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Buckinghamshire Council: Devolution Proposals

Volume 684: debated on Monday 16 November 2020

We are committed to levelling up through further devolution, but our focus must be on tackling covid-19. I know that Buckinghamshire Council has worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic to support its community, helped by £32 million in additional covid funding. We intend to bring forward the devolution and local recovery White Paper in due course, detailing how the UK Government will partner with places across the country to build a sustainable economic recovery.

I thank the Minister for his answer, and I join him in his praise for Buckinghamshire Council, which has worked tirelessly through this pandemic. Does he agree with me that this proposal from the council has all the potential ingredients for success, because it is place based and it has support from the local enterprise partnership, health partners, universities, and the voluntary and community sector? Will he therefore urge his officials to engage in conversations with the council as soon as is practically possible?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. He is right to raise this hugely important issue, and I was pleased to meet him and other colleagues from Buckinghamshire just the week before last. We are extremely grateful to the council for submitting its proposal, and I know my officials are looking at it closely. As I have said, we will set out details about our approach to devolution in the White Paper. I absolutely agree that our officials should meet as soon as possible to discuss this proposal in greater depth.

I thank the Minister for his answers, and particularly for his praise of Buckinghamshire Council throughout the pandemic. I agree with him entirely that the focus must be on recovery from covid-19, and that is precisely at the nub of the devolution proposals that Buckinghamshire has put together. Therefore, will my hon. Friend agree to meet the Buckinghamshire MPs, Buckinghamshire Council and all of our partners to look at the detail of this proposal, which could put £10 billion extra into the UK economy, both to get the right deal for Buckinghamshire and to help shape the White Paper?

I thank my hon. Friend. It was a pleasure to meet him recently to discuss this and other matters in Buckinghamshire. I would be delighted to have that meeting. As I say, I think our officials should meet to discuss the proposal, and then let us get together with the council very soon to take it further.