracy.
We Liberal Democrats want to see exactly what has been proposed before we decide whether we want yet another mayor and another layer of government. Greater dialogue with our neighbouring local authorities is a good thing. Thankfully the four authorities affected – Bristol, B&NES, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire – will now have the chance to debate the plans and have a say over what happens next.