Exmouth MP challenged over SW devolution bid support
PUBLISHED: 12:30 09 January 2016 | UPDATED: 14:24 11 January 2016
East Devon’s MP has come under fire for ‘publicly criticising’ representatives who have expressed concerns about plans for devolving power to the South West.
Writing in the Journal, Hugo Swire hit out at critics of a bid that could see Devon gain more independence from Westminster – saying the proposals would boost the region, improve democracy and increase prosperity.
But county councillor for Ottery St Mary rural Claire Wright has challenged the MP to address concerns about devolution plans, which she says focus too heavily on ‘big business’ and are ‘politically conservative’.
The Heart of the South West (HOTSW) devolution deal could eventually see East Devon District Council and 16 other local authorities in Devon and Somerset gain greater autonomy.
Councillor Wright – who successfully called for a public consultation on the bid from Devon County Council (DCC) - said she is not opposed to the principle of devolution, but has ‘considerable scepticism’ about what she calls the Government ‘strong-arming’ councils into taking extra responsibilities.
She said: “As DCC prepares to shave off nearly £40million again from its budgets in a few weeks, thanks to austerity measures, it will be even less well-equipped than before to provide vital services.
“From what I have seen, the bids will be very big-business focused. And politically conservative, with a huge emphasis on the importance of Hinkley Point, for example, while renewable energy, which has been a thriving industry in the south doesn’t appear to get a look-in.”
In his column in the Journal, Mr Swire said the ‘old model of running the country from London is not working’ and devolution would see local enterprise partnerships working with councils to boost local economic growth.
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