EMERGING plans to devolve more powers to councils in Essex could allow authorities to “sort out the absolute mess” of bus services, a Colchester councillor has claimed.

Adam Fox, deputy leader of Colchester Council, said plans shared by Essex councils to prepare for a bid to transfer powers from Government to local authorities have great potential.

Addressing a meeting of the cabinet, Mr Fox said other areas of the UK to clinch a devolution deal had been able to improve public transport.

“They’ve been able to sort out things like buses, which we know are an absolute mess here in Essex, because we have no control over bus companies, no control over routes and no control over fares,” he said.

“If we only got that out of a devolution deal I would take it tomorrow, whoever was in charge.”

Devolution is the transfer of money and powers down from central government to local level.

It gives greater powers to councils, putting them in charge of deciding where and how money is spent.

In Essex, this could mean more funding and control over fundamental issues such as health, planning, transport, skills, economic growth and infrastructure.

Based on similar deals in other areas, it could also mean as much as £1 billion in new Government money for the county.

Mr Fox added: “There is also potential on infrastructure, there’s potential on skills, the whole of the skill sector absolutely hollowed out, locally.

“If we got some of that money brought down to greater Essex and then down to north Essex, and then into Colchester, we might be able to really do something for young people and for adults on new skills and skills they’re going to need in the future.

“I think there’s potential to open up a conversation locally about is there anything we want off Essex County Council, is there anything we want devolving further down to local neighbourhoods in the city as well?

“Any of this has got to be driven by ‘what is the benefit for residents?’.

“I say we’ve got skin in the game, but we might not have a veto we might not have a vote on decision making – but if we are positive and constructive we are more likely to have a seat at the table.”

Mark Cory, the council’s finance boss, said he was “sceptical” of any devolution offer.

He said he believed in the principle, but said any plans for a single mayor covering the “vast” area of Greater Essex “wouldn’t work”.

He said: “I would work with whatever system I’m under, but I think power consolidated – what’s the point in passing down power and putting into just one person.”

A £4 billion devolution deal for the North East of England, announced in December last year, came with a new mayor serving two million people living in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and County Durham.

The deal followed years of wrangling and disagreement.