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Thurrock cautious over devolution revolution

THURROCK cabinet is not confident the best deal for Thurrock can be achieved by closer collaboration with Essex County Council and its districts.

Council leader Cllr John Kent posed the question about the best way forward at Wednesday (14 October) evening’s meeting of the cabinet.

He had spoken about how Thurrock had joined and worked with districts and County Hall on the “Greater Essex” devolution option, but at the same time had moved forward with Southend – another unitary authority – and also with Southend, Basildon, Rochford and Castle Point, plus Essex all together.

He said: “The so-called Greater Essex model has seen all the councils within the county signing a combined authority bid to government. That includes us, we signed up for it including the promise of a south Essex component with a great deal of autonomy.

“At the same time we have been talking with Southend – along with the Basildon, Castle Point and Rochford districts and County Hall as well – to see if we and the government would be better served outside the Greater Essex combined authority.

“I’d really appreciate the views of my colleague on that. What way do they think we should go? Together with Essex, together with Southend and our neighbours, or continue with the current twin-track approach for the moment.”

Cabinet members Councillors Barbara Rice, Oliver Gerrish, Lynn Worrall, Victoria Holloway, Jane Pothecary, and Richard Speight replied that they were concerned Thurrock’s best interests would be lost in a wider Essex authority.

Members agreed the council “remains committed to pursuing a devolution deal and working closely with south Essex partners while continuing to explore whether Thurrock’s best interests can be served through a Greater Essex Combined Authority”.

Cllr Kent concluded: “What I would like to point out here is that any ‘combined authority’ does not mean some kind of super council, but that it is a mechanism for the government to devolve new powers to councils.

“We have to tell government what it is we are looking for and if they agree, the powers and the money should follow, then we, the newly combined authority, would work together on those powers.”

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