Devolution Now

A real opportunity to take advantage of current central Government thinking … written by Adrian Hawkins, Co-founder and Chairman of biz4Biz, Chairman, Weldability Sif (established 1925), Director and Trustee of the Weldability Sif Foundation, Main Board Member, Herts LEP, Chair of the Skills and Employment Board, Chairman and Trustee of the Hart Schools Trust.

2016 delivers a real opportunity to take advantage of current central Government thinking to pursue Devolution and re-create the shape of Local Government here in Hertfordshire, if only everyone leading Local Authorities can be persuaded that Devolution and the powers this will provide is the right way forward for our County. My fear is that we will not seize the independence opportunity quickly enough and we may then be forced to join up with a devolved arrangement with another county like Bedfordshire. Not that I have anything against Bedfordshire, but Devolution will take some implementation alone and it would be far easier to address one County let alone two!

So what does Devolution allow? Have you ever thought about Hertfordshire and considered why this high value, physically small county, with its diversity in population, skills, employment and education has so many separate local authorities (10 in number)? Currently each local authority is creating their Local Plans to establish House building for the next 15 years and in some cases they are advocating up to 65% of house building on the Green Belt. Unfortunately these same Local Authorities can only advocate the building of homes on land owned by others and promoted in the main by Developers who will provide a “heroic” public service in building new homes. These same Developers will have no concern for infrastructural elements such as drainage, highways, utilities etc. they will have absolutely no concern for what they leave behind once they have made inordinately more money from converting low cost agricultural land into homes. They certainly will have no compassion for the flooding issues and traffic jams they will leave behind in the wake of their heroism.

Currently, along the A1M corridor, we have Local Authorities promoting the building of up to 60,000 homes despite the, recognised need for only 33,000. These apparently would be built before 2031. Herts County Council has declared in their Highways Growth Plan that they have no intention of expanding the A1M until after 2031. At whatever number of homes that are eventually built, I see a major problem arising just in one small part of Hertfordshire. This is a clear example of how best intentions are not being properly correlated and how the teams of Local and Regional Government sadly act to the detriment of the rate payer.

Devolution will likely change this. It will create far greater unison, cost control and clarity across the region. In 2020 Business Rates will be payable to Local Authorities. Currently there is 23Billion paid annually to the Exchequer in Business Rates, considerably more than that paid by Householders to Local Authorities. I am certain that businesses will expect a far better, more joined up service from Local Government, once they become aware they are contributing at this level to their Local service provider.

 

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