Sunday, 29 November 2015

Devolution, Local Enterprise Partnerships & accountability

There has been for some time considerable concern that proposals for 'devolution' are simply going to make local decision-making less transparent - for both the public and elected councillors:
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> Scrutiny Cttee to give District Council Leader power to sign devolution bid >>> Weds 2nd Dec
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> "instead, it must be a real process of deliberative democracy, with the ability for the public to change aspects of the deal which they want to be improved."

Local enterprise partnerships: a hopeful sign or a threat to local democracy?

Peter Hetherington Tuesday 11 December 2012

Let's hope local democracy benefits from what appears to be George Osborne's support of Heseltine's proposal to boost local funding powers

The four deficits of the English devolution process

Bob Hudson is a Professor in the Centre for Public Policy and Health, University of Durham

The issue of devolution is squarely on the agenda. Yet despite appearing to have obtained the coveted policy position of a principle without political enemies, the devolution mission itself is not guided by any clear principles, writes Bob Hudson. Instead, actions have been tactical rather than strategic, while current proposals are characterised by democratic, constitutional, financial and strategic ‘deficits’.

Devolution is moving through a series of stages – from minor local agreements like ‘city deals’ through to major political rhetoric (especially around the ‘northern powerhouse’) and now to a legislative basis with the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill. This all seems to augur well for a long overdue adjustment to the tight centralisation of political and policy life that has characterised England for at least the past thirty years. But all is not as it seems.

A democratic deficit:

It might reasonably be assumed that devolution is, in some way, associated with the assumption of greater democratic rights and engagement at sub-national level, but this aspect is signally absent in the current proposals. There are two difficulties here: a lack of transparency and a lack of engagement...

England’s new devolution settlement may be marketed as devolution, but it is certainly not democracy


The previous Coalition government talked a lot about localism, and the current majority Conservative government has made progress on its ‘northern powerhouse’ agenda. Now, the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is going through parliament. Laird Ryan casts an eye over the current state of policy and the debate, and asks who’s likely to benefit, who isn’t, and what’s been happening around the country, and concludes that while the new settlement may be devolution in name, it is not democracy in practice.

Manchester Canal (Credit: Mike Mniec, CC BY 2.0)

For almost a year, LocalismWatch has been trying to make sense of the government’s stated desire to give local communities a greater say in local issues. Power centralised in Whitehall has historically been the default setting for British governance, so anything that promises change has to be taken seriously. But because the devolution project is being led by people with a proven interest in keeping strategic power close to Whitehall, its components and progress need closer examination. What’s on the table, and what isn’t? Who’s at the table, and who’s not? Who will make the final decisions? And what sort of landscape is likely to emerge when the bill gets Royal Assent?

Local Enterprise Partnerships and Devolution

13 July 2015

Local Enterprise Partnerships and Devolution:
New study highlights need for stronger, clearer planning remit

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) could play a critical role in devolution to cities and regions and in promoting economic growth, but their potential is being held back by their unclear status and unfamiliarity with town planning, as well as a lack of personnel, a new study by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) finds.

The first comprehensive analysis of the roles of all LEPs shows that they have considerable potential to work across different policy areas such as planning, and to shape strategy and implementation from housing to employment across local authority boundaries.
LEPs lack clear remit

However, the analysis finds that LEPs continue to operate with an opaque remit and lack firm institutional foundations. This limits their effectiveness as brokers of cross-boundary, strategic planning issues.

Local Enterprise Partnerships and Devolution - RTPI

Where is the democracy in the "devolution deal"?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Among Mebyon Kernow’s key complaints about the recent “devolution deal” from central government was that it was, obviously, very limited in scope, and it was not democratic to give more influence to unelected bodies with limited democratic legitimacy such as the Local Enterprise Partnership.

At today’s meeting of the Constitution and Governance Committee, there was a report about what impact the “deal” would have on the Council’s governance arrangements. As you might expect, I challenged the lack of democracy at the centre of so many of the proposals. Here are a few snippets:

“Agreement is required to be reached as to which organisations will lead the delivery of each policy area.”

I did and will continue to argue that it is not appropriate or indeed democratic for unelected and unaccountable bodies to lead.

“At the current time there is a draft proposal to establish an oversight board comprising the Leader, Chairmen of the Local Enterprise Partnership and Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group and two MPs supported by executive officers. This will have oversight of progress in implementing the Deal and be a single reporting route to Government.”

So much for trusting Cornwall Council to "lead" on oversight of the deal.

“There is a requirement for an appropriate overview and scrutiny function for the Deal to be agreed. The Deal envisages that this will comprise elected representatives and business representatives. Whilst this does not preclude the use of the Council’s existing scrutiny arrangements but with co-optees from the business sector, it is perhaps appropriate to consider a separate scrutiny function whose focus is limited to the delivery and impact of the Deal."

Again, so much for trusting Cornwall Council to "lead" on oversight of the deal.

“A Boundary review will commence in 2017 and it is clear that the Government’s expectation is that the number of local councillors will reduce.”

I would have thought that it was time to address the democratic deficit in Cornwall – not make it worse.

The report is worth reading to understand the nature of what is happening. It can be found at: 
Agenda for Constitution and Governance Committee on Tuesday, 22nd September, 2015, 10.00 am - Cornwall Council

Cllr Dick Cole: Where is the democracy in the "devolution deal"?
More powers must be about democracy < Blog < Mebyon Kernow - The Party for Cornwall

The East Devon Watch blog has carried out extensive research. This is from the last couple of days:


28 NOV 2015

This is an old report (December 2014) but raises some current pertinent issues. With the creation of “Greater Exeter”, the “East Devon Growth Point Enterprise Zone” and the with interference of the Local Enterprise Partnership in the devolution process, what now is the role of the back-bench councillor? Or even the councillors on the Cabinet who have not moved up the pecking-order to be involved in these new Quangos?

Is there still a role for councillors who are not in the Golden and Platinum Circles of power? Councillors in the ruling party and other parties who are increasingly isolated from decision-making at just about every level except the parochial (the natural domain of town and parish councillors)?

“A new study suggests there is a growing split among councillors, with backbenchers and cabinet members effectively becoming ‘two tribes’.
... Councillors that exercise executive decision-making powers, or those in waiting to occupy such roles, expressed persistently different views from what we might term “backbench” members, regardless of political persuasion.
‘Party groups are a means whereby any potential divisions were mediated, but the poll raises questions as to whether the party group is up to the task of restraining the institutional drivers of the modernisation agenda.

‘This study shows there is a need to find a way to better recognise the contribution of councillors who may be focused on serving their communities but feel disconnected from decision-making.’

Modernisation has caused tribal mentality among councillors - LocalGov

Councillors disconnected from decision- making | East Devon Watch


27 NOV 2015

It really is extraordinary. With no public consultation and no meaningful debate EDDC councillors propose that wide powers over the district should be given to the unelected, unrepresentative and unaccountable body that is our “Local Enterprise Partnership”.

Not only that, they propose to delegate authority for this whole process to EDDC’s CEO Mark Williams.

On pages 44-51 of current Cabinet agenda papers:


is a colourful account of what powers they will be given (Owl’s inverted commas, not being exactly sure what the words mean) over health, “care” and well-being, connectivity and ” resilience”, all of which, according to the brochure will be ” business-led”.

So, forget your district, forget your communities, forget your compassion and help for the old, disabled,vulnerable and very young, forget your elected councillors – and say hello to your politically-led (page 50) yet politically unelected and so far totally unaccountable new masters.

Oh, brave new world that has such people in it.

Subservience to unelected and unaccountable Local Enterprise Partnership – CEO to be given delegated authority for decision- making | East Devon Watch


27 NOV 2015

This is the unelected and unaccountable body that wants to run Devon and Somerset 
The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership | Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership

“Our ambition is to maximise our area’s assets and inspire innovation and entrepreneurship to create long-term economic growth. We want to see our urban centres fulfil their capacity for growth whilst ensuring that our rural areas flourish through enterprise and improved competitiveness.”

This is their ” vision” for our area: 
Current priorities | Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership

This is what it is currently spending our money on:
Current Activities | Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership

These are the unelected people running it: 
Chief Executive and Non-Executive Directors | Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership

including our own Paul Diviani, who will be in charge of housing for Devon and Somerset if this comes off (hope you won’t be needing a Devon and Somerset Local Plan guys) and Andrew Leadbetter (DCC councillor in charge of the rural broadband omnishambles).

Most of their current money (around £65m) has already been pledged to their favoured projects and most of the leg-work of who does what appears to have been pretty much sorted out.

Makes the East Devon Business Forum look like nursery school! Oh look, it has its own Business Forum: 

One thought on “Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership – in their own words”

Paul F says:
27 Nov 2015 at 7:18pm

Does anyone think that Diviani, Leadbetter et al will ever realise that their customers are residents and voters and not businesses, and that cuddling up to businesses is only OK if the objectives of doing so are what the public actually wants?

Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership – in their own words | East Devon Watch


27 NOV 2015

Questions from a correspondent:

1. As I understand it the desire is that Plymouth, Torbay, Devon and Somerset County Councils and their districts will work together for the benefit of electors who (unsurprisingly) elected them in local elections.

The LEP gets funds direct from the Government and allocates them according to their perceived policies as (mostly) local unelected businessmen.

Why do these authorities NEED an LEP to co-ordinate their closer working at all? If they can’t do it by sorting it together without the LEP what hope is there for them working together at all?

2. We are told that the councils (all of them – counties cities and districts) will lose no powers.

So what will this devolved area actually be able to do that can’t be done now?

3. Are we going to be consulted?

Good questions!

Someone help me here!


26 NOV 2015

We have to go back all the way to July 2015 for this explanation of ” small enterprise towns”, which Owl thinks shows that the “growth point” and Cranbrook have been in deep trouble for a while. And/or another back-door route for “Local Enterprise Partnerships” to assume control by the back door yet again?

Shall we soon see councils disappear entirely so that LEPs take their place, perhaps? Developers to control planning and housing, unelected and unaccountable LEPs to control everything else?

“In his Summer Budget yesterday, Osborne said the government will be “launching a new round of enterprise zones for smaller towns” across England.

Historically, enterprise zones have introduced relaxed planning rules and economic incentives for businesses to operate in them. A Budget document published alongside the chancellor’s statement says the government will now be inviting bids for a new round of zones.

The document says: “This new round will focus on ensuring that all places in England can benefit, including rural areas where appropriate, and the government encourages towns and districts to work with local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) to develop bids.”

In May, Osborne said he was inviting bids to create new enterprise zones as part of his proposals to boost the northern economy.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “Enterprise zones can galvanise government incentives, increase local government commitment to an area, and help businesses set up or expand.

“We therefore support the government announcing a new round of enterprise zones, and agree with its emphasis on LEPs having a role, and that they are seeking to support a broad spectrum of different business areas, whether that be industrial or retail, urban or rural.”
Summer Budget: Osborne calls for 'small town' enterprise zones | Planning Resource

We hear in the press that Diviani and Williams were in the House of Commons yesterday:
Green light for East Devon and Sedgemoor Enterprise Zone raises hopes of investment | Exeter Express and Echo

Did they have the begging bowls out or were they plotting something more Machiavellian one wonders.

Aah, so this is what a ” small enterprise town” is – fewer planning rules! | East Devon Watch
Cranbrook to become a ” small enterprise town” – whatever that means! | East Devon Watch
East Devon Tories don’t want development in Cranbrook to be controlled by a “politically motivated” town council! | East Devon Watch


25 NOV 2015

What does this mean?

“What benefits do Enterprise Zones offer for businesses?

Businesses basing themselves on Enterprise Zones can access a number of benefits:

Up to 100% business rate discount worth up to £275,000 per business over a 5 year period

Simplified local authority planning, for example, through Local Development Orders that grant automatic planning permission for certain development (such as new industrial buildings or changing how existing buildings are used) within specified areas

Government support to ensure that superfast broadband is rolled out throughout the zone, and, if necessary, public funding

100% enhanced capital allowances (tax relief) to businesses making large investments in plant and machinery on 8 Zones in Assisted Areas

About Enterprise Zones

IN OTHER WORDS: the one thing the “Growth Point” ISN’T doing, despite all the money spent on it, is growing – so it will be heavily subsidised in the hope that no- one will notice what an abject failure it has been so far!

East Devon Growth Point to become an “Enterprise Zone” | East Devon Watch

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