Rejection of devolution deal is costing Copeland 'millions of pounds' says elected mayor Mike Starkie

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Mike Starkie, elected mayor of Copeland
Mike Starkie, elected mayor of Copeland
29 January 2017 5:40PM

CUMBRIA'S decision to walk away from a government devolution deal is costing Copeland "multi-million-pounds" in funding, says the borough's elected mayor.

Mike Starkie says the area continues to be "punished" by the government following the controversial decision last March to reject a £300m deal that would have transferred extra power and responsibility locally.

He has spoken out after Cumbria's Local Enterprise Partnership received only £12.7m of a £165m government Growth Deal bid; the lowest amount of 11 LEPs to have bid.

And Mr Starkie says he fears Copeland's bid to be part of a "potentially transformational" business rates pilot scheme – that would see the rates collected by an authority stay in the local area – will be unsuccessful for the same reason.

He said: "The lack of a devolution deal is potentially costing us millions. The government has made it known that from 2020, local authorities will be able to keep all of the business rates it collects, which will be a massive dividend for Copeland, given the huge rates paid by the nuclear industry."

Currently, a local authority collects the business rates in its area but they are forwarded to a central pool to be redistributed around the country.

"We'll be applying to take part in a pilot scheme to start this process early, perhaps this year or next, which will mean millions of pounds going back into our coffers to be spent on services we provide and the area's regeneration.

"However, the initial feedback we've received is not positive, and we're hearing the pilots will be offered to those areas that are moving forward with devolution."

In March, Mr Starkie was one of two council leaders to vote unsuccessfully for proceeding with the Cumbria Deal devolution talks with the government.

If the deal had been agreed, all seven local councils would have been retained, but a new overarching ‘combined authority’ board would have formed made up of the seven leaders, with a new mayor elected to lead it. The powerful mayoral role may have been combined with that of the police and crime commissioner. The 30-year deal would have given the county greater control over its own industry, transport, highways, planning, enterprise, skills and tourism.

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