Hertfordshire puts in bid for greater powers and independence as part of ‘levelling up’ agenda

The county council’s bid for a ‘County Deal’ was reported to a meeting of the Hertfordshire Growth Board

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 9:23 am
Updated Thursday, 9th September 2021, 9:24 am

Hertfordshire County Council has formally expressed interest in a ‘County Deal’ agreement with government – that could give the county greater powers and independence.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new ‘County Deals’ in July, as part of the so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda.

They are designed to ‘take devolution beyond the largest cities’ – offering to other areas the same powers that metro mayors have over areas such as transport, skills an economic support.

Hertfordshire County Council has formally expressed interest in a ‘County Deal’ agreement with government

But each ‘deal’ would be bespoke to the needs of individual areas – in a bid to allow areas to pilot new ideas, create jobs, drive growth and improve public service.

On Tuesday, September 7, the county council’s bid for a ‘County Deal’ was reported to a meeting of the Hertfordshire Growth Board.

According to the Board papers between three and five bids are expected to be chosen as pilots – with an announcement expected later in the ear.

And the report highlights the county’s strengths in local leadership, investor confidence and confidence in Hertfordshire's 'capacity to deliver’.

In the formal expression of interest, leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts says Hertfordshire is ideally placed to be an early adopter of the ‘County Deal’.

And he says: “A County Deal would provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the power of levelling up for Government and improve life chances for all Hertfordshire residents – many of whom have been badly impacted by the pandemic.

“As an early deal area, we can immediately build from the mature, collaborative foundations we have in place and can take a fully integrated whole system approach to tackling the county’s and the country’s key challenges.”

In the letter he points to investment in the county totalling £4.1bn over the past 12 months – including Hollywood’s Sunset Studios, in Broxbourne, as well as investment in Sky Studios Elstree ad the Warner Brothers Studios, in Leavesden.

He also points to GSK’s plans to create a a £400m campus and Airbus’ £35m investment in a new UK space and defence HQ in Stevenage.

And he says the ‘County Deal’ would enable the county to ‘gear up’ work on the growth corridors, on housing, on high streets and new garden communities.

Putting forward the key elements of a bespoke Hertfordshire deal, Cllr Roberts suggests power to retain and increase locally generated income to invest in infrastructure.

He suggests powers to plan and deliver large scale growth and housing delivery – as well as taking local control over skills finding to support up-skilling and learning, linked to the county’s key sectors.

He also suggests the creation of a unified transport body that would lead to the delivery of the ‘Hertfordshire and Essex Rapid Transit system.

At the meeting of the Hertfordshire Growth Board Cllr Roberts said that initial feedback from a meeting with government officials had been “very positive”.

And he said a meeting of local MPs had also been “hugely supportive” of the approach.