IN response to the recent speech by Simon Clarke MP, Minister for Local Government, on the future shape of local government Cllr Rob Gledhill, Chair of ASELA and Leader of Thurrock Council, said “ASELA, the Association of South Essex Local Authorities, welcomes the news as set out by Simon Clarke MP in relation to changing the way powers can be better devolved to councils. As Leaders across the South Essex region we have spent three years looking at how working together across existing local government boundaries will help us deliver improved infrastructure and economic growth. With the added impact COVID-19 has had on our businesses and communities the opportunity to collectively grasp this moment and deliver economic, social and public service transformation should be welcomed by all.
“ASELA’s conversation is already well underway having written to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, shortly before the full social distancing measures were implemented in March 2020. The letter set out the ASELA partnership’s ambitions for South Essex ahead of the Budget and Spending Review.
“We have a desire to explore a model for South Essex that has a shared governance arrangement on matters relating to strategic infrastructure, economic development and inward investment, whilst at the same time maintaining the independence of the districts, boroughs and unitaries, to provide local services and make local decisions such as planning – something that will benefit us all.
“Progress is being made at pace and we intend to submit a full proposal to Government by the end of July 2020 in order to ensure we are included in the Government’s autumn Spending Review for investment.”
Cllr Chris Hossack, Deputy Chair of ASELA and Leader of Brentwood Borough Council, said “All local authorities within ASELA have been working together to respond to the impact of COVID-19 with other partners across wider Essex including Essex Police and health colleagues. Councils have supported each other, sharing best practice during lockdown, and will continue to work together to ensure recovery planning into incorporated into our proposals going forward. The pandemic has enabled us to demonstrate the key benefits of partnership working across local authority boundaries.
“ASELA wants to be at the forefront and support the South Essex region to be a UK leader in economic recovery, and drive sustained economic growth and prosperity within its communities. There is a bold and ambitious plan to create greater prosperity and quality of life for all its residents and for the benefit of the UK. Part of this plan must now be to ensure its businesses and residents recover, improve the economy locally and nationally as well as deliver the housing targets set by Government.
“The South Essex Council Leaders have been on the front foot in recognising the potential in the region but also in recognising the need for significant investment to unlock that potential. At a time when the Government in actively pursuing devolution of powers to regions, coupled with their levelling up agenda, it is vital that South Essex is on their plan and I am pleased we had been preparing for this before the pandemic, which has only served to bring into sharper focus the need for the region to capitalise on its great location and the great entrepreneurial spirit within it.”