Shropshire Council joins neighbouring authorities in 'groundbreaking' partnership
Shropshire Council has teamed up with three other authorities, including neighbouring Powys, for what is being billed as a "ground-breaking partnership".
The Marches Forward Partnership was launched at an official event held at Hay Castle on the Welsh and English border this morning.
It sees Shropshire Council join forces with Herefordshire Council and Monmouthshire and Powys county councils, for the partnership.
Councillor Lezley Picton, the Conservative leader of Shropshire Council, said that the agreement was not 'a combined authority', but would provide a way for the councils to collaborate in tackling the challenges they face – be it with transport, health services or digital access.
A statement from Shropshire Council explained how the authorities – which have many residents who cross the border into the other authorities every day – would be able to combine to campaign for government money on both sides of the border.
It said: "The four local authorities will now work even more closely together with both UK and Welsh governments to progress this exciting cross border collaboration.
"This will include working jointly to secure funding support from both governments as well as with a wide range of other partners to unlock more investment and explore new approaches to make major projects that benefit the Marches region become reality.
"Covering 80 per cent of the English/Welsh borderland, the local authorities have similar characteristics and geography as well as an overriding mutual ambition for the region as a whole. The partnership provides a unique commitment to work cross border, cross country and cross party on major projects that are in the overall best interests of the region.
"Transport, skills and housing, alongside energy, climate change, tourism and digital connectivity are high on the agenda, all common issues for the area’s population of almost 750,000. By working together the four local authorities hope to deliver cross border successes and unlock millions of pounds for identified initiatives that support the Marches rural economy and green growth."
Councillor Picton said: "We came together out of need not out of necessity, no one has told us to do this. But all four authorities are very similar, rural with small pockets of urban areas."
She added: "We will be looking to unlock the massive economic potential across the Marches corridor and we need both the English Government and the Welsh Government to work with us to do that. We are simply stronger together in doing that."
Councillor Picton said the partnership would provide more opportunities to link projects across areas – so major improvements are not carried out in isolation.
She said: "We are looking at really improving the transport system in Shropshire but we should not just be looking at it for Shropshire because our residents are crossing those borders every day."
The Liberal Democrat Leader of Powys County Council, Councillor James Gibson-Watt welcomed the move.
He said: "From the day I became leader of the council I was very clear with officers, cabinet members and the rest of the council, that the way forward for public services in general is collaborative partnership working. The days of us being able to do things on our own are long gone.
"Even if it makes sense financially it makes sense morally and in terms of improving the quality of services, helping to get the best value for the tax payer."
He added: “These are very early days but we’ve already agreed that each authority will lead on different themes and our asks to government will be evidence-led and community focused. It’s so important that we focus on where we can make the biggest difference and we move at pace from turning ambitions into actions.
“As a partnership we have so much in common and I’m excited about what the future holds.”
Councillor Picton said: “We are really enthusiastic about what we can achieve by working together. In our planning stages we are already benefitting from stronger links between authorities, as well as improved partnerships with both familiar and new organisations. People want to talk to us and that’s a fantastic start."