For us in local government in Devon the confirmation that the Government was in "advanced discussions" with us about signing a devolution deal was perhaps the most significant.

We've been talking to ministers for some time about devolving more powers and responsibility from Westminster to us as elected local councillors in close touch with our communities.

Our detailed plans on skills and training, housing and Green growth have been developed through Team Devon which was originally set up to get swift help and support to local communities during the pandemic.

It's been my pleasure to chair Team Devon which is a partnership between the county, district, town and parish councils across Devon. The devolution plan was originally extended to include Torbay and Plymouth but, sadly, Plymouth has now decided not to follow this through.

However the key planks remain the same - to start to tackle the housing crisis which affects our county and increase the supply of affordable housing for local families and key workers.

We want a stronger partnership with Homes England to bring investment in affordable housing schemes for local people, more powers to assemble land for development and boost house building through schemes with Community Land Trusts.

We also want to improve the skills and training available for our young people and our existing workforce so our local businesses can increase productivity and contribute to the sustainable growth that we need. And I emphasise sustainable growth because we also have to deal effectively with climate change and our drive to net zero carbon emissions.

Devon and Torbay are home to 953,000 people with 50,000 businesses providing 483,000 jobs and we need to provide the conditions for them to improve productivity and operate successfully.

This isn't necessarily about asking for lots more funding but about taking on extra powers and influence to improve the economic and social conditions for the communities we all serve. But we would want to have control of existing budgets for these services which are too often decided 200 miles away in London.

I firmly believe devolving funding and power to the most local level possible is absolutely the right thing to do. The Government echoes this by confirming devolution would allow “local leaders to act more flexibly and innovatively to respond to local need”.

We propose working in close collaboration with our colleagues in the health sector, in business, our universities and colleges, towns and parishes, housing associations, police and national parks. There is real strength in unity, which the Government has recognised, and by working together we can achieve much more for the people of Devon.

And I and my fellow council leaders are also clear that our bid is not about throwing local government in Devon up in the air and introducing a directly elected Mayor.

We believe the need for the measures we have outlined in our devolution bid are too urgent to waste time on rearranging bureaucracy and holding more elections.

We want to get on and get started on measures that will help people live their lives in decent homes and enable our businesses to recruit the staff they need without worrying about where they will stay. So our new Combined Authority – which would oversee the devolved powers – would be made up of senior members of the existing councils.

It’s about us coming together to have one voice and being a credible partner with national Government and others to be able to get investment and development with more power and influence on funding and decision-making locally.