“SURREY is ready for devolution.”
That is the message from the leader of Surrey County Council as he called for the county to be given the same self-governing powers as those planned for cities like Manchester.
Councillor David Hodge claims the devolution plans introduced by George Osborne to give control over housing, transport, planning and policing to major cities, need to also be rolled out to counties like ours.
The chancellor’s Cities Devolution Bill forms part of his plans for a “Northern Powerhouse” with Greater Manchester identified as one of the key areas which would get more rights to govern itself.
Under the new devolution plans, areas would keep their local councils but would also elect a mayor.
The devolved region would then receive new powers and controls including business support budgets and devolved funding for bus and concessionary travel. Local authorities would also receive a chunk of government funding and get to decide how to use it rather than bidding for funds on a project-by-project basis.
The lower-level district and borough councils would retain the same powers while the new mayor would have powers over transport, planning, housing and policing.
But Surrey County Council’s Conservative leader has called for the plans to not be limited to city regions.
In a speech to the county council Mr Hodge, who is also chairman of the County Councils Network – a group of 37 county councils and unitary authorities, said it was time to end the top-down solutions being passed down by central government.
“I believe devolution must extend to county areas as well as city regions,” he said.
“There can be no one-size-fits-all approach to devolution.
“Top down centralised solutions will not work, instead we must develop the right solution for Surrey to allow Surrey’s economy to grow strongly with greater opportunity for all and it will allow us to support the wider region of the South East, London and the UK as a whole and deliver services our residents need.
“My message to government is simple. The residents and businesses of Surrey are all ready for devolution. A prosperous and expanding economy is good for the UK, good for jobs, good for apprenticeships and it’s really good for the treasury.”