THIS is a really important day for the people of Somerset.
It has been my clear vision over the past four years to see power wrestled back from the clutches of Whitehall and placed in the hands of your local leaders and businesses.
I wanted to see every part of Britain given more freedom than at the start of this parliament so that the people who know most about Somerset will have the money and the support to deliver changes that can benefit everyone.
This could be anything from helping young people find work, getting businesses the support they need to thrive, giving commuters better access to road and rail networks or simply giving everyone the chance to get on-line faster.
I’m delighted that today my vision is truly becoming a reality.
Thanks to the Liberal Democrats in Government we’re placing the power and money in the hands of the people who know how to spend it best, making a real difference to local communities.
It will help end our over-reliance on the banks and the City of London, and generate growth, jobs, and ambition in towns and cities all across England; building a stronger economy and a fairer society.
This deal is a defining latest chapter in our long-term plan to boost growth around the country.
Over the past two years we’ve signed multi-billion pound Regional Growth Funds and 26 City Deals across the country to help revitalise local economies.
Today’s Growth Deal with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership will build on this; meaning more freedom and resources to create jobs, more help to meet housing needs and further support to projects essential to the region’s national competitiveness moving.
And for the first time, housing, infrastructure and other funding is being brought together in one pot, and put directly into the hands of local authorities and businesses.
Over the lifetime of today’s deal we’ll be investing a total of around £130.3million in the South West.
This will pull in a minimum of £150million of funding from other sources, help create up to to 14,000 jobs, allow up to 9,000 homes to be built.
The deal will also see a large number of key road improvements to reduce congestion and allow faster journeys, projects to improve access to town centres in Torquay and Taunton and support for training and employment at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.
The selection process has been very competitive and we’ve had to make some tough decisions along the way but we’re confident we’ve made the right choices.
The battle isn’t yet won but for now it makes me extremely proud that Liberal Democrats are ensuring we’re the first government in a very long time to have given back more powers than we took, ending a culture of Whitehall knows best.
Decisions over spending on infrastructure, business support and housing are being made at a truly local level. This is nothing short of putting localism, and your community, at the heart of the British recovery.