Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> as the counties are set to become a 'combined authority', a parliamentary committee says "It is alarming that Local Enterprise Partnerships are not meeting basic standards of governance and transparency."

It looks as though there'll be a merger in all but name of Devon and Somerset:
Heart of the South West devolution partners to consider Combined Authority | News centre

This is the Herald's take on the story:

Elected mayor not on cards for South West devolution deal

04 July 2016 Beth Sharp

Devon and Somerset’s proposals for devolution from central Government do not require an elected mayor, council bosses have assured.

It comes after a recent summit meeting of council leaders and Greg Clark, the local government secretary.

It has been revealed new powers will instead be overseen by a combined authority consisting of council representatives from across the region. This includes Devon and Somerset county councils, Plymouth and Torbay councils, the 13 district councils in the two counties and Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks. The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) would also have a non-voting seat on the body.

Council leaders and partners have already backed the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Devolution Partnership deal and each authority will now be asked to formally sign-up to the principle of creating a combined authority.

This will in turn allow negotiations towards a deal to move forward – allowing regional control over finance, powers and responsibilities previously overseen by Westminster.

It is believed devolution will improve the region’s productivity which is currently running at less than 80 per cent of the national average.

During the summit assurances were also made that the new body would not take over any powers or funding from existing authorities, who would all have a say on the decision-making powers it would hold.

A full public consultation on any proposal to introduce a combined authority will also take place.

The HotSW Partnership has already submitted a ‘Prospectus for Productivity’ to the Government in a bid to win more powers to boost jobs and growth.

It is hoped the changes proposed will result in higher productivity, better-paid jobs, improved roads, rail and broadband links and more homes as well as radical reforms to health and social care, seeing better care for the ageing population, tailored support for growing businesses and the creation of a centre of excellence for skills development.

Devon County Council Leader John Hart said he firmly believed, as local people, they could do things more effective and efficiently than someone in London. He added: “This is the first time in my political lifetime the Government has offered local government the opportunity to draw down powers like these. This could mean real power coming to the South West. This is a real opportunity for this council and other councils. We should be working together for the benefit of the people of Devon and the South West.”

Steve Hindley, LEP’s chair, said they were backing their local authority partners to secure the best deal for the HotSW.

Elected mayor not on cards for South West devolution deal - News - Sidmouth Herald

The LEP is considered a key 'partner' - but there are growing doubts about the soundness of their contribution - as spotted by the East Devon Watch blog earlier today:


5 JULY 2016

From Conclusions and Recommendations of Public Accounts Committee Report on Cities and Local Growth:

9. It is alarming that LEPs are not meeting basic standards of governance and transparency, such as disclosing conflicts of interest to the public.

LEPs are led by the private sector, and stakeholders have raised concerns that they are dominated by vested interests that do not properly represent their business communities.

There is a disconnect between decisions being made by local business leaders and accountability working via local authorities. It is therefore crucial that LEPs demonstrate a high standard of governance and transparency over decision making, at least equal to the minimum standards set out by government in the assurance framework.

It is of great concern that many LEPs appear not be meeting these minimum standards. The scale of LEP activity and the sums involved necessitate that LEPs and central government be pro-active in assuring the public that decisions are made with complete probity.

The fact that 42% of LEPs do not publish a register of interests is clearly a risk to ensuring that decisions are made free from any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

The varying presentation and detail of financial information across LEPs also makes it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions or make comparisons across LEPs on how they spend public money.

Recommendation: The Department should enforce the existing standards of transparency, governance and scrutiny before allocating future funding to LEPs. LEPs themselves also need to be more transparent to the public by, for example, publishing financial information.

Local Enterprise Partnership scrutiny: Owl says “I told you”! | East Devon Watch

This is the full Commons Select Committee report:
House of Commons - Cities and local growth - Committee of Public Accounts

See also:
Futures Forum: Devolution and Local Enterprise Partnerships: a summary

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