Want to comment on LEP’s business plan for us? Go to Torbay council website says Sidmouth Herald!

Sidmouth Herald (as part of Archant a BIG supporter of our LEP) prints a press release on the Sidmouth Herald website on “consultation” on the LEP’s new, improved, answer to all our prayers business plan, citing the enthusiastic words of Paul Diviani, the Deputy Chair of an un-named committee.

Unfortunately, according to the press release, the consultation document appears to be only on Torbay’s website! No link to an EDDC website or the LEP’s own website!

Sloppy.

Perhaps the first consultation comment might be: put your own house in order before you attempt to put a nuclear cell in those of other people!

Here is the press release, in full, in all its glory, where 20 or so business and council members, many with nuclear interests or nuclear-industry-supporting industries attempt to persuade the rest of us that most of their (ie our) money going to Hinkley C is a good thing:

County and district councils in the two counties, along with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Dartmoor and Exmoor national park authorities, and NHS commissioning groups from Northern, Eastern and Western Devon, South Devon and Torbay, and Somerset, have worked together to come up with a draft productivity strategy for the area, referred to as the Heart of the South West.

This has now been put out for a consultation, which will run until November 30.

The partnership is said to be seeking the views of businesses, organisations, groups and individuals.

It says its ambition is to double the size of the area’s economy to £70 billion by 2036 and is seeking the right interventions and Government backing to achieve this.

The partnership says the area has ‘unprecedented opportunities’ in sectors including nuclear, marine, rural productivity, health and care, aerospace and advanced engineering, and data analytics.

Councillor Paul Diviani, deputy chair of the prospective joint committee of the leaders of the Heart of the South West, said: “The Heart of the South West economy is larger than that of Birmingham, so we need to be recognised for our true potential as a cohesive economic area.

“Our vision is for all parts of the Heart of the South West to become more prosperous, enabling people to have a better quality of life and higher living standards.

“To achieve that, we have to create a more vibrant and competitive economy where the benefits can be shared by everyone, and by working in partnership we can present a stronger proposition.

“We urge our stakeholders in business and the wider community to give us their views and help us create an effective strategy for delivery.”

The results from the consultation will be considered by the joint committee of the leaders of the Heart of the South West and the Heart of the South West LEP board, before a final productivity strategy is agreed early in 2018.

The consultation documents are available to view on Torbay Council’s website at

http://www.torbay.gov.uk/devolution.

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/south-west-business-plan-up-for-consultation-1-5242862

Devon and Somerset devolution deal goes wrong on Day One

The leader of Exeter City Council has complained that he was left out of talks in London to secure devolution for Devon and Somerset.

Devon county council leaders as well as those from Plymouth and Torbay council chiefs were invited to the Westminster meeting this week with Jake Berry, the Minister responsible for devolution and coastal communities.

Following the meeting, it was announced by Devon County Council Tory leader John Hart that an agreement had been reached to devolve powers to an economy estimated to be worth £34 billion, more than Birmingham.

Peter Edwards, leader of the Labour-controlled city council, warned that the deal had no “mandate” from Exeter and revealed he had not been invited nor even told about the planned announcement.

Tory MP Gary Streeter, who organised the meeting and drew up the guest list, said he had never heard of Mr Edwards but offered an assurance that he would be “pleased” with the deal being struck.

Mr Hart emerged from the gathering on Thursday to declare that a plan had been agreed by “the two county councils, the two unitaries, all the district councils, the Local Enterprise Partnership, the two national parks and NHS representatives”.

“We have 17 local authorities working closely together on this plan with our other partners,” he added in a statement.

But hot on the heels on the press release came a strong response from Cllr Edwards.

He said: “Mr Hart went to this meeting without my knowledge. I would be interested in knowing if any other district councils took part or knew about it.

“He met me the day before and didn’t feel the need to mention it, let alone say he intended to indicate we were all signed up. I don’t have that mandate from my council – and he certainly doesn’t.

“We agree there is a need to go to Government and to unlock funding. We have been eager to see this happen and to see what is on offer.

“But we don’t agree that you should be offering up a new combined authority for Devon and Somerset blindly without knowing what any deal is. Councils could be giving up all their powers – without knowing that the prize is.

“Exeter has a strong economic agenda – it would be madness to jeopardise that without knowing what any benefits could be – or even if there are any benefits.

“My council’s position is that we could welcome devolution – but only once you know what any benefits are.”

Mr Streeter, MP for South West Devon, told Devonlive.com that there had been no snub and said “none of the districts” had been invited.

“I invited the county and unitary councils,” he added. “It was just a meeting to find out where we are in the devolution process with ministers, post election, with councils to report back.

“It was a lively successful meeting – the others will find out next week when a full report is made.”

Asked if Cllr Edwards, a longstanding councillor and city leader since 2010, was right to feel aggrieved, Mr Streeter added: “I don’t know him but I am sure he is a wonderful person.

“We don’t have dealings with Exeter or North Devon – it is very parochial. I know know who this gentleman is but once he gets the full story he’s going to be very pleased.” …”

http://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/council-leader-angry-exeter-snub-483839

“Lack of transparency threatens English devolution and LEPs, warn small firms

“Local bodies responsible for economic growth and business support across England need to become more accountable and transparent to gain full support from the country’s small firms, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The call comes ahead of the 100-day anniversary this weekend of elections for six new Combined Authority mayors.

A previously unreleased FSB survey finds that the majority (70%) of small firms in England with an opinion on devolution support the principle of giving more powers to local leaders. Two thirds (64%) feel devolution deals are good for their individual businesses.

However, small firms are concerned about their ability to feed into devolution deal making. Only one in seven (15%) feel they have been consulted on the devolution process in their area. More than half (57%) feel they cannot contribute to ongoing decision-making and a similar proportion (53%) believe there are not means to hold locally elected leaders to account.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “The success of devolution deals will hinge on effective collaboration between new and existing local leaders. Transparency is key. Combined Authorities must clearly demonstrate how they are promoting growth and establish channels through which they can be held accountable. No doubt they’ll be heeding the NAO’s warning about becoming ‘a curiosity of history’.

“With new devolution proposals in the pipeline, future deals must be established on the basis of need. What we can’t have is the political affiliations of negotiators playing any role in fresh agreements.

“It’s encouraging to see that our new mayors are already engaging with small businesses in some areas. A number have established business advisory groups, and we urge those that haven’t to follow suit, ensuring they bring together representatives from all sections of the business community.”

Small businesses also flag the need for greater accountability among Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). Less than half (45%) of those with an opinion on the issue believe they are able to communicate directly with their local LEP.

More encouragingly, the majority (53%) believe their LEP represents the interests of their local business community, though only one in three (32%) feel LEPs represent the views of their individual firms.

Mike Cherry added: “LEPs do some great work across England and it’s crucial that they’re equipped to maintain their vital business support services beyond Brexit and play a key role in delivering an ambitious Industrial Strategy. That being said, reform is urgently needed.

“All LEPs are obliged to have a small business champion in place and that obligation needs to be met right across the country. Equally, the Government should produce comprehensive business data, including unregistered businesses, at a LEP level so Partnerships can tailor local growth strategies effectively.”

“LEPs need to be beyond reproach in terms of their governance, overall transparency and representativeness. They should be channels for economic growth and targeted business support, not old boys’ clubs.”

https://www.fsb.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/lack-of-transparency-threatens-english-devolution-and-leps-warn-small-firms

”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

Final big nail in Heart of the Southwest Local Enterprise Partnership coffin?

The type of organisation detailed here is exactly how our LEP is structured. Surely, now someone, somewhere will pull the plug on it?

“The six mayor-led combined authorities risk becoming “a curiosity of history” as there is little evidence to back their assumption that devolution will improve local economies.

That is among findings by the National Audit Office in a report Progress in Setting Up Combined Authorities.

Parliament’s spending watchdog said the six – Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and West of England – could have been joined by other areas but these had “been unable to bring local authorities together to establish combined authorities”.

The NAO said there was “a logic to establishing strategic bodies designed to function across conurbations and sub-regional areas, and there is a clear purpose to establishing combined authorities especially in metropolitan areas, as economies and transport networks operate at a scale greater than individual local authority areas”.

Most combined authority proposals were put to the government on the basis that they would deliver more rapid economic growth by spending money and exercising powers locally.

But the NAO noted the combined authorities were “inherently complex structures” and evidence that investment, decision-making and oversight at this level was linked to improved local economic results was “mixed and inconclusive”.

It said combined authorities “often assume in their plans that there is a strong link between investment in transport and economic growth, for example”, but evidence on the additional value that governance at this level can bring to economic growth is mixed, the NAO said.

It was also concerned that combined authorities’ administrative boundaries do not necessarily match functional economic areas, or the existing boundaries of local enterprise partnerships.

“We assessed combined authorities’ draft monitoring and evaluation plans, and found that while they are working to link spending with outcomes and impact, they vary in quality, and measures tend to vary depending on data already available,” the report said.

Despite this, the combined authorities’ economic regeneration role “would become more pressing” if Brexit leads to reductions in regional funding at present received from the European Union.

Combined authorities “are generally in areas which receive the most EU funding”, it noted.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “For combined authorities to deliver real progress and not just be another ‘curiosity of history’ like other regional structures before them, they will need to demonstrate that they can both drive economic growth and also contribute to public sector reform.”

The County Councils Network strongly opposed the government’s requirement for elected mayors to lead combined authorities – and only Cambridgeshire and Peterborough involves a county council.

CCN director Simon Edwards, said: “This report from the NAO highlights many of the concerns the majority of CCN members raised over the prospect of mayoral combined authorities in county areas: an added layer of bureaucracy in an already complex landscape, a lack of co-terminosity with key public sector partners, and questions over whether this format would lead to economic growth in rural areas.”

http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2017/07/combined-authorities-risk-becoming-curiosity-history

A northern Tory councillor and his view on devolved power

Tomorrow I’ll be toddling across to Leeds where, among other momentous matters, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority with consider whether to change its name to Leeds City Region Combined Authority. This has caused a ripple of disgruntlement in my city as people ask quite why this decision is being taken now and whether it marks the end of Bradford’s separate and individual identity.

I don’t like the proposal. Mostly this is because it is totally unnecessary. We’re told by officers that the current brand (essentially ‘West Yorkshire’) is confusing because there’s another brand – ‘Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership’ – within the purview of the combined authority and having two brands might be confusing for high-powered, multi-million pound wielding international business folk wanting to invest. That and all the others are named after cities (well Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool at least but not Birmingham and Bristol).

The report tells us that the basis for the change results from ‘comprehensive research’:

“…benchmarking the WYCA against other combined authorities nationally or internationally, an audit of existing communications activity by the organisation, and substantial engagement with audiences including elected members, local authority chief executives, private sector business leaders, central government officials, partner organisations and WYCA employees.”

Sounds good – just the sort of paragraph I’d have put into a client presentation about research when I didn’t have any budget. What we have here is a series of chats with existing connections such as members of the LEP, political leaders (but not opposition leaders) in the West Yorkshire councils and senior officials who we work with. There’s no script, no presentation of findings, no suggestion that we’ve done anything other than ask the opinion of a few people who we already know.

In the grand scale of things all this probably doesn’t matter much. Except that, for us in Bradford at least, we’ll begin to recognise that plenty of decisions previously made by councillors here in Bradford are now made somewhere else (Leeds) by a different organisation. This – as councillors on Bradford’s area committees have discovered – includes mundane and very local stuff like whether or not to put speed bumps on a street in Cullingworth.

What annoys me most about this stuff is that we are gradually replacing accountable political decision-making with technocratic, officer-led decisions. So us councillors, for example, get pressure to put in speed cameras but have precisely zero say in whether and where such cameras are actually installed. Somewhere in the documentation of the soon-to-be Leeds City Region Combined Authority there’ll be a line of budget referring to the West Yorkshire Casulaty Reduction Partnership. That is what ‘member decision-making’ means most of the time these days.

So to return to the name change. I’ll be opposed because it’s unnecessary nd divisive. But when it goes through (I love that they’re planning an extensive ‘member engagement’ after they’ve made the decision) it will at least be a reminder that most of the big investment decisions out there are being made on the basis of Heseltine’s ‘functional economic geography’ rather than using the democratically-elected local councils we all know and love. OK, not love- that’s going too far – but you know what I mean.”

http://theviewfromcullingworth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/so-is-bradford-part-of-leeds-on.html