MONEY earmarked for a new devolution deal in Devon would be better spent fixing potholes, according to Exminster’s Cllr Alan Connett.

He was speaking as attempts by Devon’s opposition parties to delay a decision about getting more decision-making powers from government but combining their own powers failed.

The controlling Conservatives voted in favour of the plan after an at-times febrile full council debate on devolution at Devon County Council.

Lib Dem, Labour and Independent councillors all raised concerns about the proposals.

The special meeting of the full council was called to ratify the cabinet’s decision to press ahead with plans to create a combined county authority with Torbay.

Cllr Connett called the proposal a ‘right Devon fudge’.

He said: ‘This is an extra layer of bureaucracy and suggests we want to spend more money on local government red tape than actually doing things.

‘The £1 million pledged to fund the first three years of costs of running the CCA could be better spent fixing potholes, or solving road drainage problems.’

Part of the debate focused on how Team Devon, an initiative including business, education, skills and public sector, would be factored in and how much control Devon’s councillors would have.

Opponents questioned whether this was devolution – bringing decision-making closer to the electorate – or  creating another level of government where people are appointed not elected.

Concerns were also raised that Torbay could disproportionately benefit. 

While Torbay has 139,000 residents compared to 

Devon’s 750,000, both councils will each have three voting members.

And there were concerns about the long-term costs and potential impact on residents.

Proponents say the move will give the county greater control over adult education and skills, more say in transport and green issues, and a louder voice to secure cash for affordable housing.

Devon’s Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Caroline Leaver put forward a motion to delay the decision because of a lack of clarity about how the CCA would function.

But the initial proposal to submit Devon’s bid to create a CCA with Torbay to the government was agreed.

Dawlish Councillor Martin Wrigley noted £16 million had already been promised to Devon. 

He said: ‘I appreciate a lot of work has been put into this process, but this proposal has been put together in a rush.’

He added the CCA ‘goes against the very principle of devolution’ and feared government minsters would be ‘double-checking’ its every move and ‘drip-feeding money in a begging bowl, Hunger Games approach’.

Cllr Leaver acknowledged the consultation showed some support but highlighted more people did not approve of the way it was being set up.

She said: ‘We have had no reassurance that any future money will be allocated fairly by default.

‘The proposal leaves so many questions.

‘We believe we should be looking at devolution for a coherent economic area but I seriously question whether Devon and Torbay is a coherent economic area.’

Devon’s patchwork of town and district councils already work well together and often strike agreements to ensure cross-border collaboration, questioning the need for the CCA.