The ruling Conservative group on South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has come under fire from opposition parties for planning to make a critical decision on whether or not to accept the Government’s proposed devolution deal for the West of England – which is conditional on the creation of a directly-elected Metro Mayor – without carrying out a formal public consultation.
The devolution deal has been proposed between the Government and the four local authorities in the West of England – Bristol City, North Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire Councils – and promises investment of more than £1 billion over a 30 year period.
Now that a deal has been negotiated with Government, the four authorities must decide whether or not they wish to accept it. These decisions will be taken by councillors in each area at council meetings in June. In South Gloucestershire, this meeting will take place on Wednesday 29th June.
Before those meetings, SGC is providing an opportunity for the public to find out more about the deal and to have their say via a dedicated webpage at www.southglos.gov.uk/devolution
However, Liberal Democrats in South Gloucestershire are unhappy with the low profile, informal consultation that has been launched ahead of the decision. Their leader, Cllr Ruth Davis, said:
“This is an incredible offer coming our way, and we need the public to be engaged. We could have launched a proper consultation when this was announced in the budget. We don’t have time for that anymore, but at least we can publicise it better, and make sure it’s linked to from the consultation website where people are normally asked for their views.”
Similarly, the Labour group has criticised the Tories for making what they describe as a “U-turn” on cross-party calls for an indicative referendum on the devolution deal, speculating that they might have been “leant upon” not to cause waves. Their leader, Cllr Pat Rooney, said:
“Tory councillors and the Tory Government have joined forces to block local people from having a direct say on the devolution deal, and that is a huge disappointment.”