West of England devolution: I write to my MP
For as long as I can remember in my adult life, I’ve listened to budget speeches with a mixture of incredulity and a sinking heart. This is usually because Chancellors of the Exchequer have more often than not made drinking beer – one of life’s pleasures – more expensive.
Fortunately that didn’t happen this time round.
I trust you’ve fully recovered from your illness.
I write on the above subject to express my concerns in the wake of yesterday’s budget.
Whilst I would welcome increased public money for the area, I do feel that the manner in which this will be accomplished needs lots to be desired.
I have downloaded and read the final draft of the deal agreed between central government and the 4 local authorities and this has increased my concern.
I feel very much that this devolution deal is being done to us rather than for us residents. This feeling is reinforced by the fact that there has been little or no public consultation to the best of my knowledge, nor will the public have any say on the final outcome. It’s a prime example of top-down imposition.
When this matter was tabled by Easton ward councillor Anna McMullen at the last Ashley, Easton & Lawrence Hill Neighbourhood Partnership, there was condemnation of the lack of consultation and the short amount of time remaining before this devolution deal was imposed.
At that meeting I expressed my concern that this could be regarded the reinstatement of the little-loved Avon County Council via the backdoor. In yesterday’s Bristol Post, Liam Fox MP is quoted in the Bristol Post as saying
“I will be making it very clear to all my councillors that I’m very opposed and I hope they will reject this.
“It is the recreation of the Avon and the agreement would be for a metro mayor that voter have never given their assent for.
“It is another layer of bureaucracy and it is undemocratic. It recreates the very organisation that we fought so hard to get rid of.”
It is not very often I find myself coming out with similar sentiments to that particular gentleman.
I really feel that we, those who will be affected by this devolution measure should be firstly consulted on it and secondly have the chance to vote on both the deal itself and the creation of the office of metro mayor. However, I am not very encouraged that we shall have the chance to do so as I was notified via Twitter yesterday by a contact in Manchester that their metro mayor was imposed with no public input whatsoever.
Reading today’s Bristol Post, I note that Pat Rooney in S. Gloucs. wants to see a referendum held on any metro mayor. I fully support this move.
Given the concerns of many active citizens both in the city and surrounding areas is there anything that can be done to ensure proper public input to the devolution process, which I feel is destructive of local democracy, piecemeal and ultimately bound to end in a real dog’s dinner.
In the two days since the Budget, a petition has also been organised to reject the devolution deal that was concocted in secret by a bunch of middle-aged white men (who always think they know what’s best of us. Ed.).
The petition’s text reads:
The Chancellor of The Exchequer announced on March 16th a scheme to devolve powers to a Metro Mayor in Bristol, Bath and surrounding areas. Given that B&NES rejected an elected Mayoral model one week earlier, this new announcement seems to be at variance with the electorate’s preferences.
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