Greens have slammed the Chancellor’s announcement of a Metro Mayor, saying a West of England devolution deal has been negotiated behind closed doors without input from locally elected councillors or consultation with local people.
Leader of the Green councillors, Ani Stafford-Townsend said:
“As Greens we believe many more decisions should be made locally, so have always been in favour of true devolution. But devolution has to be more than just a term – it has to be about enabling local communities to have a real say over the decisions that affect them. True devolution should be transparent, democratic and accountable. So far, the devolution negotiations have been undertaken behind closed doors with no real input from locally elected councillors or consultation with local people.”
The deal will create a combined authority of Bristol, Bath and North-East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset headed by a Metro Mayor.
Green Councillor Rob Telford said:
“As always the devil is in the detail. While we wholeheartedly support more cooperation between local authorities on transport and housing, we are concerned about introducing a new Metro Mayor with sweeping powers to make decisions across the West of England. We are not clear that elected councillors will have the power needed to hold the Metro Mayor to account if they feel a decision is not in Bristol’s best interest. Even Bristol’s Mayor can be overturned if the other three local authorities unite to push a decision through. “
The deal will offer the West of England the opportunity to borrow £1 billion for local infrastructure projects. If the projects lead to economic growth, the profits will be used to pay back the money borrowed.
Green councillor, Stephen Clarke said:
“The deal is being presented as free cash for Bristol, but it is actually the opportunity to borrow. While Greens agree that funding for transport and housing infrastructure is crucial, we are worried about economic growth becoming the sole driver and measure of success for new infrastructure projects. Just because an economy grows, it doesn’t mean everyone benefits. Tackling poverty, inequality and environmental concerns should be central to any new infrastructure developments.”
“If it is done right, devolution could build a truly thriving regional identity across the West of England, with investment in transport and housing that benefits all of us. A good governance structure could breathe life into local democracy, enabling people to have a real say in decision making.”
“But a rushed-through, secretive deal will see further political disillusionment. At this rate, we risk developing infrastructure plans that fail to see beyond economic growth, presided over by a Metro Mayor with little transparency or accountability.”