Owl’s Somerset “little birdie” cousins are reporting that Val Keitch, LibDem Leader of South Somerset, has been elected as the Chair of the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Joint Steering Committee to replace Conservative David Fothergill, Leader Somerset County Council.
This move not only represents another defeat for the “entitled” party but also reduces the undue influence of the “Upper Tier” authorities in the governance of our Local Enterprise Partnership to date.
Owl understands that at yesterday’s Joint Steering Group Meeting someone proposed Val Keitch’s nomination where the sitting Chair, David Fothergill, was expected to be a shoo-in. The members are drawn from all the planning authorities in the two Counties (including the unitary ones and the two National Parks) and are widely dispersed (totalling 18). At this point in the virtual meeting there was a chilling silence. Owl understands that this was broken by a quick thinking Paul Arnott, attending his first meeting of this committee as EDDC Leader, who saw an opportunity, seized the moment and seconded her nomination. At that, Owl understands that David Fothergill withdrew his nomination rather than face a vote.
Game, Set and Match!
At the May 2019 local elections the Conservatives lost control of many local district councils – they retain one in Somerset and only a couple in Devon but hold the two Counties. Plymouth is Labour and Torbay Libdem. So the result was obvious and a lot of Conservatives abstained as they did in the recent EDDC EGMs.
Somerset County Council is the administering authority responsible for providing support to this Joint Committee . There is also a Joint Committee “micro site” but this is woefully out of date. From a public perspective it is not very transparent and Friday’s meeting, with an opportunity for publicspeaking, not well publicised .
Owl has written at length on the inadequate democratic oversight and input to Local Enterprise Partnership, the last was this.
For the moment the “Joint Committee” is as good as it gets, let us hope that the new Chair can make it work for us. (There is a Joint Scrutiny Meeting but it is poorly attended and struggles to be quorate).
Joint Committee Aims
The aim is to provide a single strategic public sector partnership that covers the entire area and provides cohesive, coherent leadership and governance to ensure delivery of the Productivity Strategy for the HotSW area. The specific objectives of the Joint Committee are to:
(a) Improve the economy and the prospects for the region by bringing together the public, private and education sectors;
(b) Increase our understanding of the economy and what needs to be done to make it stronger;
(c) Improve the efficiency and productivity of the public sector;
(d) Identify and remove barriers to progress and maximise the opportunities /benefits available to the area from current and future government policy.