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The proposed Devon & Torbay Devolution Deal – ‘reducing democratic accountability’

  • by JW

The deal comes with just £16 million of new funding. [Exeter Observer]

The public consultation finishes this coming Sunday 24th March


The proposed Devon & Torbay Devolution Deal is out to consultation – until this coming Sunday 24th March.

East Devon District Council’s response to the proposed Devolution Deal for Devon and Torbay was a cautious welcome – with concern that the new arrangement would mean that “District Councils are starting from a position of being junior partners in the devolution proposals”.

Similarly, in West Devon’s response to the proposed Devolution Deal, there are demands that “the voice of these communities, including all local organisations and town and parish councils which deliver services at a local level, will be heard”.

However, concern is growing, with Totnes Town Council coming out against the proposed deal:

“The model would create an unacceptable democratic deficit. We need more of a voice on policies with profound local impacts, not less. Each town and parish area across Devon has its own unique characteristics that require tailored approaches, staying locally accountable.

“Moreover, we question whether the suggested economic benefits of this deal are realistic or will substantively improve circumstances for Totnes. As Totnes’s elected representatives, it is our duty to advocate for our constituents’ interests and self-governance at an appropriate level. A combined authority is at odds with the spirit of true devolution to localized decision-making and compromises a core philosophy of empowering – not disempowering – local communities’ abilities to shape their futures.”

And South Hams District Council has also made calls to stop Devon devolution:

South Hams district councillors have called for a halt on the proposed Devon and Torbay devolution deal process until after the general election, whenever it comes, and county elections in May 2025. Cllr John Birch (Lib Dem, Totnes) said the deal is “more of a power grab than devolution”  but the government is “on its last legs” and the political picture may look different both nationally and locally by the middle of next year. The district councillors made the call as part of their response to the consultation on the deal and also raised concerns over lack of voting rights for the districts and the “extra layer of bureaucracy” which they said would “hamper the improvements of local services.”

In the meantime, written comments about the proposals can be sent to FREEPOST D & T Devolution. Online submissions can be made at

Finally, the excellent investigative journal, the Exeter Observer, looks at how the Devon devolution deal is going to create an unaccountable local government layer for a paltry £16 million payoff:

A devolution deal for Devon and Torbay that will reduce democratic accountability and is to be imposed on voters from above is currently out for consultation despite Devon County Council making clear it plans to approve the deal irrespective of the consultation outcome.

The deal will take away control of housing and prosperity funding from Devon’s district councils, which include Exeter City Council, and move transport policy powers out of reach by creating a new, unelected layer of local government. The deal comes with just £16 million of new funding. However the government will retain control over both the funding and the new combined authority’s delivery plans, leading critics of the deal to point out that it is introducing greater centralisation, not devolution, and could be the first step towards a single Devon-wide authority...

The new combined authority comes with an entirely undemocratic governance structure, despite county council protestations that it would be a “democratically accountable body”… In what appears to be a sop to the district authorities, a “Team Devon” joint committee will be established alongside the combined authority, based on the existing, informal partnership of Devon local councils with the same name… The joint committee will “have a voice” but no decision-making powers or voting rights.

Liberal Democrat county councillor Martin Wrigley, who also leads Teignbridge District Council, said the deal would take away lower-tier authority involvement in important funding decisions and relationships, adding: “We hear we have a voice, but we have no say in this organisation”. Caroline Leaver, who leads the Liberal Democrat opposition at County Hall and also sits on North Devon Council described the deal as a “centralisation of power” and the additional money it promised, while welcome, as “a drop in the ocean of what we need”.