A unique tri-county alliance has been formed with the leaders of Bucks, Northants and Oxfordshire County Councils signing a partnership to unlock extra cash and improve transport links between major towns and cities.
Leader of Bucks County Council Martin Tett joined Northants County Council chief Jim Harker and leader of Oxfordshire County Council Ian Hudspeth to jointly sign up to the alliance – the first of its kind in the UK.
The alliance, which was announced at Silverstone Circuit this morning, is asking the government to devolve greater powers to the ‘combined authority’.
It calls on Whitehall to:
> Allow joint new plans to be developed for transport, strategic planning and other key infrastructure
> Devolve employment and skills funding so employers’ needs can be properly met locally.
> Support a devolved approach to the local trunk road network.
> Incentivise the three councils so they properly benefit from encouraging new growth.
> Give them enhanced powers over bus services and the ability to maximise public transport between key towns and cities.
> Ensure the best economic benefits are unlocked from projects such as East-West rail and the connectivity of technology centres like Silverstone to the national road network.
Mr Tett made clear this was not a merger of the three councils, but rather a collaboration that gives it a stronger voice.
“The benefits could bring billions more to our three economies, which is great news for the future.
“I’m particularly excited about the opportunities for the whole of Bucks, the economic gain from East-West rail and the potential of a new Oxford-Cambridge expressway road.
“Rural non-city locations can punch with huge economic impact, so it’s absolutely right that we combine out voice locally so we can compete with other city areas across the UK.
“To do this, we need proper and effective devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources from government.”
A joint document called A Shared Approach to Driving Prosperity said the economic might of the three counties combined was £45 billion and that is ‘roughly equivalent’ to Greater Manchester.
The document said: “The partners wish to pursue a combined authority style governance model, with executive powers vested in a board composed of the leaders of participating local authorities.”
It said the ‘initial step’ towards this would be to ‘establish a statutory joint committee of the participating authorities, as a stepping stone to a more robust governance model’.
Mr Harker is looking forward to ‘more decison making powers to unlock the potential of important infrastructure’.
He said: “This unique alliance presents us with a golden opportunity to drive forward economic growth across our three counties by using our combined strengths.”
Mr Hudspeth said: “This will be a major boost to our local economy but the economic benefits are not confirmed to local authority borders so it is vitally important that we work together with our neighbours.”