Survey says most workers support West of England devolution deal

Published on by Ben Lowndes

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People who work in the West of England overwhelmingly support the devolution deal proposed for the area, according to a survey conducted by PPS Group.

Results of the survey published by the leading South West PR consultancy found that respondents were largely supportive of the current deal and want more local control over key areas including housing, transport and skills. Most who responded were also supportive of the idea of a metro mayor for Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire to oversee a programme of investment in these key areas.

In total, more than 110 people who work in the area responded to PPS’ online survey. The key findings include:

  1. Eighty three per cent of respondents said they want our area to have more responsibility for housing, transport and infrastructure.
  2. The overwhelming majority of respondents (83%) said that the £1bn investment proposed under the deal was ‘very important’ or ‘quite important’. Just four people (3.7%) said it was not what the area needed.
  3. Although there was slightly less enthusiasm for the metro mayor, 60% of respondents agreed when asked if this was ‘a good thing’. Twenty five per cent said they did not think it was a good thing and 15% said they were unsure.

The results are published days after a public consultation into the deal by the three local authorities covered by the deal came to a close.

The West of England Devolution Deal proposes around £1bn in funding for the area to invest in housing, transport and skills development. It also proposes a metro mayor to chair a newly-formed combined authority to deliver this investment. This has proved controversial with North Somerset Council, whose members rejected the deal earlier this year. But it was widely supported by people who responded to PPS’ survey.

The findings reflect the feedback that Business West members have provided to the organisation in recent months and the views expressed in the BDO ‘Business Pulse’ survey in June 2016.

James Durie, Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber & Initiative at Business West, said: “These survey results further show how the business community across the West of England strongly supports this devolution deal. Businesses consistently tell us that they need access to an efficient and reliable transport network, well-located and affordable homes and a talent pool equipped to succeed in the workplace.

“As we strive to meet our sustainable growth ambitions and as other regions press ahead with their own devolution deals, business recognises that the creation of a West of England Mayoral Combined Authority offers our region the best opportunity to meet these challenges, to the benefit of our businesses and the wider communities. As part of a national devolution process from Westminster, it helps create the foundations for the West of England to together take a greater role in shaping its own future, driving economic growth for UK plc and securing the long-term health of our region.”

Ben Lowndes, PPS Associate Partner and head of the company’s South West team, added: “The survey findings provide a fascinating insight into what many people who work in the West of England think about the devolution deal.

“Our findings suggest that people back the deal; they have told us they think it’s very important and want partners to get on with making it happen. Although there is some scepticism within individual responses about whether the deal can be delivered as proposed, the overwhelming message is one of support. It will be interesting to see if these views are reflected in the wider consultation that has just closed.

“We hope the government and the local authorities fully take on board the feedback they have received during the consultation process and we await the findings with interest.”

The local authorities’ consultation findings will be considered by government before a decision on the deal is made later this year. The deal is subject to local endorsement before it gets the final go ahead.

Here are details of the survey results.

Ben Lowndes

Ben Lowndes about the author…

Ben heads up the South West and Welsh offices and has been at the sharp end of major communications and media campaigns for more than a decade, working local and national government, developers and politicians in that time.

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