Agenda item

Greater Essex Devolution


The Director of Strategy, Engagement and Growth introduced the report and stated that the devolution proposal was in response to the Government’s White Paper and framework in 2022. She explained that the report outlined the opportunities, as listed in the White Paper, as well as wider opportunities for Thurrock outside of the framework. She stated that Appendix 2 contained the Expression of Interest, but the purpose of the report was to start a conversation between local authorities in Essex with Government and did not decide upon a deal. She explained that any potential deal would take approximately six months to negotiate, and would require member agreement and public consultation. She commented that the report would be going to Cabinet next week and would present two options: the first being support the Expression of Interest; the second being to play no further part in Greater Essex Devolution moving forward. She explained that similar devolution reports had been through Cabinet at Essex County Council and Southend-on-Sea City Council, who had both supported the Expression of Interest. She stated that Southend City Council had not supported the level three option, but had supported level two. Councillor Coxshall added that the conversation regarding devolution was also being discussed by the borough’s MPs, and felt it was important to engage in the process.

Councillor Kent agreed that Thurrock should be part of a devolution deal, but did not agree that Greater Essex devolution would be right for Thurrock. He felt that the differences between north and south Essex were too great, as Thurrock was drawn closer to London than other parts of Essex. He expressed concern regarding the role of Essex County Council, as Chelmsford was far from Thurrock and Thurrock collected more business rates than elsewhere in Essex, and felt that this should not be distributed across the county. He also felt concerned regarding the mayoral model and accompanying council tax precept, as he felt this would add another level of government. He questioned when the all Member briefing session had been held, and if Thurrock Members had been invited. The Director of Strategy, Engagement and Growth replied that two all Member briefings had been arranged in January by Tendring Council, and all Essex Councillors had been invited. Councillor Coxshall shared some of Councillor Kent’s concerns, but felt that Thurrock needed to be involved in the conversation. He stated that a south Essex devolution deal was not currently being proposed, but this may be a viable option in future. He also shared concern regarding the impact devolution could have on the Thames Freeport, as the devolution deal would mean two Freeports in one combined authority area, which could be difficult to deliver. Councillor Kent added that as Essex also contained two major airports, the taxes of which would be hypothecated across the county. He also felt the Expression of Interest could be more ambitious in that regard.

The Chair sought clarification regarding the different devolution levels proposed. The Director of Strategy, Engagement and Growth explained that level two devolution did not include a mayor, but level three had a mayoral model and therefore a mayoral council tax precept. The Chair summarised and stated that he could see the challenges of devolution, but felt that the Council needed to engage. The Committee supported being part of the discussions with Government through the Expression of Interest submission.

RESOLVED: The Committee:

1. Considered and commented on the Expression of Interest and submission to Government to begin a dialogue for a Greater Essex devolution deal and understanding the benefits it might bring to the residents of Thurrock, or whether to take no further part in the process at this time.


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