Devolution refers to the decentralisation of powers, decision making and funding away from central government to locally democratically elected and accountable bodies. There are high-profile examples in metropolitan areas of England such as Greater Manchester and the West Midlands – and of course in London. These areas, which have concluded what are known as Level 3 devolution deals with government, have elected Mayors, several of whom are nationally recognised figures.
Although Level 3 deals may be agreed with non-metropolitan areas, such as Essex, there is not currently sufficient agreement at the political level that a Level 3 deal would be right for Essex. Following discussions with the Government, Greater Essex is proceeding towards a non-mayoral devolution deal (known as a ‘Level 2’ deal).
The position of Essex Chambers of Commerce is that it supports the aim of agreeing a Level 2 deal, as a necessary first step towards in time agreeing a Level 3 deal for the county.
Under the Level 2 deal, there would be a new Greater Essex Combined County Authority. This would mean the three upper tier authorities (Essex, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock) would make collective decisions about the powers and budget given to them by the Government.
Details of the deal will be finalised in upcoming negotiations, but we believe there are clear benefits for businesses, including:
Greater Essex is in negotiation with government to agree a deal in time for the Autumn Budget Statement (22 November).
Once agreed, Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea City Council and Thurrock Council would then carry out a full public consultation from 4 December 2023 to 26 January 2024. Businesses will be invited to offer views on the proposed deal.
This deal will not merge the three councils or establish a Directly elected Mayor. There are also no tax implications.
The deal will involve creating a new Greater Essex Combined County Authority and will incorporate functions currently carried out by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.
We encourage businesses which support the ambition set out above to write to their local MPs and council leaders to say so, as the Chambers itself has done. If you would like more information or assistance please contact Iain McNab, Head of Policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce (email@example.com) – and do watch out for the launch of the consultation.