Directly elected mayor plans would inject much needed big cash figures into Brentwood, says council leader

People in Brentwood could soon be voting for a directly elected mayor under collective proposals being discussed by a group of south Essex local authorities.

The mayoral–led combined authority devolution deal is one suggestion being looked at for submission to government to improve economic progress in the region.

Over the past two and a half years, the south Essex authorities of Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea, and Thurrock, along with Essex County Council, have been working together to drive sustained economic growth and prosperity across their borders.

Progress over the last two years includes growing its contribution to the UK economy by £15bn, creating 100,000 new jobs by 2050, to ensure its businesses and residents recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Their goal is to make sure that as many of the 12,000 jobs at risk are replaced by 2022, to deliver a total of 96,000 new homes, including 29,000 affordable homes for key workers, by 2038, and to become a carbon zero region by 2040.

But the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA) says that if the full potential of the area is to be realised for all communities then the region needs a bigger and stronger relationship with government and the private sector.

The council will be meeting on July 22 to discuss the creation of a combined authority led by a directly elected mayor with powers akin to that in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority.

If it goes ahead, a mayor could possibly be enacted and in place by as early as May 2021.

Individual councils will retain their responsibilities for the services they currently provide such as housing, waste collection, recreation and planning, as well as the political structures that oversee them.

Chris Hossack, leader of Brentwood Borough Council, said: “It is about seeking a devolution deal that will inject much needed big cash figures into south Essex to invest into infrastructure employment, skills, transport and all those big things that we need to collaborate with others, and that Brentwood for example can’t get on its own.

“We need to work together, we need a devolution deal and south Essex desperately needs some investment.

“It is about collaboration . Brentwood on its own hasn’t got the clout to go to government and ask for a devolution deal for millions to invest in whatever. We can’t do that. But south Essex as a whole can.

“A combined authority is something that the government will take notice of. If you have a large collective voice.”

A taste of the collective power of a combine authority can be seen in Cambridgeshire. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority was allocated £170m to deliver 2,000 new affordable homes by March 31, 2022 and £11.53m to continue to transform adult learning.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter