“Proposals by Exeter City Council to restructure decision-making in Devon are being challenged.
In a letter to Council Leader, Pete Edwards, Exeter Green Party has raised concerns about the ways Exeter City Council is developing initiatives to restructure the authority – all of which will give binding powers to new layers of local government.
[The letter states]
Exeter Green Party is deeply concerned about the ways in which the various initiatives to restructure local government decision-making in Devon are being pursued. We are referring to:
The “devolution” proposals for a combined authority covering the Heart of the South West, from which we understand the City Council withdrew at a meeting on 9 December.
The proposal for a Greater Exeter Growth and Development Board (GEGDB], agreed in principle by the City Council’s Executive on 8 November.
The proposals which emerged at the end of last week for a South Devon Unitary Council, involving Exeter, Plymouth, East Devon, Teignbridge, Torbay and possibly South Hams councils.
We do not at present wish to take a position on the merits of the various alternatives, though there are many concerns and questions to be addressed.
At this stage, we ask the following questions:
1. What mandate does the City Council have from the residents it serves to:
(a) attempt to reorganise local government decision-making structures?
(b) propose arrangements which would suck key decisions upwards from the elected representatives of the people of Exeter to a new superior authority – the GEGDB – which would not be directly elected?
(c) propose a strategic authority – the GEGDB – which on the evidence of the 8 November paper would focus solely on economic growth to the exclusion of social and environmental considerations?
2. When does the City Council plan to publicise its thinking and actively consult residents and businesses on whether they actually want new local government arrangements and, if so, on the form they should take and how any new body might be fully accountable to local people?
Because we believe there should be public debate now on these issues, we are issuing this letter to the media. I am also sending a copy to Karime Hassan.
I look forward to your reply.
In a surprise move proposals emerged at the end of last week for a new super South Devon Unitary Council. It could see a ‘super mayor’ governing Exeter, Plymouth, East Devon, Teignbridge, Torbay and possibly South Hams councils.
The Greens concerned that decisions are being made without any public consultation or mandate to give power to unelected bodies.
Exeter City Council had previously committed itself to the Heart of the South West “devolution” proposals for a combined authority. It is now understood Exeter City Council withdrew from this plan at a meeting on Friday. The Council’s Executive has also agreed in principle to set up a ‘Greater Exeter Growth and Development Board’ with East, Mid and Teignbridge Councils, and give this new body powers to make binding decisions on each Council.
Green Party spokesperson, Diana Moore, said:”These decisions about major changes to the structure and functions of local government are taking place behind closed doors.
“We want to know what mandate the City Council has for these proposals and when they intend to consult residents and businesses on whether they actually want new local government arrangements.
“They need to be transparent about their intentions and the power they intend to give away.
“The proposed arrangements would take away key decisions from the elected representatives of the people of Exeter and hand them to distant unelected bodies.
“The economic growth priorities of any of these bodies doesn’t address social and environmental considerations or the rising inequality in the city.
“Councils must focus on their duty to co-operate – and do that to the benefit of local people and not obsess about new structures which will only serve vested interests.
“Any new proposals for local government must be fully consulted on and that whatever structure emerges must be transparent and accountable to local people.”