Are we in or are we out? Sounds like Brexit versus Stronger in Europe – but this time around we are referring to the growing debate about whether or not B&NES signs up to the government’s devolution deal for the West of England.
Senior Partner Edward Nash from the nash partnership -an award-winning, multi-disciplinary built environment consultancy with offices in Bath and Bristol – has entered the arena with his own take on the prospects on offer in this deal, in relation to Bath.
The following is taken from the Company’s website @ http://www.nashpartnership.com/news/view/the-devolution-deal-whats-in-it-for-bath
“Bristol is one of the regional cities strongly identified as a prospect for regional city devolution. The scenario offered by Government is that the four unitary authorities that make up the West of England LEP area be administered as a single metropolitan area under an elected regional mayor.
The Bristol regions need to recognise the city expanded beyond the governance area of Bristol City Council half a century ago. Now, the wider area represented by Bristol City, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset Councils operates as an unusually well-contained travel to work area.
But suspicions exist around the history of the same area serving the unpopular previously imposed Avon County Council in the 1974 local government re-organisation.
The four unitary councils all expect to vote on the recent devolution funding offer in June. It appears that North Somerset is the least keen, and substantial doubt remains about whether Bath and North East Somerset will come in. Both of their unitary areas struggle to hold together their urban and rural constituencies.
If they both hold back from the deal, a metropolitan linking of Bristol City and South Gloucestershire would recognise at last the physical and economic reality of Bristol. But the new authority would not be a city region – just a city.
In this scenario, the two councils with Somerset in their names would have failed to face up to the economic, social and cultural pull of Bristol. Bath would be left in a very uncomfortable position: would it look east, south or west?
The common sense of the devolution prospect on offer from government is that it allows Bath’s strong economy and its physical relationship with the cluster of west Wiltshire towns to be recognised as the necessary balance to the greater size of Bristol.
There would be much of common interest between South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset in such an arrangement.”