”Devolution deadlock’ putting economic growth across England at risk’

A Local Government Association document draws attention to the failure of LEPs and the need to base devolution on English counties not artificially created areas that have little synergy and where control is ceded to unrepresentative interests and lack of scrutiny and accountability:

“Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said councils wanted to use greater powers to build more homes, secure the infrastructure essential for economic growth, improve roads, close skill gaps and increase access to fast broadband but feared opportunities were being missed because devolution has “stalled”.

He added: “To reignite the devolution process, the government needs to engage in a debate about appropriate governance arrangements with local areas.

“This is fundamental to ensure that the momentum around devolving powers to local areas is not lost and the billions of pounds worth of economic growth, hundreds of thousands of jobs and homes on offer through non-metropolitan devolution deals is not lost with it.”

The LGA wants the government to publish its annual devolution report, setting out progress on negotiating deals, when parliament returns this week.

Under the Cities & Local Government Devolution Act, the secretary of state is expected to provide annual reports to parliament setting out the progress on devolution across England – this year’s report has yet to be published.

Concern has been sparked as no new deals have been announced for 18 months although the election of six combined authority mayors earlier this year was hailed as a significant milestone for devolution in England. …”

https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/devolution-deadlock-putting-economic-growth-across-england-risk

The ‘ Growing Places’ report referred to above is here:

https://www.local.gov.uk/growing-places-building-local-public-services-future

W(h)ither LEPs and devolution?

“The Local Government Association has called on the government to urgently release its annual devolution report amid fears the process has stalled across the country.

The umbrella-group’s plea, released on Monday (see next post), marks two years since the government set a deadline for local areas to submit devolution proposals.

Around 34 proposals – from cities, towns and counties across England – have been submitted.

The LGA argues that billions of pounds worth of economic growth and hundreds of thousands of new jobs and homes risk being lost as a result of the so-called “devolution deadlock”.

Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said councils wanted to use greater powers to build more homes, secure the infrastructure essential for economic growth, improve roads, close skill gaps and increase access to fast broadband but feared opportunities were being missed because devolution has “stalled”.

He added: “To reignite the devolution process, the government needs to engage in a debate about appropriate governance arrangements with local areas.

“This is fundamental to ensure that the momentum around devolving powers to local areas is not lost and the billions of pounds worth of economic growth, hundreds of thousands of jobs and homes on offer through non-metropolitan devolution deals is not lost with it.”

The LGA wants the government to publish its annual devolution report, setting out progress on negotiating deals, when parliament returns this week.

Under the Cities & Local Government Devolution Act, the secretary of state is expected to provide annual reports to parliament setting out the progress on devolution across England – this year’s report has yet to be published.

Concern has been sparked as no new deals have been announced for 18 months although the election of six combined authority mayors earlier this year was hailed as a significant milestone for devolution in England.

Council leaders said this was not the only model of devolution possible and the government should explore further options for the widespread transfer of powers and responsibilities to the whole of England to boost the economy and improve people’s lives.

A Department for Communities & Local Government spokesman said: “This government is 100% committed to devolving powers to local areas where there is strong local support for plans to deliver better local services, greater value for money and clear accountability.”

Localis think-tank chief executive Liam Booth-Smith said: “The wait has simply been far too long for the two-thirds of England that lacks the capacity and robust governance structure to deliver the government’s national industrial strategy.

“Given the economic urgency of Brexit, all parts of England, from major cities to small towns, deserve new powers to revive moribund local economies and with it the opportunity to help themselves.”

Booth-Smith said a Localis report on the industrial strategy recommended the establishment of 47 strategic authorities – based on existing county and combined authority boundaries – to control devolved powers to help drive economic growth.”

http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2017/09/publish-progress-report-devolution-now-lga-tells-government

Oxfordshire unites to fight for its community beds services – unlike Diviani and Randall-Johnson in Devon

Owl says: alas it doesn’t matter one jot what our district, town or parish councils think about the removal of community hospitals in general and removal of Honiton’s maternity services specifically, since the majority party cannot even trust their own Leader of our district council – Paul Diviani – to represent them.

(One more reason to turn up at Knowle on 13 September 2017 and watch those cowardly Tory councillors rally round him and turn out in numbers to overturn a vote of no confidence in him – even though it was THEIR confidence that he sabotaged at DCC when he voted against their instructions to refer bed closures to the Secretary of State- at the notorious scrutiny meeting where Sarah Randall-Johnson ensured that no contrary voices would be heard – only those echoing their Tory masters. Diviani being one of those enthusiastic voices.

“Campaigners backed by four councils have won the first round of their legal action over a claim that a consultation over changes at Horton General Hospital was flawed.

They want to prevent plans by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to downgrade maternity and critical care services at the hospital in Banbury.

Their campaign has been supported by nearby councils: Cherwell District Council, South Northamptonshire Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Banbury Town Council.

A statement from barristers at Landmark Chambers said: “Campaign group Keep the Horton General has won an important first step in the battle against the downgrading of Horton Hospital.

“Fraser J today granted permission to apply for judicial review of the consultation process.”

The Administrative Court in July refused on the papers permission for a full hearing, but Cherwell successfully challenged that decision this week.
Oxfordshire CCG said last month that its proposed changes would “ensure safety, quality and better outcomes for patients”.

It said the critical care unit at Horton would be downgraded to cater only for less seriously ill patients and it would also lose some beds.

A single specialist obstetric unit would be created at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital and only a midwife service would remain at Horton, though it would gain an improved diagnostic and outpatient service.

A CCG spokesperson said: “We are fully aware of the outcome of today’s oral hearing seeking permission for a judicial review and will co-operate with the process as appropriate.”

“Dorset PCC on merger proposals” – one way to remove Hernandez! ans save money?

The Dorset PCC is a former commended police officer and stood as an independent in Dorset’s PCC elections …

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyn_Underhill

“Dorset’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) said he welcomed proposals for a “closer working relationship” between the Dorset and Devon and Cornwall forces.

Martyn Underhill said: “I have made no secret about my concerns regarding police funding and the difficulties faced by forces during a time of ever-complex and increasing demand.

“However, that does not mean that we should stop working tirelessly to make the best use of taxpayers’ money.

“It is clear that there is a great deal more work required to understand the potential opportunities and challenges that this proposal might bring.

“Equally, we will need to seek the views of our communities and ensure that feedback is listened to and understood.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-41124772

“APPOINTMENT OF SIX MEMBERS TO THE INDEPENDENT AUDIT COMMITTEE

Do you have experience of scrutinising financial information and governance?

Can you provide constructive challenge?

Are you committed to the principles of public accountability?

If so we want to hear from you.

Dorset and Devon and Cornwall Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners are creating a single Independent Audit Committee to provide assurance to them on relevant financial and governance matters. They are seeking six independent members to be drawn from across the South West Region.

Minimum of four meetings per year for which an attendance allowance and expenses will be paid.

To find out more, recruitment packs may be downloaded from the website: http://www.dorset.pcc.police.uk or contact:

Telephone 01202 229084 or e-mail pcc@dorset.pnn.police.uk

Closing date for applications: 29 September 2017

We welcome applications from all sections of the community.”

Help-to-buy helps developers much more than buyers

Owl says: But isn’t that what this government and our council wants?

Housebuilder Redrow says it’s looking forward to working with government to consider the future of the help-to-buy subsidy scheme beyond 2021. You bet it is. Since former chancellor George Osborne in 2013 committed to helping homebuyers purchase new properties with a deposit of only 5%, Redrow has reported record profits every year.

The latest annual numbers – and a share price that has improved threefold since 2013 – shows how wonderful life has become for big housebuilders. You’d almost think Redrow was producing high-tech consumer gadgets. Operating margins are running at 19% and return on capital employed has hit 26%. About 40% of its private sales are to help-to-buy purchases, which is typical for the sector.

After an improvement of a quarter in pre-tax profits to £315m, the company hiked its dividend by 70% and said there’s plenty left in the tank. Profits will rise to about £430m by 2020 and the dividend can be almost doubled again “subject to market conditions remaining unchanged”.

The obvious question is why on earth the government, having spent £4.6bn already, would wish to continue with help to buy after 2021. Yes, the scheme has allowed some people to buy homes who would not otherwise have been able to do so, but the clearest beneficiaries of the stimulus to prices have been housebuilders’ shareholders and executives.

Back in 2013, one justification was the limp state of the mortgage market. That no longer applies. The banks are well-capitalised, high loan-to-value mortgages have returned and the Bank of England these days frets about too much lending, not too little.

Osborne’s other argument was that more demand for houses would increase supply. The numbers suggest modest success, even if some of the increase would have happened anyway. But the point now is that withdrawing help to buy overnight wouldn’t obviously cause the housebuilders to down tools for fear that non-subsidised houses would sell for slightly less. A return of capital of 26% is splendid but it is still worth getting out of bed for 15%.

Before ministers commit to renewing help to buy on the same terms, they should recall the warning by Lord King, former governor of the Bank of England, in 2014: “This scheme is a little too close for comfort to a general scheme to guarantee mortgages. We had a very healthy mortgage market with competing lenders attracting borrowers before the crisis, and we need to get back to that healthy mortgage market … We mustn’t let this scheme turn into a permanent scheme.”

Ditching help to buy outright in 2021 may be undesirable since there is a fair case that first-time buyers still deserve a leg-up. But, as even wiser housebuilders concede, too many houses qualify for help to buy. Current ceilings are set at £600,000 and 20% of the value of mortgage. Both figures could usefully be cut in half before the scheme becomes an addiction.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2017/sep/05/help-to-buy-scheme-buyers-builders-subsidy