Sussex’s devolution bid ‘paused’

JPCT 210214 The South Downs. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 210214 The South Downs. Photo by Derek Martin

A bid to devolve powers from central Government to local authorities in Sussex has been ‘paused’.

Three Southern Counties, a partnership of 26 councils across Sussex and Surrey along with three local enterprise partnerships, fire authorities, Sussex Police, and the South Downs National Park Authority, submitted a prospectus to ministers on a potential deal in late 2015.

This outlined the areas where 3SC wanted to take control of more powers and funds in a bid to deliver strong economic growth, improve productivity, and transform public services.

But a spokesman for the 3SC partnership said: “At present, the 3SC devolution bid is paused, although collaborative work between all the partners within 3SC continues.

“We continue to focus on the economic and the need for an infrastructure case for our region post Brexit, and the significant benefits for the UK as a whole.

“We are looking at the industrial strategy to move our agenda forward.”

The 3SC bid was hailed as ‘unique in offering a financial return for central government as well as for local residents and businesses’.

Meanwhile county councils in both West Sussex and East Sussex have joined with other top-tier authorities across the region in establishing Transport for the South East as a way of influencing and prioritising investment by the major national transport agencies such as Highways England and Network Rail in a way that is ‘not currently achievable’.

A parallel devolution bid for the wider Brighton area, which includes Adur, Worthing, and Lewes has been running alongside 3SC’s efforts.

The Greater Brighton Economic Board, which has been spearheading efforts, also submitted a prospectus to central Government in 2015.

But its most recent meeting heard that the pace of work on devolution ‘slowed’ in the summer due to a change in Government following the EU Referendum result and a lack of spare officer capacity.

A report said: “Greater Brighton remains committed to developing its devolution proposals, so as not to become disadvantaged in terms of its powers and funding in the future. At the same time, the board will continue to demonstrate its ability to deliver by taking forward work on priority areas that are non-devolution dependent.”

Last month the Government launched a consultation on its proposals for a modern industrial strategy in a bid to create more high skilled, high paid jobs.

Ministers unveiled ten strategic pillars, which include investing in science, developing skills needed in a modern economy, upgrading digital and transport infrastructure, supporting businesses to start and grow, encouraging trade and inward investment, and cultivating world leading business sectors.

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