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Counties urge Boris to drop ‘city centric policy obsession’

County council leaders have urged the new government to abandon Whitehall’s obsession with ‘city centric’ policies and instead level up ‘left-behind’ shire counties.

In a new report, the County Councils Network (CCN) has called on the new administration to ‘unleash the potential’ of county areas.

The report calls on the new government to deliver ‘ambitious’ devolution deals to county areas to enable them access fresh powers in skills, transport, and regional growth.

It also calls for the planning system to be reformed, so decisions over major new housing developments are matched with enough infrastructure and county authorities are given an increased role in place-shaping

It also says ministers should allow bids from rural areas to access the government’s flagship £4.1bn Local Public Transport Fund to help reverse the decline in local bus services in county towns and rural areas.

The report also recommends a review the future of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and whether they should be the main vehicle to deliver local industrial strategies.

A post-election analysis by the CCN shows 43% of the new seats (22 out of 51) won by the Conservatives in England on Thursday are in shire counties, whilst 54 out of the 100 ‘left-behind’ towns identified by the government in its Stronger Towns Fund are in these areas.

In total, 70% of Conservative MPs now represent shire county areas.

‘Boris Johnson’s majority government has been elected on a domestic agenda to level-up the left-behind parts of the country, and this is a pledge that CCN welcome,’ said CCN chairman, Cllr David Williams.

‘Counties are home to some of our most prosperous and successful areas, but we must not forget that the majority of left behind areas are located within counties; from deprived towns in the north and south, rural and coastal communities in the south-west and east, to former manufacturing hotbeds in the Midlands.

‘If the government is to improve the lives of the communities it has pledged to support, then ministers and policymakers must move beyond the misconception that shire counties are all affluent, with this document setting out the tools, powers, and funding needed to unleash the potential of counties,’ added Cllr Williams.

‘If the government is to genuinely level-up towns, build more homes, and improve regional growth we need more devolved powers, reform to our planning system and access to new funding streams. This will mean moving away from a city centric policy obsession in Westminster that has held back those left-behind communities for decades.’

Photo Credit – TheDigitalArtist (Pixabay)

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