Thursday, 17 December 2015

Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> "confidentiality" vs open debate and public consultation

The so-called 'devolution' package has become very political:
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> "politics is not working – a political imperative on all of us to seek proper devolution"
Futures Forum: Devolution, Local Enterprise Partnerships & accountability

Last week, the Scrutiny Cttee met to consider the executive's plans:
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> Scrutiny Cttee declines to give District Council Leader power to sign devolution bid >>> postponed to full Council 16th Dec

Last night, the full Council met to discuss its plans for devolution - except it didn't:


17 DEC 2015

Upgraded from comment to post:

What a pity that press and public were excluded from the Devolution debate at this evening’s Council meeting. This way of behaving by the majority Party really leads one to assume something nefarious is going on. Why oh why can’t the Tories have the courage to debate things openly? If they have to muzzle press comment and keep their electorate in ignorance of what they are deciding, is it any wonder that we doubt them?

EDDC special meeting on devolution tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3 pm
Devolution: Independent DCC Councillor Claire Wright and East Devon Alliance express grave concerns on the process
That Devolution meeting part 2: the dark gets darker

One thought on “Devolution: our fate decided in secret”

Paul F says:
17 Dec 2015 at 11:34am

This whole proposal / decision to move the discussion on devolution to Part-B is a disgrace.

1. According to The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 – Section 5 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/2089/regulation/5/made) in order to allow representations from both councillors AND the public, the council needs to publish their intent to hold the discussion in private 28-days before the meeting, and to republish it 5 days before the meeting with any representations received. If it is urgent – and last night the Chairman did not claim that it was urgent – then it can be held in private providing that it has the formal (written?) agreement of the Chairman of the Scrutiny committee – and this was not provided last night either.

Indeed, according to EDDC’s own procedural rules (http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/committees-and-meetings/statutory-exclusions/
), it was not valid for the council to decide on-the-night to move it to Part-B.

So it would appear to me that the Council acted illegally in holding this discussion in Part-B.

2. The reasons given were that officers had advised that the draft submission was supposed to be confidential until it was submitted – but of course it had previously been published as part of the agendas for both the joint Scrutiny and Overview meeting and the Cabinet meeting – so it was already in the public domain and so these grounds appear to me to lack validity.

This devolution bid has the potential to reduce significantly the level of democracy (i.e. involvement of concerned members of the public) in decisions that will affect us, and the proposal is to let an unelected officer decide what the contents of the bid are without any vote by elected members or without any consultation with the public. So the most disappointing aspect to me of this move to Part-B was that not one of our councillors made any objection to this on either procedural or democratic grounds.

Devolution: our fate decided in secret | East Devon Watch

See the agenda:

And the press release:

And yet the County Council seems prepared to allow for more public consultation:

Devon County Council votes to publicly consult on potentially thorny devolution plans

Thursday, 10 December 2015 0 Comments by Claire

Devon County councillors this afternoon, backed my proposal to publicly consult on plans to devolve powers from central government to councils in Devon and Somerset.

The proposal was an amendment to a series of resolutions agreed at Cabinet yesterday.

Today the full council debated the plans, which were voted through, largely by the Conservative group, with most of the Liberal Democrats and Labour group abstaining.

It is the biggest fundamental change to local government in years, with a significant focus on councils working with the Local Enterprise Partnership to promote economic growth.

I voted against the plans because I am concerned that the rather vague proposals are almost exclusively focused on big business, such as the supposed benefits of Hinkley Point C - which is about to be handed to the Chinese ... yet underwritten by the British taxpayer to the tune of £17bn, with the Chinese government being given extraordinarily preferential rates for electricity production. Not exactly a south west success story.

Other big industries mentioned in the plans included the Met Office, manufacturing, marine businesses and specifically referred to were road and rail. Specifically NOT referred to were small businesses, and it is small businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy here - and our beautiful environment contributes to their success. This wasn’t mentioned either.

Renewable energy was omitted, which was very worrying considering the tacit backing of of Hinkley’s nuclear power plant. The very successful but fledgling renewable energy industry in the south west is now under massive threat, with the government poised to scrap a whopping 87 per cent of the subsidy overnight, probably next week…which could cripple the only form of sustainable clean energy we have and lead to thousands of job losses - in the south west alone…. see subsequent blog post on this!

The theme appeared to be “big is best” and in my view this missed what Devon and Somerset was about.

I criticised the government for “strong-arming” councils into putting together plans to devolve services and threatening them with less favourable treatment if they did not. I said this approach made me suspicious about its motives.

Of course, funding is now a massive problem for local government, with the huge austerity cuts - and if services and funding are devolved further, the government can effectively wash its hands of a a load of earache - and simply blame councils for not delivering. Cynical that view might be - but that is how it works.

I said it was inconceivable that there wouldn’t be public consultation on such monumental plans and leader John Hart announced when he introduced the item that he supported my amendment to publicly consult on any bid. And this was backed by the vast majority of councillors at the end of the debate.

You can see the itemised webcast here, which will be available shortly - http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/178945
See earlier blog posts about this here - http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/public_consultation_urged_over_devolution_plans_tomorrows_county_council_me

Devon County Council votes to publicly consult on potentially thorny devolution plans - Claire Wright

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