Southern Powerhouse?


images (4)Once again as I glanced over social media this morning, the questions about the Northern Powerhouse (or in the case of this image – devolution for the West Midlands) and its viability are being debated. There are major challenges for the conurbations of Sheffield, Leeds along with Manchester and Liverpool if they are to fully make sense of the opportunity to grow their economy at the relative expense of the rest of the UK, which in essence is what the proposals are all about. No one is suggesting that our overheated Capital will be limiting its economy, despite the minor offers by the Government to move some of its smaller operational work streams out of the Capital (particularly as they quite often bring the work back down South eventually anyway). However devolution is not just on the table for the North, but here in the South too. I have written before about how a twin track approach here in Sussex and over the border into Surrey runs the risk of collapsing altogether as the entrenched political and geographical lines are reinforced by good men and women believing that they can achieve a better outcome for their community if they ignore the elephant in the next room and the people in nearby towns. One of the tracks called 3SC represents 26 County and District/Borough Councils out of 27 in the area. The second track called the Greater Brighton Area includes the 27th Council along with 4 District/Borough Councils that are also included in 3SC. The Government has made it clear that Councils cannot be in two competing bids, yet that detail is currently being ignored by all concerned. The two bids are meant  to be kept secret according to one Government Department, while another demands that certain bids for Government funding rely on the applicants knowing what is in any local bids. To their credit 3SC is keeping its residents informed of the process of their work, while the Greater Brighton Board is doing the exact opposite. However the people behind both of these approaches have so far failed to canvass the views of local people regarding their opinion about something that could potentially be of huge benefit to all of the 2.8M people that live in Surrey and Sussex including the residents of Brighton & Hove. Two competing bids means that in due course there will be a winner and a loser and no matter how magnanimous the winner and cheerful the loser, the truth is that joining up the two tracks after that will demand a high level of political humility, something our Council leaders including some of the Chief Executives in the area don’t always demonstrate. The easy thing to do is for us as residents and business leaders, people involved in the voluntary sector or workers in the public or private sector to assume that this is not our concern, or that we cannot influence the outcome. It would be a tragic outcome if both bids failed, but unless the bids are combined and the benefits of devolution are felt throughout the three County Council areas plus the City of Brighton & Hove, the prospect of a powerhouse in our part of the south will never be fully realised. All of our elected representatives (most of whom are also being excluded from these discussions) need to know how we feel about the devolution agenda. If we do nothing the power will remain in Whitehall, or we will end up with a half formed attempt to improve the lot for people in the area. I and my family live in Brighton & Hove, but I work for a business in East Sussex that provides services throughout the 3SC area and into our City too. My son studies in West Sussex. There is no excuse for such an incoherent approach to devolving power from our overheated and London centric Government.

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About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
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