Cheshire East pushes forward after devo stall

Cheshire East Council is to establish a cross-party working group “to develop the best possible case” for devolution, and “create debate around devolved powers for Cheshire”, after its joint bid for devolution stalled earlier this year.

According to a statement from the council, the group would explore devolution proposals for Cheshire, and then develop discussions with neighbouring authority Cheshire West & Chester Council.

The Cheshire authorities and Warrington Council submitted a joint devolution bid to the government in 2015, laying out an ambition to more than double the size of the sub-region’s economy and create 127,000 new jobs and 139,000 new homes by 2040.

However, in June this year a public consultation into the bid was put on hold, after Warrington councillors voted against the proposed deal due to the requirement for an elected mayor.

Cllr Samantha Dixon, leader of Cheshire West & Chester, said at the time: “Whilst the benefits of devolution are extremely favourable for our residents, the Government’s insistence on an elected mayor has made it difficult for all politicians to come to an agreement.”

The political leadership across Cheshire and Warrington is split between Labour and Conservative; Warrington and Cheshire West & Chester are Labour-led, while Cheshire East is Conservative.

Warrington also has a cross-party working group on devolution, with recommendations expected in December. Earlier this month councillors conceded to the idea of an elected mayor, however debate continues as to whether the borough wishes to join the Liverpool City Region’s devolution deal, or remain with Cheshire.

Cllr Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “We have strong and successful partnerships with our neighbouring authorities and this joint working will continue.

“However, I want to secure the right deal to deliver our ambitious growth plans in Cheshire East. This is why I am establishing a cross party working group within Cheshire East to work with me on developing the best possible case.

“This has the support of the Conservative group and full Council. The working group’s objective will be to enable an understanding to shape what devo could mean for the borough.

“In addition, I would like us to have more powers over things such as large scale infrastructure projects, public transport, skills and health services provided to our residents.”

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