Berkshire councils 'exploring' devolution deal

The move could see more powers handed down from central Government to the six authorities to work on shared goals such as improving public transport and attracting investment to the region.

The Royal Borough is exploring the possibility of working alongside Berkshire’s five other local authorities as part of a devolution deal.

The move could see more powers handed down from central Government to the six authorities to work on shared goals such as improving public transport and attracting investment to the region.

Berkshire is currently made up of two Labour-controlled councils, Slough and Reading, and four Conservative administrations including West Berkshire, Bracknell Forest, Wokingham and Windsor and Maidenhead.

Royal Borough council leader Andrew Johnson ruled out the creation of a combined authority, such as in Greater Manchester, which would see councils merging and the creation of a directly elected mayor.

Cllr Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) said: “Currently, all six Berkshire council leaders are in the early stages of exploring what a ‘County Deal’ as part of the Government’s forthcoming Levelling Up/Devolution White Paper might look like from a Berkshire perspective, and how we can use any devolved power to work collaboratively as a six to drive investment in the economy and infrastructure of the county.”

He added: “This is not about councils merging, creating a needless combined authority, or having a directly elected mayor, which would simply bring an additional level of administration and cost.

“It is about how we can support strategic investment benefitting all council areas, our residents and businesses.

“As with all our discussions and decisions, we are guided by what is best for the Royal Borough.”

Councillor James Swindlehurst, leader of Slough Borough Council said all six Berkshire authorities have agreed to discuss with the Government the potential of a county devolution deal.

He added: “At the last Berkshire leaders meeting all six Berkshire authorities agreed we shared a number of wider priorities such as investment in skills and job creation for our residents, improving our public transport infrastructure and the decarbonisation of our local environments.

“But due to the size and capacity of our individual authorities we cannot maximise the delivery of improvements in these areas at scale.”