A JOINT bid for devolved powers between Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council could still take place despite talks between the two authorities collapsing.

Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott had looked to include Swindon in a united bid for extra powers but claims offers of co-operation were met with silence due to the local elections in May and further requests were also ignored.

Progress was hampered after the borough entered talks with other M4 corridor authorities in Berkshire which decided against placing devolution bids.

This was disputed by Swindon leader David Renard, who claimed Wiltshire broke off talks “at short notice” telling the Local Government Chronicle that the situation was “bizarre”.

He said: “We were talking about a joint bid with Wiltshire when they suddenly said they were not interested in collaboration with Swindon and would make their own expression of interest.”

Yet Cllr Scott says she “did not break off talks,” adding the government response will be to tell the two authorities “to get their act together” and return to the negotiating table as they share a combined Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), police force and fire service.

Despite the “misunderstanding,” which she says has been overblown, relations between the councils remain good and she has “no problem” with her Conservative counterpart.

“[The shared services] is why I went to them in the first place,” she said. “But we are two very different places.

“Health, for instance, is not going to be so easy because we have got two different CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups).

“There is still a very long way to go.”

The Wiltshire bid is based on health and social care, public health and economic development.

Yet the council hopes powers to relax national non-domestic rates (NNDR) could lead to a reduction in car parking charges, which recently increased to £8 a day in the city centre.

Currently the tax, which is applied to all commercial buildings including council-owned facilities, is collected by the council and then sent to central government who redistribute it among local authorities.

Cllr Scott hopes any reduction of NNDR on car parks could be passed onto drivers.

A combined bid for extra powers from Whitehall would not infringe on the independence of each council, which are both unitary authorities.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: “This ‘one nation government’ is determined to ensure power is devolved from Whitehall to town halls, to put an end to the old north-south divide and rebalance our economy.

“The sheer volume of bids we’ve received, from cities and counties, demonstrates how local leaders are embracing this opportunity to have a direct hand in shaping the future of their area, whether in skills, transport, housing or healthcare.”