By Coun Tony Cox, leader of Southend City Council.
YOU might have read in the local news that we’re working with Government on a Level 2 Devolution deal alongside Essex County Council, Thurrock Council and the Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.
Devolution means shifting some powers and funding from central government to local authorities, like us. This would allow us to have more local say in big areas like transport, skills, economic development and support for businesses.
There is much work to be done, but a level 2 deal would see a Greater Essex Combined Authority formed, bringing together Southend City Council, Essex County Council, Thurrock Council, and the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to deal with new devolved powers in adult education, strategic transport, and economic development.
But don’t worry, Southend would keep its unique identity. We won’t be merging our councils and a level 2 deal does not involve a directly elected mayor, which we have always opposed. There will also be a public consultation on any proposed deal.
Devolution could allow us to work together more effectively on projects that affect multiple areas, like transport, skills and economic development. Your elected councillors would still address Southend’s specific needs, just as they do now.
So, why consider devolution? If it happens, we’ll have more control over powers which have been traditionally reserved by central government departments, on things that matter to our city. Decisions would be made locally, by people who know our challenges and opportunities best.
The idea here is that by working closely with our neighbouring local authorities, we can achieve more together.
While we became a unitary authority in the late ’90s and have good relationships with our neighbours, greater collaboration could open more doors for investment and economic growth. For example, we could better coordinate infrastructure improvements across greater Essex.
With a solid partnership in place, we can also share expertise and have a stronger voice in national matters affecting Essex.
The Level 2 Devolution offer from the Government is an exciting opportunity for Southend. It’s not about giving up our identity or control, but about working together with our neighbours to create a better future for everyone.
I encourage you to stay informed, participate in discussions, and share your thoughts.
Together, we can shape a Greater Essex that benefits us all while preserving Southend’s unique character and identity. The road ahead looks promising, and I’m honoured to be a part of it with all of you.
Contact us. Email: [email protected]