Thursday, 17 December 2015

Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> "to mandate bodies of unelected businessmen to define and effect policy without any scrutiny or accountability to electors or their representatives."

The promised full Council debate on devolution was held behind closed doors last night due to 'confidentiality' issues:
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> "confidentiality" vs open debate and public consultation

Much of the deal revolves around the involvement of the LEPs - or the major business interests in the region:
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> of Local Enterprise Partnerships, 'opportunites for Sidmouth' and keeping things 'commercially confidential'
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> of Local Enterprise Partnerships and 'what happens when a lobby group of landowners and developers gains too much influence over the democratic planning process'
Futures Forum: Devolution, Local Enterprise Partnerships & accountability

Interestingly, at the top of the list of 'partners' involved in the devolution bid is the area's LEP:

Heart of the South West Devolution - Frequently Asked Questions – November 2015

What is devolution?
Devolution is the redistribution of power and funding from national Government to local authorities. The Chancellor of the Exchequer wants devolution to deliver improved productivity, a more skilled workforce, more housing and reduced, overall, public sector costs and is asking for bids to be submitted.

How have we responded to this?
The Government is keen for devolution to happen within Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) boundaries, and ours is the Heart of the South West (HotSW) covering Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay. There are 20 partners:
• Heart of the South West LEP.
• Devon County Council.
• Somerset County Council.
• Devon’s district and borough councils – East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge and West Devon.
• Somerset’s district and borough councils – Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset, Taunton Deane and West Somerset.
• Plymouth City Council.
• Exeter City Council.
• Torbay Council.
• Exmoor National Park.
• Dartmoor National Park.

In September 2015, the partners submitted a HotSW Statement of Intent to Government, signalling our wish to open up negotiations for a devolution deal for the HotSW area.

What powers do we want to see devolved?
The Statement of Intent sets out our desire for additional powers and responsibilities in three areas:
• Economic growth and productivity.
• Health, social care and wellbeing.
• Infrastructure and local resilience.

These are the areas we want to be the focus of our discussions with Government as we look in detail at what could make the biggest difference to us and bring the most benefits to communities. More detailed discussions need to take place before we can talk about specific powers.

Equally, if we can do something without having any devolved powers, we will just get on and do it and it won’t form part of our negotiations with Government.

Devolution | Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership

Nothing about 'sustainability' or 'localism' or even 'democracy', then.

As commented on Independent County Cllr Claire Wright's blog:

Concerns rise over Devon and Somerset devolution plans

09th Dec Conrad Black wrote:

When we discuss devolution, it is to devolve powers either to the people themselves (the electorate) or to the elected representatives of those people. There is no concept for devolving powers that are the responsibility of elected government to private industry. That would be a political minefield.

It would be like devolving housing to the trades unions? Or healthcare to drug companies. Or political representation to PR agencies?

We thought we had come a long way when pocket boroughs were removed and private self-interest was subordinated to the public good.

Now it would appear from what is being said that government is choosing (without any electoral authority) to mandate bodies of unelected businessmen to define and effect policy without any scrutiny or accountability to electors or their representatives.

Yes, we hear the bleating from industry after industry that regulation prevents them from being able to respond quickly to opportunities. Well in the wonderful Victorian world, before Consumer Law and product liability, it was down to the customer (back then probably not an elector) to make sure food was totally safe before consuming it.

Are we trying to return to a time when commerce (capital) is given the unelected authority to define solutions that are economically convenient (wildly profitable?) for them, without any input from the recipients of their policies as to the desirability or suitability of those solutions for the wider public.

Hopefully government will be urgently reacting to their excess of zeal by putting in the historic checks and balances that are needed to run our mixed economy. Or maybe they fancy their chances at the hustings. For the avoidance of doubt, the elderly appear to be well able to remember who does or does not serve them. The Sidmouth wards dismissed their Conservative representatives for their apparent failure to do anything at all over the Knowle and local plan fiascos. It may not take a lot to see that mood reflected, not merely through the District, but also through the Country. Not all the electorate want to vote in what appears to be a Marxist state regardless of how blue the ticket appears.

Concerns rise over Devon and Somerset devolution plans - Claire Wright

And as expressed in the EDW blog:


9 DEC 2015

If not, read this:


Just a couple of examples:

the LEP and councils should:

…. publish their arrangements for making, and recording decisions, and for ensuring that papers, decisions, minutes, agendas etc are published in line with existing local authority rules and regulations [access to information, Schedule 12A of the LGA 1972, as amended by the FOI 2000];

and they should:

….. ensure that there is appropriate local engagement – both with public and private stakeholders to inform key decisions and with the general public around future LEP strategy development, and progress against delivery of the SEP, including key projects and spend against those;

Juicy judicial review material!

Councillors: are you sure our LEP and your council are operating properly? | East Devon Watch

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