Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> Scrutiny Cttee to give District Council Leader power to sign devolution bid >>> Weds 2nd Dec
The Devolution Debate for the Heart of the South West.
02 December 2015
Purpose of report:
To report back on discussions to date regarding possible devolution of powers to the Heart of the South West and to seek approval to the next step
1. That members note the progress to date regarding the devolution debate
2. That the Leader have delegated authority to sign the proposed Devolution Bid on behalf of EDDC Reason for recommendation: The Leader and CEO, together with the Leaders and CEOs of the various authorities within the Heart of the South West area, have been debating the possible content of a devolution bid to Government. The next stage in the process is to submit the bid by the 18th December. As the final version of the bid has not yet been finalised, delegated authority is required.
Officer: Mark Williams, Chief Executive
Report to: Cabinet - Joint Overview & ScrutinyCommittees- 02 December 2015
Scrutiny Committee minutes for 2 December 2015 - East Devon
The project is highly political.
Firstly, there are concerns about the democratic legitimacy of the project:
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> "politics is not working – a political imperative on all of us to seek proper devolution"
Secondly, there are concerns that it will be led by 'big business' representatives:
Futures Forum: Devolution, Local Enterprise Partnerships & accountability
There has been more comment subsequently.
Firstly, District Councillors were able to question the CEO on the project - as reported here on the EDW blog:
THAT DEVOLUTION MEETING PART 2: THE DARK GETS DARKER
5 DEC 2015
Mark Williams, CEO of East Devon District Council, was given a rough ride by majority and opposition Party Councillors alike, following his presentation this week (Weds 2nd Dec), to the District Council’s two watchdog committees.
The combined Overview and Scrutiny Committees (O&S) met to find out what lies at the heart of the Heart of the South West (HOTSW) devolution bid, shortly to be sent to Westminster.
Mr Williams compared the devolution bid to a train just starting on its journey from the heart of South West to London. But one Tory Councillor warned the CEO, “Before we get to Exeter, the lines may be broken because we’ll have run out of money”.
(There’s a summary of the presentation in our earlier post http://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/12/03/devolution-eddc-ceo-asks-us-to-trust-him-and-diviani/ )
After hearing it, the O&S Councillors expressed three areas of major concern:
2. Health service provision
Here is a sample of their questions to Mark Williams (MW) with some answers received:
Cllr Roger Giles (Ind, Ottery St Mary Town): Has any attempt been made to assess the cost savings of devolution?
MW : “No. It’s too early.” He went on to add, “We all know there is waste in (any) system” and “It’s better to have shared outcomes for a hope of savings.”
RG: “Has there been any estimate of officer time?”
Cllr Alison Greenhalgh (Con, Exmouth Littleham): “How do we make a decision about governance?“
MW replied that he thinks the bid will be for a combined authority, though “the Government will struggle to understand” why a mayor is not appropriate for this region.
Cllr Marianne Rixson (IEDA, Sidmouth,Sidford ), referring to other enterprise zones asked, “ What’s the certainty of us being successful against bids from elsewhere?”
MW: HOTSW “can operate independently from enterprise zones.”
MR also wanted to know “how financially viable are the councils involved?”
MW referred the point to Ian Baker, of the South West Audit Partnership (SWAP), who confirmed that at a recent seminar attended by Cllr Rixson, a representative of external auditors Grant Thornton had warned that SOME councils are due to go bust by 2020.
Cllr Peter Faithfull (Independent, Ottery St Mary Town) made the point that Councillors are “still largely in the dark”. “Can we have an independent observer, to understand what’s going on in (HOTSW) meetings?” We only get feedback AFTERWARDS, he said.
MW: There is “no need” to have an impartial report.
RG: Can the public attend?
MW: No. They are private meetings.
Cllr Mike Allen (Con, Honiton St Michael’s) had a barrage of questions: “Where is the money going to come from for business support?” How would the retraining of older people work? “How will infrastructure for planning issues get financed?” “Where is the money going to come from, for example, for schools?”
MW: There is money, but it gets lost in the system.
Matt Booth (Ind, Sidmouth Town ) asked “How much of health service will be outsourced to private businesses?” and wondered what would be the knock-on effect on health services already facing further cuts. He also wanted to know “Where do Neighbourhood Plans fit into the HOTSW devolution bid, in terms of protecting areas?”
MW : “Neighbourhood Plans (NPs) will continue irrespective.” But he was not sure that those preparing the NPs “would see the opportunity of tapping into growth possibilities”.
Cllr Ben Ingham( IEDA, Woodbury &Lympstone), citing the “complete lack of control in recent years regarding health care”, said that HOTSW’s 5 year view for ‘health & wellbeing’, is “just pie in the sky”. “We are being given an option we know nothing about”, he continued. “Are we being given a hospital pass?”
MW replied that Manchester, for example, has received invitations to develop a plan for integrating health and social care. And Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) have been present at two HOTSW meetings, although “I don’t think they were committing themselves,” he mentioned….. leaving some people wondering, if CCG were not cooperative, would this kill the bid?
(More to follow…)
That Devolution meeting part 2: the dark gets darker | East Devon Watch
Secondly, there has been more comment on the Sidmouth pages of Streetlife: