Mark Hawthorne on his vision for Gloucestershire

West Gloucestershire manager and former editor of the Western Daily Press

Michael Gove’s white paper on leveling up has created a big challenge for Gloucestershire with its six district councils and one county council.

Councilor Mark Hawthorne, the leader of Gloucestershire County Council for 11 years does not believe the white paper’s idea of ​​a mayor overseeing the county will benefit Gloucestershire in the short term.

And over the years he’s told me he doesn’t believe a unitary process will bring great benefits to Gloucestershire.

As editor of the Western Daily Press, I saw more and more government money coming to Bristol with a mayor.

Mark Hawthorne is clear: he doesn’t believe a mayor will work for Gloucestershire.

And on unitary authorities, he is confident that the benefits will take a long time to materialize. It highlights the complexity that Somerset is currently going through.

However, my belief is that a unitary process will happen, sooner or later.

I asked Mark some insightful questions following the white paper.

IM: The government upgrade white paper makes it pretty clear that areas that accept new county mayors would be front and center for new government powers and resources, and for government attention more broadly. Are you worried Gloucestershire will be left behind?

MH: “I don’t think we’re going to be left behind. Indeed, we have had huge infrastructure successes with the A417, Junction 9 and Junction 10

on the M5 plus we recently received £52m as part of the upgrade – around £40m from the government – for the Gloucester and Forest of Dean projects, plus money for the works on county council roads and cycle paths.

“I think we are punching above our weight and getting a very good level of government attention on some of our outbound investment opportunities.

“I am delighted that the government has set out very clear criteria for the different levels of devolution that you can have and I think there are huge opportunities for Gloucestershire in this list.

“I think we can certainly look at Tier 2 (under the White Paper’s decentralization framework – see box information) which has a lot of additional powers and responsibilities. This is certainly what we will be working on over the next two months to put this agreement in place. »

IM: What does level 2 mean for the public?

MH: “The focus is on sustainable transport, it’s something the county council is already leading and we are devoting additional resources to it.

“It’s about planning for a green future with additional housing around reasonable and sustainable transport corridors that mean people don’t have to use their cars.”

IM: It seems that Michael Gove intends to reward makers and places that decide not to embrace that will develop less quickly. I take it you don’t want to tell him Gloucestershire doesn’t want to grow?

MH: “I think Gloucestershire should already be seen as a doer. You don’t get a billion pounds in

your infrastructure pipeline if you fail to deliver. When ministers and government look at Gloucestershire, they see a county they can do business with.

IM: You always told me that you were against the unitary process in Gloucestershire, is that still the case?

MH: “There are a lot of two-tier zones in the country, so we’re not unusual. What we are unique about here is that we are co-terminus with health, police fire and our LEP, so we are a functional economic zone in our own right.

“So from a government perspective, we’re in a really easy place to consider investing because there are no overlapping geographies.

“We are a unique geography with a very clear and unique story of how we want to grow. That’s the really important thing.

“A two-tier authority like ours can be very complicated, but it can also be a real opportunity and that’s what we need to do here to exploit that opportunity.”

IM: But with six district councils, how can you speak honestly for each of them now?

MH: “The white paper makes it very clear that it is up to county councils to lead the discussion on decentralization, and it will be up to us, together with GFirstLEP, and other partners to come up with a decentralization agreement that will include our district councils.. This is a really important series of conversations that I think we’re going to have over the next two months.

“I think we could put this together very quickly – I don’t think there’s

must hang around here. We know what the rules are now and we know what the opportunities are. These are opportunities too good to miss.

“Our story in Gloucestershire in government is that we want to grow”

Lateral bar :

Upgrading the White Paper Decentralization Framework:

Tier 3-A single institution or county council with a directly elected mayor (DEM) across a FEA (functional economic area) or entire county area

Tier 2-A single institution or county council without a mayor (DEM), across a FEA (Functional Economic Area) or the entire county area

Level 1-Local authorities working together in an FEA or across the county, for example. through a joint committee

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