I attended the SW Growth Summit on 21st October 2016 and there are two main things I took away from that event.
One of those was that business in the region has a very ‘post-Brexit’ approach and the second was on the issue of elected mayors.
As I posted earlier, the event at the Reed Hall, Exeter University was packed full of local businesses as well as national and local politicians.
During the day their were about 20 speakers including Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
What struck me was that there was scant reference to ‘Brexit’. No-one called for another referendum, no-one demanded we remain in the single market and no-one demanded that the country’s borders remain wide open. In fact, the talk was about infrastructure transport, energy, housing and education with these business leaders all looking to the UK government to help them.
In fact, listening to them you got the impression that while some politicians and pundits continually rake over the Brexit coals, the rest of the population had accepted the referendum result and were keen to move on. This could be the chance UKIP has been looking for to fully engage and help shape the future of the UK outside of the single market and EU.
But now I come onto the council devolution issue. During his speech, Sajid Javid said that there would be little or no transfer of powers from the centre to local level unless an elected mayor was put in place (see video for full story).
At the moment, Dorset is going through the process (or at least its council leaders are trying to push it through the process) of reshaping all nine council bodies into two big unitary authorities. All on the premise of saving money.
But according to Mr Javid, these two new authorities will be as toothless as the ones before it unless they impose mayors on the people of Dorset.
Is this what we want? Further, did the mention of Mayors appear in the consultation document, or will this somehow appear later on down the line?
This so-called ‘reshaping’ exercise and its flawed and leading ‘consultation’ should be put on hold while this whole issue of mayors is investigated. Or the people of Dorset risk having a half-baked, useless and expensive decision forced on them.
Oh, and then there’s the issue of the Dorset County Councillors deciding that they don’t want elections next year …………