Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> and the seven principles of public life

There is mounting concern from many quarters about the District Council's proposals for 'devolution':
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 for Devon and Somerset? >>> of Local Enterprise Partnerships, 'opportunites for Sidmouth' and keeping things 'commercially confidential'
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> "but it is certainly not democracy"

Questions are now being asked as to how our public representatives and officials are holding themselves:
The 7 principles of public life - Publications - GOV.UK
Committee on Standards in Public Life - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The East Devon Alliance issued this earlier today:

EDA Press Release: Devolution

  • Input has been sought from the business community but neither the public nor elected Councillors have been consulted about either the process or on the content of the bid
  • The information submitted so far has the logos of the Councils and implies endorsement by council members that has neither been explicitly sought or given
  • The seven Nolan Principles have not been followed
    • It has been suggested that government guidance is to keep devolution planning confidential
    • The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) meetings, including those on the devolution bid, are not open to the public or press; agendas and minutes are not published
    • The Electoral Reform Society are concerned about the lack of democracy and public engagement in the devolution process of England – see a flurry of press releases
    • Timing is extremely tight – leaving very little time for understanding the implications, consultation, debate, campaigns etc. The final ‘bid’ was due to be submitted on 18th December 2015 with a deal to be agreed with central government in March 2016, however we understand that submission is delayed until January.
  • The two meetings of the EDDC joint Overview and Scrutiny committee and Cabinet on 2nd December were asked to give delegated authority to the Leader to sign off on the bid – the draft of which had not even been shown to Councillors, much less debated
  • This full Council meeting on 16 December is the one and only chance for this to be debated, and it is not even mentioned on the agenda.
Apparently, the list of topics to be included in the bid are:
  • Health, care and wellbeing
  • Connectivity and resilience
  • Housing and planning
  • Employment and skills
  • Business support
Information suggests that this situation is being repeated in Devon County Council with limited information or opportunity for debate.
The past history of unelected bodies delivering services and economic benefits does not bode well e.g. East Devon Business Forum and Connecting Devon and Somerset’s Rural Broadband Programme
EDA calls for:
  • The Heart of the South West devolution planning process to be more open and democratic
  • That both the public and elected representatives are regularly consulted
  • Decisions involving the use of public funds (e.g. business rate revenue) to be made in public by accountable, elected representatives

EDA Press Release: Devolution « East Devon Alliance

This has been taken up by independent County Councillor Claire Wright:

Concerns rise over Devon and Somerset devolution plans

Tuesday, 08 December 2015 0 Comments by Claire
Councils across Devon and Somerset are on the verge of submitting a bid to government on devolving control and funding for some services to a local level.
On Thursday Devon County Council will debate a broadbrush bid that is set to be signed off by cabinet tomorrow.
This might sound like a very positive move, however, there are concerns. Mainly around transparency and consultation.
The government has decreed that the process must be “business led” which means that the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has been heavily involved in discussions on what will be included in the bid to central government.
The LEP meets in private and does not publish its minutes or agendas.
Councillors have not been involved in the process, save for the forthcoming agenda item coming to full council on Thursday.
There has been no public consultation.
In the paper that goes to full council on Thursday, the list of topics to be included in the bid are:
- Health, care and wellbeing
- Connectivity and resilience
- Housing and planning
- Employment and skills
- Business support
What is always true in my experience is that the devil is in the detail.
The bid must be with central government by 18 December.

Concerns rise over Devon and Somerset devolution plans - Claire Wright

The County Council will be considering proposals for devolution tomorrow:

8. Heart of the South West Devolution Proposal

To consider the attached report of the Chief Executive (CX/15/2 - text only | pdf ) relating to proposals for Devolution for the Heart of the South West, together with the recommendation(s) of the Cabinet (9 December 2015). The Cabinet minutes have been circulated around the Chamber.

Cabinet (Heart of the South West - Devolution Proposals) - Wed Dec 09 2015Full County Council (Agenda) - Thu Dec 10 2015
Cabinet (Agenda) - Wed Dec 09 2015

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