Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils...... part six: "I think we will see economic groupings rather than political ones.”

Last week, the District Council's Scrutiny Committee met to consider, amongst other things, a report on the Knowle relocation project:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "Merely noting a report has no place on Scrutiny."
Futures Forum: The lack of scrutiny at East Devon ... Council's Scrutiny Cttee meets Thursday 16th October

Many consider that the Committee does not live up to its proper role:
Just in case our Overview and Scrutiny Committee don’t understand what they are supposed to do … | East Devon Alliance

On the other hand, the District Council's own website considers that the role of the Committee is not so much to 'question' Members as to 'support' them: its first declared aim declared thus:

This committee supports the work of the Cabinet and the Council as a whole.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee - East Devon District Council

However, its second declared aim is this:

It allows citizens to have a greater say in Council matters by investigating matters of local concern.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee - East Devon District Council

And yet at last week's meeting, the Committee chairman was clearly not interested in answering two questions from members of the public:

> That on 29th September, Cllr Ken Potter declared at a Newton Poppleford parish meeting that, having attended a meeting of the Local Government Association, a minister predicted that within ten years “there would not be a single free-standing district council left”.
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part five... East Devon District Council "will imminently have no alternative whatsoever than to integrate anyway."

> That the fallout from the Scottish referendum will reach the West Country, as central government has committed itself to further devolution to all areas of the UK - in which case, it would be folly to proceed with the relocation project with the threat of local government reorganisation.
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils...

See also:
EDDC scrutiny cttee votes against holding cabinet to account (which is its job, actually) - Claire Wright

Meanwhile, the former leader of the County Council has urged councillors to be proactive:

Ex-leader warns Devon: don't get caught napping on devolution

By Western Morning News | Posted: October 01, 2014

Brian Greenslade

The former leader of Devon County Council is calling for local authorities to work together to make sure the county is not bypassed in the devolution debate.

Brian Greenslade, who led a Liberal Democrat administration until 2009, said councillors needed to formulate ideas with partners to “respond to the evolving agenda” which emerged after promises made by the Prime Minister during the Scottish independence vote.

David Cameron’s pledge – made jointly with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – of further devolution to the Scottish Parliament in the case of a No vote, has come under intense pressure from English MPs concerned that their constituents are being sidelined.

This has in turn kick-started a furious debate at local level about how power could be devolved and to whom.

Former Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is chairing the committee examining plans for “English votes for English laws”, ruled out the creation of a long-hoped for Cornish Assembly last week. The Conservative MP’s comments came after the leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard, dismissed a “contrived” political union with Devon and Somerset and instead called for more power to run affairs west of the Tamar.

John Hart, leader of Devon County Council and chair of South West Councils, which represents 41 local authorities, has called for devolved responsibility and resources from Westminster “to ensure that Devon and the South West doesn’t lose out”.

But the governance arrangements In Devon and Somerset are far more complicated than Cornwall, which amalgamated a collection of diverse councils into one “super” authority in 2009. In Devon and Somerset, district, city and borough councils run many functions alongside the county councils, not to mention the unitary authorities such as Torbay and Plymouth.

Mr Hague said district and county councils would not be torn up by his newly-formed devolution committee, and any more powers to the regions would take place within existing structures. So securing extra powers could prove difficult for a diverse group of authorities

Coun Greenslade, whose Lib Dem party has championed so-called City Deals to devolve power to urban areas, has tabled a motion at the Devon County Council meeting today, calling for county and district authorities to work together.

He told the Western Morning News a “big authority” like the county council could take on more powers if there was “an understanding” with district councils. “It has to be something people feel they want and not just imposed by Whitehall,” he added. “We need to be very clear about what we want and be prepared to push our corner. We simply cannot afford to be caught napping.”

(Thurs) Conservative Ken Potter, of East Devon District Council, which is currently engineering a move to new purpose-built premises at Exeter’s Skypark, said the mood at a recent Local Government Association conference was in favour of efficiencies but not of political union.

The member champion for rural communities said closer working was inevitable but claimed a move to a super council in Devon was not about to happen.

“A chief executive at the conference remarked that in ten years there would be no “stand-alone” district councils remaining, as they will all have had to join up and share resources,” he added. “It is inevitable that councils will share things like IT, which is a major step forward and saves taxpayers money. But I think we will see economic groupings rather than political ones.”

Ex-leader warns Devon: don't get caught napping on devolution | Western Morning News

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