Representatives from the Three Southern Counties (3SC) met with ministers in Westminster on Thursday (January 14) to explain how their proposals would see authorities in East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey work together to tackle the congested road and rail network, pioneer new digital technology, close the skills gap, and build new affordable homes.
Communities minister Baroness Williams heard how evolving powers to the region could help ‘unlock and spearhead a transformation in how public services are delivered’.
The Government is being asked to back the devolution deal and provide greater financial freedoms needed to make the plans a reality and encourage more investment across the 3SC area.
Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, who is leading the 3SC bid, said: “The meeting with Baroness Williams was an extremely positive one and is a big step forward in our bid to regain the freedoms we need to build a vibrant and strong economy and transform our public services.
“The quality of life for all our residents and the economic strengths of the 3SC is at risk because of creaking infrastructure and growing pressures on public services at a time of severe spending constraint.
“Today we put forward a powerful case for how we can work together to tackle the barriers to growth and ensure the 3SC remains an economic powerhouse and a great place to live.”
The meeting follows the submission of the 3SC devolution prospectus to local government secretary Greg Clark in September.
According to the proposals, in the first five years devolution could help unlock more brownfield sites for affordable homes, deliver 34,000 planned homes supporting 58,000 new jobs, roll out world-class digital infrastructure, invest in notoriously congested roads, co-ordinate improved rail capacity between London and the coast, and establish an integrated bus network across the 3SC and Greater Brighton area with smart ticketing.
On Thursday Mrs Goldsmith was joined by David Hodge, leader of Surrey County Council, Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex County Council, Tim Wates, chairman of the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, Garry Wall, leader of Mid Sussex District Council, and Robert Standley, leader of Wealden District Council.
Speaking after the meeting, Baroness Williams said: “This was a good opportunity to examine in greater detail the 3SC case. I commend the hard work that has gone into producing a case for devolution and look forward to continuing to work closely with all those involved.”
The bid has been developed in partnership with 44 organisations, including 23 district and borough councils, three local enterprise partnerships, 12 clinical commissioning groups and two police forces, as well as the South Downs National Park and East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.
The 3SC is also working closely with the Greater Brighton Economic Board bid on creating a joint strategy in a number of areas.
Mrs Goldsmith added: “A meeting will now be held with all our district and borough council partners in the hopes of securing the devolution deal as soon as possible.”
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