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Marches Partnership bring up fears of Powys being dragged into ‘Westminster ways of working’

A CAUTIOUS welcome has been given to by Powys County Councillors to a partnership agreement with other local authorities along the Wales/England border.

At a meeting of the council’s Economy, Residents and Communities Scrutiny Committee on Monday, September 11 councillors received a presentation on the Marches Forward Strategic Partnership.

The intention of this agreement with Monmouthshire County Council along with the English councils of Herefordshire and Shropshire according to the council economy and environment director, Nigel Brinn is to: “work for the common good.”

Mr Brinn explained that the authorities would work together in a number of areas including transport, skills, housing, energy, climate change and digital connectivity. 

But the challenge according to Mr Brinn would be making sure the partnership “delivers” and is not just a “talking shop.”

Mr Brinn said:  “The scope and potential is vast.

“There is no financial commitment, it’s just making sure that we are as one on some of these things and lobbying governments on both sides of the border for investment and support.”

He said that the four council leaders would get together next month with the intention of formalising the partnership and the signing a memorandum of understanding would follow in November.

Looking towards the west, Powys is already in a partnership with Ceredigion County Council when it comes to the Mid Wales Growth Deal and also a Corporate Joint Committee.

Cllr Adrian Jones said: “How does this affect our relationship with Ceredigion, are they going to be involved in any of this?”

Mr Brinn said: “These is no barrier to us working as we do with Ceredigion, this is just an addition.”

Cllr Gary Mitchell said: “I get that it opens up new opportunities.”

“We do have different governments we have different policies and strategies and there could be that risk of getting dragged into Westminster ways of working when we’re firmly in Wales.”

Cllr Gary Mitchell (Pic: Powys County Council)

He pointed out that the UK Government are proposing to scrap legal water pollution restrictions for new housing developments in England in the hope of boosting construction.

“Let’s not rush to follow what they are doing over the border,” said Cllr Mitchell.

Committee chairwoman Cllr Angela Davies said: “It’s potentially quite exciting we need to keep our eyes on it and see how it develops to ensure Powys gains as much as others.”

The Marches partnership covers an area with a population of around 800,000 people.

Last week both Monmouthshire and Shropshire Council Cabinet’s approved joining the partnership.

The Powys Cabinet are expected to sign off the agreement soon.

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