Local Enterprise Partnership “scrutiny” committee – an oxymoron

Minutes (for what little they are worth) here:

https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/g3417/Public%20minutes%2002nd-Nov-2018%2014.15%20Heart%20of%20the%20South%20West%20HotSW%20Local%20Enterprise%20Partnership%20L.pdf?T=11

REAL scrutiny by DCC Independent East Devon Alliance Councillor Martin Shaw of this laughable attempt to continue to hoodwink us here:

An inauspicious start for new Scrutiny Committee for the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership

“UK nuclear power station plans scrapped as Toshiba pulls out”

Makes you wonder what’s going to happen at our LEP’s favourite (highly vested interest for many board members) project – Hinkley C.

“Plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria have been scrapped after the Japanese conglomerate Toshiba announced it was winding up the UK unit behind the project.

Toshiba said it would take a 18.8bn Japanese yen (£125m) hit from closing its NuGeneration subsidiary, which had already been cut to a skeleton staff, after it failed to find a buyer for the scheme. …

The only new nuclear power station to get the go-ahead so far is EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which started construction in 2016 and is expected to be operational between 2025 and 2027. As well as EDF, Chinese and Japanese firms hope to build further nuclear plants in the UK. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/08/toshiba-uk-nuclear-power-plant-project-nu-gen-cumbria

(Another) self-serving own goal for our Local Enterprise Partnership?

Our LEP is padded with business people who have heavy direst, indirect and subtle links to the nuclear industries and housing development around Hinkley C, so the longer they can keep this white elephant limping along the better. Eggs … basket …. though if the eggs fall out of the basket WE will be clearing up the financial mess, of course.

“France has postponed a decision on whether to order more nuclear reactors in an indication that it may be losing faith in the technology it has sold to Britain.

François de Rugy, the ecology minister, rejected calls for the swift launch of the construction of new French-designed European pressurised reactors (EPRs).

He said no decision would be taken before 2021 and hinted that the authorities might rule out more EPRs altogether. “That is a question which remains open,” he said.

His comments were a blow for EDF, the mostly state-owned French electric group that is building two EPRs at Hinkley Point in Somerset at a cost of £19.5 billion.

Hinkley has faced continued criticism and calls have been made for the project to be halted because of its spiralling costs as well as fears over the technology.

EDF, which is struggling to build France’s first EPR at Flamanville, Normandy, hoped to have a second one up and running by 2030. That is now highly unlikely, given the reluctance of President Macron’s government to place an order. An internal French government document leaked to Agence France-Presse said ministers had told EDF to show that it could limit construction costs before a new order would be considered.

Doubts about the EPR programme have grown amid a series of setbacks at the five sites where they are under construction.

EDF says the one at Flamanville will not be operational before the end of next year.”

Source: The Times

Parliamentary Select Committee: are Local Enterprise Partnerships ignoring rural communities

“19 October 2018
The Select Committee on the Rural Economy questions local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) on their role in the rural economy.

Parliament TV – Rural Economy
Select Committee on the Rural Economy
Witnesses
At 9.45am

Cllr Sue Baxter, Chairman, National Association of Local Councils (NALC)
Cllr Bob Egerton, Cornwall Council
Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of Local Government Association (LGA) People and Places Board and leader of Gloucestershire County Council
At 10.45am

Richard Baker, Head of Strategy and Policy, North East LEP
John Mortimer, Chairman, Swindon & Wiltshire LEP
Cllr Louise Richardson, Chair, Leicestershire Rural Partnership, Leicester and Leicestershire LEP
Areas of discussion
Likely areas of discussion include:

Access to rural services
How the battle against rural crime is tackled
How devolution arrangements can be reformed to support the rural economy more effectively?
The impact of Brexit on rural economies and the role of LEPs

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/rural-economy/news-parliament-2017/leps-local-gov/

Report: Accountability in Modern Government: recommendations for change

The report referred to in the post below deserves attentive reading:

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Accountability_modern_government_WEB.pdf

Finally a way to publicly scrutinise Local Enterprise Partnerships and other quangos?

Owl says; But will the likes of Diviani (LEP) and Randall-Johnson (CCG) be in favour of more (or rather, any) scrutiny?

“Meg Hillier has told Public Finance that audit of local government spending needs to be more “transparent” for an increasingly “savvy” British public.

“I think the British public are much more savvy about things – they don’t trust the authority to spend things well,” she said to PF.

Since the Audit Commission was formally dissolved in 2015 “there isn’t the same level of transparency locally”, Hillier said.

Local authority finances “used to be well demonstrated,” she said, “so I think [making them more transparent again] is just something that we need to keep pushing on.”

Although she said it was “early days” and did not wish to say who she had been speaking to, she said she saw devolution as an opportunity to improve closer examination of how public money was spent.

“At metro mayor level or at a bigger regional level there is an opportunity for value for money audit and analysis because there are certain discreet pots of money coming down for very particular projects, so it’s easier to track it through from the day to day budget value for money,” she said.

Hillier was speaking to PF after the shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne told the Labour Party conference last month: “We will give local authorities public accounts committees to improve local government spending decisions.”

Local PACs was one of the Labour Party’s pledges in its 2015 manifesto so that “every pound spend by local bodies creates value for money for local taxpayers”.

Hillier said she was not able to give a clear view on what her vision for the extra layer of scrutiny of local government finances would be but did not believe local PACs were necessarily the answer as they would require “huge infrastructure”.

“I am not advocating we go out and set up lots of mini NAOs [National Audit Offices] – there is a bit of realism in this,” she added.

But Ed Hammond, director of Centre for Public Scrutiny, which has long been an advocate of local PACs, told PF that there is an “urgent need” for such bodies.

“Local PACs will be bodies led by elected councillors, empowered to follow the public pound across a local area, cutting across different organisations to get a real picture of the value for money of public services,” he suggested.

“In a world of increasingly complex decision making, and with greater pressure on finances, there is an urgent need for these bodies to give the public the assurance they need on the services they rely on.”

An Institute for Government report, out on Monday,

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Accountability_modern_government_WEB.pdf

said that government should “review the case for setting up local Public Accounts Committees” to “provide new capacity to local government to scrutinise performance across the breadth of services offered in a region”.

These could initially be trialed in mayoral combined authorities, the IfG suggested.

Local PACs were discusssed in an IfG-led Twitter discussion on the report.

@ben_guerin
We also need to scrutinise links between local public services like health and social care: review case for setting up local PACs, initially in mayoral combined authorities #IfGaccountability

The Conservative mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority James Palmer believed there was already enough local authority financial scrutiny in place.

Although, he suggested if more fiscal devolution was handed down to metro mayors then “that of course must come with the necessary level of local governance and scrutiny”.

“Whether that comes in the form of a local public accounts committee is of course a discussion that would need to be had as part of further devolved powers.”

Northern metro mayors recently called for post-Brexit EU replacement funding to go straight to the regions, bypassing Whitehall.

Chief executive of the Localis think-tank Jonathan Werran recently wrote a blog for PF on the future of fiscal devolution – see here:

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/opinion/2018/10/running-out-road-time-change

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2018/10/pac-chair-seeking-ways-beef-local-government-spending-scrutinyq

“Why The Hinkley Point C Power Station Is The Subject Of A Court Battle”

“A Cardiff court will play host to a group of activists on Tuesday, as they fight for an injunction to stop 300,000 tonnes of “nuclear mud” from a Somerset power station being disposed of just outside Cardiff.

The unusual dispute centres on the “Hinkley Point C” building site, where energy supplier EDF are currently in the process of constructing two new nuclear reactors.

In order to drill the six shafts needed for the reactors, EDF is clearing 300,000 tonnes of mud and sediment – and planning to dispose of it just off the Welsh coast, on the Cardiff Grounds sandbank.

The prospect of that amount of waste being ditched a mile and a half away hasn’t exactly excited locals or environmental campaigners, but there’s another factor causing added concern.

For decades, Hinkley Point has been a nuclear power hub, with its first station – “A” – operating for 35 years before closing in 2000. Hinkley Point B was opened in 1976 and is still functioning today.

The presence of these two plants has led to concerns over whether the mud there is radioactive and when the plans were announced, various online petitions calling for the Welsh Assembly to look into the matter were launched online, gathering a total of 100,000 signatures by mid-September.

Throughout the process, energy suppliers EDF have remained adamant that public safety is not at risk, with a spokesperson previously stating, on numerous occasions: “The mud is typical of sediment found anywhere in the Bristol Channel and no different to sediment already at the Cardiff Grounds site.”

Natural Resources Wales have backed them up too and say on their website that mud tested in a laboratory “did not have unacceptable levels of chemicals or radiological materials and was suitable for disposal at sea”.

But these statements have not satisfied campaigners – who count among their number a member of welsh band Super Furry Animals.

Keyboard player Cian Ciarán has become something of a spokesperson for the campaign and recently told the Guardian that he’s “involved as a Welshman and a concerned earthling”.

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/hinkley-point-c-super-furry-animals-mud_uk_5bb22f81e4b0c75759677a09?guccounter=1