Devolution is a word which has been thrown around considerably over recent years. At its simplest, devolution involves central government allowing more decisions to be taken closer to the people those decisions effect.
Over the last two decades, the UK has gone from power resting exclusively in Westminster and councils to a range of new institutions, from the Scottish Parliament to the Mayor of Manchester, and for several years I’ve worked with other local leaders to try to secure devolution for our area. While politicians always tend to seek more power, this wasn’t simply about ego-boosting. With a devolution deal comes new funding and the projected gap between our local infrastructure needs and available resources is in the billions.
Devolution would also provide us with a clear voice capable of speaking up for our area’s needs, as the metro mayors do for theirs. By 2040, the Brighton Main Line will be completely full from Brighton to London, you simply won’t be able to board a train in Crawley. The works necessary to avoid this will take 20 years, we’re now in 2017, yet councils on their own have lacked the necessary clout to secure a commitment from Government.
Despite our efforts, the Government were unwilling to take our proposed devolution deal any further. However, Crawley still has the opportunity to access the benefits of devolution through joining one of the original deals, a deal which currently ends on our border: Greater Brighton. Last week, Crawley Borough Council voted to do just that. We know Crawley and Brighton are two different areas, but we share common challenges around infrastructure, employment and housing, and by working together we will secure better solutions for our people than by working alone. It’s a new chapter for our town and I look forward to seeing how it develops.