COMMENT: Sussex devolution: We wunt be druv

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By Gary Shipton, Editor In Chief

There is a proud Sussex saying: We wunt be druv.

It’s the unofficial county motto and means we won’t be told what to do.

It reflects the spirit of independence and pride that has always underscored our great county.

For too long, while we have watched other countries in the UK dictate the terms of remaining part of our family of nations the South East has been treated like the poor relation.

We are the engine house of the British economy. We drive forward the growth and living standards enjoyed by all. But we have had a very poor return and little say over our own destiny.

Our reward for being the best has been second rate roads, too much greenfield development, appalling railway infrastructure, and pitiful cash handouts from central government toward our essential local services.

That’s why I applaud the announcement by West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith today for a proper devolution of powers and revenues to local decision-makers.

It’s not about independence. It is all about charting our own destiny in terms of the services we provide, the infrastructure we create, the jobs we generate, and the way we preserve this most beautiful corner of England.

West Sussex has a fine reputation for spending the people’s taxes prudently. It has also been at the forefront of championing growth.

It really is time to take the whole process a giant step forward.

No-one can manage the county better than the people of Sussex.

Of course, while Mrs Goldsmith makes no reference to other counties or partners, it would seem illogical to any bystander that devolution can be accomplished by ourselves alone.

Our neighbouring counties of East Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire share our glorious rural heritage: the South and North Downs; in part the great coast; the wonderful countryside and agricultural tapestry of the landscape.

Highways - like the A27 - are also integral to more than one county.

So how much more successful would a devolution bid be if we all joined forces with a combined population of perhaps four million?

Today, I commend Mrs Goldsmith and her council on their vision. I urge neighbouring councils to seek to be part of it, if they are not already doing so.

Let’s show, that it’s not just the big cities like Manchester that have the ability to take control of their destinies.

No-one does it better than ourselves.

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